Enterprises operating worksites spanning vast areas that are often geographically remote and distributed are able to operate with limited analytics. These industries rely on manual and time consuming - and therefore infrequent on-ground surveys to assess worksite productivity or health - for example:
- Mines have to deploy a survey team that takes roughly a week to measure how much volume was excavated and ensure compliance with regulations around flooding safety and exit routes as well as commercial considerations with state & central governments
- Power transmission companies have teams that manually drive along transmission lines to survey their assets and identify threats such as trees or illegal constructions around power lines & electrical stations
- Infrastructure companies have to manually survey construction progress & regulatory compliances for roads, buildings, etc. as progress reports to lending/ financing entities or government bodies who have given out the contract
For enterprises managing such large worksites, Skylark provides an end-to-end platform to run drone-based surveys, and more importantly, helps customers make sense of that data with their SaaS platform - hence making the process far cheaper and more efficient for their customers compared to both traditional survey methods, as well as bespoke drone-based survey and analytics service providers.
To serve their customers, Skylark has built a large network of third-party drone operators to visit sites and conduct surveys, therefore the company does not employ drone operators on their payroll, nor does it own any physical assets on its books.
(Co-founders Mrinal & Mughilan)
Co-founders Mughilan and Mrinal started out as they worked together on multiple drones as a part of their student aero design team when they met each other at R. V. College of Engineering, Bangalore. Together, they worked on multiple drones as a part of their student aero design team.
Post their higher studies, the two started Skylark in 2014 initially building drones. They soon realized that it was hard to compete with international OEMs, and instead shifted their focus towards building tools supporting the ecosystem around the nascent Indian drone market - such as their flight-ops management software.
In their quest for product-market-fit, the co-founders discovered that their customers struggled to make sense of aerial data collected at scale, where off-the-shelf GIS software proved too imposing on enterprises to derive meaningful insights from said data without friction. Hence, to solve this problem, they built Spectra - a self-serve SaaS platform tailored to the needs & workloads of Indian enterprise users!
The plan? Start by focusing on the highest value-per-drone-flight use cases, and work your way down as use-cases, drone-flights, and the overall drone market expands! (Gotta love it when you work hard, and things start falling your way.)
(From the GTM customer segmentation prepared by Skylark)
Given the very nascent drone ecosystem in India which Skylark was building for, the team was forced to build a complete technology stack for their customers for them to be able to gather data and make sense of it in a seamless fashion. This consists of a few different components:
Globally, the drone-based services market is estimated to be at around $9.56 billion (2021), and is expected to grow to $135Bn by 2028 (46% CAGR).
In India, Skylark is targeting an addressable market of 80K+ worksites (2021).
Some sub-sectors like solar are rapidly growing — India has 41 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, with ~50GW under installation, and ~25GW tendered. India seeks to reach 220 GW of installed solar capacity by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.
Other sectors such as mining, roadways, and utilities hold tremendous potential for Skylark to grow its business in. There are currently 4,078 privately operated mines in India totaling about 330,000 hectares, and 6.4 million km of roadways, with 13,327 km of new highway construction in FY '21.
Sectors such as agri & telecom have potential for growth with drone-based applications as well.
1. On-demand aerial imagery
As the founders put it, their mission is to "unlock the economic potential of the skies", and in their first step, they live up to it by democratizing access to on-demand high-resolution aerial imagery & high precision mapping, by providing it at the cheapest available price point via drones.
This democratization expands the market for aerial data, making it an indispensable part of customer workflows, while Spectra helps them distill actionable business insights from the data to accelerate their productivity.
2. Drone AI for India
Skylark began its journey by creating an end-to-end worksite analytics platform fine-tuned to the needs of their Indian customers, removing the friction of procuring technology, contracting operators for surveys, and dedicating full-time resources for data management & analysis.
Additionally, the company is well-positioned to sell its products to large enterprises in India the way it already does as compared to global competitors with overlapping offerings given Skylark's understanding of the Indian market.
3. Regulatory Tailwinds: Drones will be everywhere
While the focus is on niche but high-value applications today, the technical infrastructure that Skylark is building can play a role in the high volume applications of drones tomorrow as regulations open up.
The new 2021 drone rules proposed by the government focus on removing entry barriers when it comes to commercial applications, and opens the path for eventual BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) operations in the future.
4. End-to-End data to insights pipeline (built in India) for the world
Building for a nascent drone ecosystem in India, Skylark was compelled to build the entire technology stack. That formidable full-stack solution of geography-agnostic tools now comes as a boon for the company in the form of a competitive edge, as the company sets its sights on a global expansion that is showing early signs of promise in their initial global pilots.
We were impressed with Mughilan and Mrinal, who have been working in this domain for over 7 years, in their ability to execute and deliver cutting-edge products. With a small amount of seed capital, they managed to deliver an end-to-end platform by solving for many disparate parts of the drone stack (hardware, software, operations).
With a product-oriented approach, the company has built a highly modular and scalableplatform, and has proven its low-cost expandability by acquiring several sector leaders across industries as loyal high-ticket customers for their product.
As early pioneers of the Indian drone ecosystem (especially pertaining to commercial use-cases), the team has demonstrated thought leadership in the domain, and has been engaging with relevant regulators and policymakers to shape the future of drones in India
We are thrilled to have partnered with Skylark on this journey, and look forward to seeing them play a key role in the evolution of commercial drone-based applications in India and globally.