Up, Up And Away: Inside India's First Private Space-Tech Company – Entrepreneur

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By Kabir Singh Bhandari
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Sanjay Nekkanti wants us to experience something different. Not jungle safaris, bungee jumping or deep sea diving- but the feeling of weightlessness, the silence in the cosmos, and watching 16 sunrises in a span of 24 hours. A novel suggestion, right? But that’s exactly what one can expect from the Founder of Dhruva Space, which helps organisations leverage the potential of small satellites.
Nekkanti, one of the winners at the Innovation for India Awards organised by Marico Innovation Foundation, was a child from a military background, watching watch fighter jets take off, which inspired him to dream of exploring space someday. “This big dream took me to engineering college. There I got an opportunity to work on India’s first student nano satellite program with the support of ISRO. This project reaffirmed my dream of going to space, and the only way to realize this dream was to start my own space company. When I shared this vision with my friends, they were quick to dismiss the idea. And why not? It required a lot of capital, a great team and government support. Also at that point of time, private space activity in India was unheard of. But I continued to dream big,” Nekkanti narrated to the audience at the award show.

He finally started Dhruva Space in 2012 with the intention to lead the privatization of India space industry. In the beginning, the government was sceptical of their vision. Investors did not believe that a 24-year-old could form a space company in India. But he continued to dream big and promised himself that he would talk to 1000 investors before letting go of his dream. When he met the 163rd investor, the founder finally found somebody who believed in his vision. They went on to discuss the three pillars of any space mission – The first one is building of the spacecraft itself, the second one is carrying the spacecraft into orbit and the third is tracking the spacecraft while it travels across the cosmos. “We wondered what if one company could manage all these three pillars forming the full stack of any space mission. This is the only way we could aspire to go to space frequently and economically. At that time, over 300 small companies were building small components for India’s space program. But none of them had the expertise of building a full spacecraft or a full launch vehicle, or even operating them. So instead of building everything from scratch, Dhruva decided to innovatively stitch these three pillars together. We trusted and leveraged the ecosystem that ISRO had nurtured over the last five decades,” Nekkanti said.
It took them 10 years and they became the first private company in India to launch satellites authorized by the Government of India. Dhruva is building space truck platforms open to any application, GPS, television, weather forecasting and more. These space trucks are cost effective, can be launched on any rocket and can be operated from anywhere, even your home. They have managed to put India on the global map with their partners in Europe and North America. With a network of more than 60 satellites providing data about Earth every few hours, these satellites are creating a huge impact on our daily lives by aiding farmers understand crop yield patterns, helping traders invest wisely and providing insights to national security agencies.
The author can be reached at bkabir@entrepreneurindia.com and Instagram.com/kabirsinghbhandari
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