On Airport Delivery & Investor Revenue Demands
Ottonomy CEO Ritukar Vijay shares strategies and growth plans
2023 has been an exciting year for Ottonomy, an autonomous delivery startup that’s nominally based in the U.S., but houses almost the entirety of its team in India. First it signed a distribution agreement with European logistics operator Goggo Network, and then just last month the company was named a winner of Robotics Business Review’s 2023 RBR50 Robotics Innovation Awards. We caught up with company Founder and CEO Ritukar Vijay to hear how he appeals to investors, why the company focuses on airports, and what’s next for the company.
Jonah Bliss: Why don’t we start with some background; tell us a bit about the founding team, and what led you to create Ottonomy?
Ritukar Vijay: The core team of Ottonomy has more than 50 years of combined experience in the design, development, manufacturing, and sale of autonomous technology and is ideally positioned for developing technology to solve commercial challenges that can be adopted on large scale by enterprise customers. Ottonomy, as a team, are true supporters of the design-first approach to develop products which are customer centric, working backwards from the customer experience leading to technology.
Ottonomy was founded in 2020, in the midst of the global pandemic, as the demand for online and curbside delivery orders from customers who were practicing social distancing were rising more than 700%. The co-founders of Ottonomy.io came together to design an innovative, efficient, and sustainable solution, the Ottobot, that enabled customers to get fast, contactless delivery while solving the unique labor challenges and staff shortages of restaurants and retailers. The goal was to significantly improve and enhance the quality of delivery services by introducing best-in-class and friendly service robots.
In 2021 and 2023, Ottonomy was ranked in the top 50 most innovative robotics companies by Robotics Business Review and also won Plug and Play’s award for one of the best mobility startups.
“…you have to continuously hit the revenue numbers while building state of the art technologies.”
JB: What do you think of the current moment, in terms of macro factors affecting delivery overall, and fundraising for hardware startups in particular?
RV: With the growing trend towards automation across various industries, investors are increasingly looking to fund robotics startups that offer innovative solutions for logistics and delivery. The core problem being the labor shortages and with the rising delivery needs, its challenging keeping the cost of delivery affordable using manual deliveries.
In current times, the investors are looking for technologically superior and scalable solutions which have a solid business model to put the startups towards a path to profitability.
What that means is that you have to continuously hit the revenue numbers while building state of the art technologies.
JB: Can you share a bit about your deployments, how many markets you’re in, if there’s a particular operating environment you’re focusing on?
RV: Since its inception, Ottonomy has focused on innovating and paving the way for efficient and sustainable delivery logistics. The initial testing phase started with identifying scalable use cases and scenarios wherein the technology and regulatory aspects are in complete sync - like restaurant curbside and airport deliveries.
In 2022, Ottonomy successfully deployed autonomous delivery robots at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG), Rome Fiumicino International (FCO), and Pittsburgh (PIT) airports. Additionally, Ottonomy robots pilots have been utilized by Posten Norge, one of Europe’s largest postal and logistics services, in Oslo, Norway as well as Goggo Network, the European leader in last and middle-mile logistics with autonomous vehicles and robots, in Madrid, Spain. Currently, Ottonomy is working with industry partners in Canada and Saudi Arabia with more launches scheduled for 2023 in the USA, Europe and Asia.
JB: Last year you released the Ottobot 2.0, and more recently the Yeti; do you have any other new hardware in the works? Do you think your approach to hardware differentiates Ottonomy from some of the other players in the industry?
RV: The Ottobot is the world’s first fully autonomous delivery robot capable of delivering in both indoor and outdoor environments. Using Ottonomy’s proprietary high information mapping and contextual mobility navigation platform allows for fully autonomous driving, with no need for human input, while detecting environmental factors in real time. The Ottobot Yeti is designed specifically for unmanned automated delivery and is the first fully customizable and modular robot featuring interchangeable cabins and specializations for delivery of e-commerce and retail packages.
“…teleoperated robots will find a tough road to scale with profitability.”
JB: Do you have any thoughts on the regulatory environment for delivery robots? Any insights into overall market adoption?