Yeshwanth Reddy, Cofounder of F-drones about drones that can save 80% of the costs, time, manpower and carbon emissions in marine & offshore logistics.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yeshwanth Reddy: I’m doing well and as is my family, thank you! 2020 has been a tough year for people, businesses, and even whole nations alike. However, one thing that we’ve learnt from history is that we could come out of this stronger than ever.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded F-drones.
Yeshwanth Reddy: After graduating from IIT Bombay, I had co-founded AUS, India’s first-ever commercial drone startup. With more than 1 million hectares of land surveyed and more than 10,000 hours of drone flights, AUS now owns about 60% of India’s surveying drone market. I always wanted to build large scale drones with very high impact use cases such as cargo deliveries. So, I took an exit from AUS in early 2019, traveled to Singapore to join Entrepreneur First (EF), an early-stage startup accelerator.
I met Nicolas, my cofounder, at EF and co-founded F-drones in March 2019. We share a common vision of enabling large-scale and on-demand aerial deliveries, which can help increase the efficiencies and sustainability of businesses. Thanks to Singapore being a very busy maritime hub, we accidentally learnt about the pain points in the maritime last-mile deliveries space. Initially, we were quite surprised to learn how big a use case is and how inefficient the current delivery options are. We were pitching our idea of using large scale drones, and we received great support from the industry side in Singapore. Subsequently, we became the first company to obtain a BVLOS drone delivery permit in Singapore and are now providing our drone delivery services to some of the largest shipping companies around.
How does F-drones innovate?
Yeshwanth Reddy: F-drones’ vision is to build drones that can autonomously deliver 100kg loads over 100km, delivering items to ships and oil rigs. Traditional logistical channels are expensive, labor intensive, and either slow or not on-demand. F-drones’ unique drones can help save 80% of the costs, time, and manpower for maritime companies.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Yeshwanth Reddy: If anything, Covid-19 has provided an additional push in the adoption of drone technology, given that drones can reduce human contact. Pre-Covid, drones were seen as sort of fancy, but now, they are perceived to be much more of a problem-solving technology! We have seen a lot more enquiries coming our way for our services from all around the world. Now, I feel that the industry is ready for adoption, and we are the ones catching up in building the right solution.
We have seen how drones are being used in many parts of the world during this COVID-19 period. For example, they have been used for inspection and broadcasting to remind people to stay at home or put on their masks, disinfection, delivery of food and critical supplies such as thermometers and household items, and even in temperature-taking. There are other examples of the use of drones to control the spread of the virus.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Yeshwanth Reddy: Yes! Earlier on March 20, we raised our seed round investment and already had a term sheet in place from a lead investor. When the pandemic hit, the lead backed out of the deal, leaving us with only 2-3 months of the runway. In order to survive longer, we had to make very difficult choices, including deep pay cuts for the whole team and shelving some R&D efforts. Since then, we’ve evolved to be mentally much stronger, more confident, and more united as a team than ever. I guess the best thing that we had done was to realize the crisis very early and make contingency plans immediately. After the pandemic hit, we finalized very simple and clear targets that we wanted to achieve by the end of this year, which we’ve successfully managed to surpass now!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Yeshwanth Reddy: Most of the stress and anxiety is subdued by the fantastic team that we have! The team supports each other very well, which was evident, especially in the past few months. I guess our vision and the larger impact that we can potentially create soon keep us always excited.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Yeshwanth Reddy: Most drone delivery companies are building very generic drones. However, the maritime industry’s problems are very niche, and we have identified them well early on to build a perfect solution. We are 1-2 years ahead of other competitors now, and the uniqueness of our technology combined with our business model, will keep us ahead of the curve for time to come.
Your final thoughts?
Yeshwanth Reddy: Soon, F-drones would establish a global network of drone deliveries operating from various ports. Maritime last-mile deliveries may never be the same again!
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