Pulkit Gaur: The Geek as Humanist

19330-thegeekashumanist2Next to thumb-sucking and nail-biting, one of the most common habits among children is to break open toys out of curiosity to see what is inside. Pulkit Gaur, founder of Ahmedabad-headquartered robotics firm Gridbots Technologies Pvt Ltd, says his journey as an obsessive and compulsive innovator started when he was at his destructive best with toys. Unlike most children, young Pulkit would re-assemble the toys he had dismembered, as best he could, his parents remember. “That was when I started learning how things were made,” says this 34-year-old Jodhpur- born roboticist whose company makes products after identifying a problem and working out how robots can help solve it. A beefy man of medium height, Gaur has a serious face lit up with intelligent eyes. “We don’t make robots anticipating that they could be used to fight a certain kind of problem. We make them for very very specific reasons,” he adds.

The image of carcasses floating in underground water tanks in his water-scarce home state Rajasthan had always troubled him. After all, it was the same water that was pumped up to an elevated tank before it was released to the public for consumption. “This was a serious problem for those who couldn’t afford an RO system, and the first thing that came to my mind after I founded my robotics company in 2007 was to solve that problem,” recalls Gaur, who had graduated magna cum laude as a Bachelor of Engineering from the famous Jodhpur Engineering College in 2004. Gaur currently rents out robots to municipalities and corporations to clean such storage tanks for a fee.

The problem was tough to crack. Underground water tanks were not easy to clean. The only choice was to empty the whole tank—which in drought- prone states was not a viable option, thanks to lack of alternative sources of water. Gaur and his team designed a robot that would enter the underground water tank and suck out all the filth through a pump. “Instead of losing 100 per cent water, our robot ensured that such tanks could be cleaned with a loss of just 5 per cent of water,” says Gaur. The water-proof, rust-proof robot, named Sausr (short for smart autonomous underwater service robot), has sensors with cameras to detect temperature, direction, acidity measurement and so on. Weighing 80 kg, the 3 ft by 5 ft robot can probe 50 metres below the water surface and can be operated using a keyboard and a monitor.

While the social commitment of building the product is highly laudable, Gaur sustains his business using a rent-for-use model, typically, not by selling the robots, which are in the range of Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 12.5 lakh.

Read the rest of this article in Open magazine.

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