Space Technology 2.0: Thinking out of the world

Opportunities for Founders in Space Tech industry

Tired of staying at home during the pandemic? Ever spent hours looking at the sky wondering what lies beyond those seemingly tiny sparkly stars? Join us as we venture out beyond Earth in this month’s Startup Saturday.

The first panel featured Mr. Chaitanya Dora, CFO of Dhruva Space and Mr. Pawan Kumar Chandana, CEO of Skyroot and was moderated by Srikant Soni from Headstart Hyderabad.

The second panel featured Mr. Vishesh Rajaram, Managing Partner of Speciale Invest and Mr. Srinath Ravichandran, Co-Founder & CEO of Agnikula Moderated by Anubhav Tiwari from Headstart Hyderabad. 


The webinar started with Mr. Advaita Tiwari sharing the initiatives by Invest India. Invest India Is a national investment promotion & facilitation agency that works with both the government and the industry. The Accelerating Growth of New India’s innovations (AGNIi)  provides dedicated support for commercialization of India’s research & development and innovation through the national commercialization program. The organization connects innovators in tech adopters by tech de-risking them. AGNIi has a ‘one-on-one matching’ system for tech scouting for business and social needs and a ‘technology showcase’ for government and social needs.


The Keynote

 Mr. Shri Vivek Singh, Associate Scientific Secretary, ISRO  addressed the keynote speech. Mr. Singh explained that up until now, the role of the private sector was limited to supply of components and materials, hence the productivity of the space sector was confined to what ISRO could achieve. He encouraged the commercialization of the space sector by iterating that the “private sector must be engaged in end to end activities.” 

 He believes that opening up the space industry for privatization “will be a gamechanger for (India) in the space sector” and “enable Indian industries to be important players in the global space economy.” It also has “the potential for large scale employment in the global space sector and scope for India to become a global technology power hub.”


Opportunities for the private sector to capitalise on:

  •     Research & Development
  •     Science & Interplanetary missions
  •     Building Rockets


The Government Initiative

The government has taken up an “autonomous nodal agency called Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) under Department of Space (DoS) as a separate vertical for taking independent decisions with respect to permitting and regulating the activities of private companies in the space sector.” This agency works towards “ hand holding and promoting (the) private sector in (their) space endeavours”

 The first panel included Mr. Chaitanya Dora, CFO of Dhruva Space and Mr. Pawan Kumar Chandana, CEO of Skyroot.

 Started in 2012, Dhruva Space is one of the first private space satellite companies that has been able to garner market and investor confidence and close their funding round by 2019. The company “provides a full stack space engineering solution”while also building satellites and launching them through its partners. Dhruva Space has deployed a ground station and recently their tender was accepted by a defense player for the supply of satellite subsistence.

Skyroot was founded by a team of former ISRO scientists. The company focuses on building cost efficient launch vehicles. They are currently developing Vikram: a rocket series that has the ability to take 200kg-700 kg to the orbit.


Opportunities in the space tech industry

 The major opportunities within the space sector are:

  •     Launch Vehicles & Support
  •     Satellites & Payload (small and large satellites)
  •     Ground Segment: Telemetry Telecommand Station
  •     Data Application: GPS, Weather Prediction, Infrastructure Tracking, and Satellite Communication
  •     Academic Research: Pharmaceutical and Microgravity experiments
  •     Consulting, Legal, and Regulation
  •     Data Analytics: Earth Observations (clicking and selling images from space); Communications from Space (internet); Space Exploration Verticals: Missions and Settlements beyond Earth; and Image Analytics


What you Need to Start a Career in Space

Our panelists stressed that one does not need a degree to start a career in the space sector, start with an internship in a space tech company. Once you have the knowledge, brainstorm where you would like to establish your niche and aim for experience in the industry. As Mr. Kumar asserts, the “easiest way to enter the space sector is data analytics where you need less resources” and in addition to this, “the skills required are available in India.” Space tech startups usually hire a few interns with a Master’s degree and move on to employing them full-time.

 Customer Hunting

 Mr. Kumar says that “space is a many-people-know-many-people industry.” Networking is important because deals made in the space industry are huge and require quality relationship building. This isn’t exclusively limited to the company and its investors, but also stretches out to the various stakeholders in the industry. ISRO also helps in connecting space tech startups with other relevant startups. Apart from this, founders can attend space conferences to connect with stakeholders. Founders can also use technology to connect with virtual mutual connections from LinkedIn and network on the marketplace.

 Where India Stands as a Market

 Mr. Kumar says that with government support, this is the best time to enter the space sector in India. Mr. Dora adds that things are opening up in India and with ISRO helping, India will catch up quickly to their global counterparts. India is one of the fastest growing countries in the 21st  century space race. There are new government reforms and increasing interest from foreign entities to establish in India. The current economies that are excelling in the current space environment are the USA, EU, and Japan.

 Space Skills

 Employees with strong mechanical, aerospace, and electronic engineering degrees with extremely good fundamental skills are an asset to the industry. As Mr. Kumar put it, “fundamentals and passion are essential.”  The space tech industry also requires employees with cross departmental experience. People with good networking skills who understand a broad range of topics are preferred. Knowledge of regulation and law are a bonus.

Funding and Revenue

 In Mr. Kumar’s words, “you need to spend millions of dollars to see one rupee. Space is a tough market to enter.” The key is to “choose the right investors, stay lean and cost efficient to sustain in the industry, and “choose the right investors who will support you for a very long time.” As Mr. Dora says, “the investor must be patient enough and must have the passion and understanding for what you do.” 

 Always be proactive and think one step ahead about what will persist in the near future. Mr. Dora believes that India has a great ecosystem. “ISRO has planned a mission to Mars at a cost lower than the movie Martian.” Therefore, it is easy to collaborate within the Indian community to work on projects. However, one should always look for grants both in India and internationally.

 Mr. Kumar believes that it takes three to four years to get the first customer. He justifies that space tech founders spend three to four years of their lives because they are confident to get customers after the fourth year. Being internationally competent and building the nation is what drives their motivation.

 The session was very informational and presented a clear picture on the space technology ecosystem. The next panel featured Mr. Vishesh Rajaram, Managing Partner of Speciale Invest and Mr. Srinath Ravichandran, Co-Founder & CEO of Agnikul.


Key Takeaways

  • Space is a comparatively new industry. There is a requirement to educate the investors about the market and the industry.
  • Mechanical, Electronical, Aerospace engineering degrees are valued in the space tech industry.

The space tech industry offers a plethora of opportunities for new startups. It is a booming industry that is welcoming to new founders. 

The first panel discovered the founder’s perspective of the Space Tech industry. The second panel will focus on the investor perspective of the industry. The amazing panelists for the next panel were  Mr. Vishesh Rajaram, Managing Partner of Speciale Invest and Mr. Srinath Ravichandran, Co-Founder & CEO of Agnikul.