Tighten your seat belts, for Indian Drone Industry’s transformative moment and flight to infinite possibilities as #Pixella Pvt Ltd is gearing up, to unveil India’s first “#Make in India”, Pro – Consumer Cinematography drone in 2024. In an enlightening discussion with Pixella’s PRESIDENT & CEO, #Peeyush Kumar, we explored the company’s journey, its entry into the consumer drone segment, future plans and challenges of Indian Drone Industry and future growth drivers’ industry.
Q1. Congratulations on the much-anticipated launch of India’s first pro-consumer cinematography drone. Could you share why Pixella chose to start its business in the pro-consumer drone segment?
Peeyush Kumar: Thank you for the warm wishes. It’s a pleasure to share that #Pixella is all geared up, to launch the first Make in India, Pro-Consumer Cinematography Drone in 2024. Many people would get surprised in our choice to start with Pro Consumer drones, as presently the eco system in India to develop such products is still evolving and entry barrier in terms of technology, investment and knowledge is very high.
However, there are few compelling reasons behind, we starting our journey in the pro-consumer drone segment.
a) The Government of India has banned drone imports in all forms since 2022. This created a significant demand-supply gap and a substantial business opportunity for indigenous companies.
b) Pixella’s consumer drones are designed with a focus on meeting the demands of various professionals, including wedding cinematographers, filmmakers, and vloggers. India, being the second-largest wedding market globally, presents a massive opportunity.
c) with many countries seeking alternative drone options, drones manufactured in India are becoming a preferred choice. With the Indian government supporting the industry to make India a world drone manufacturing hub, it’s a golden opportunity.
The biggest reasons beside above, is our knowledge and expertise of the Film, Broadcast and Imaging industry, it’s needs and consumption. We see ourselves as aptly positioned to service this segment.
Q2. Can you tell us about Pixella and its inspiration?
Peeyush Kumar: Pixella Pvt Ltd was founded in 2019 with a vision to develop drone and imaging technologies indigenously, promoting self-reliance. Our goal is to be a leading player in the pro-consumer drone market and be a part of every celebration and digital storytelling. Our inspiration lies in the creative perspective of aerial cinematography, making moments and memories truly magical and visually unique. My journey of over 28 years in the consumer industry, spanning consumer electronics, telecommunications, and imaging, led me to dive into the world of drones in 2017. Since then, I’ve been working on the ambitious project of developing and launching a pro-consumer cinematography drone.
Q3. As Pixella prepares for its launch in 2024, what unique features can consumers expect from your consumer drones, and how do you foresee them impacting various industries beyond weddings?
Peeyush Kumar: Pixella’s consumer drones come with professional 4K video quality and exceptional low-light shooting capabilities, making them versatile tools for not just weddings but also for filmmaking, vlogging, and various professional applications. Our vision is to bring all the photography features available in smartphones and DSLR cameras to our drones, making aerial cinematography more accessible and popular to all. We aim to contribute to the expanding landscape of aerial cinematography across diverse industries. We have included many deep tech features like 360-degree obstacle avoidance, HDR Mode, 3 Axis gimbal for stabilisation which will be unique and first in industry from an Indian company.
Q4. Pixella’s pro-consumer drone focuses on the wedding industry, the fourth-largest industry in India. How does Pixella plan to leverage the booming wedding market for its upcoming drone launch?
Peeyush Kumar: With the Indian wedding industry ranked as the fourth-largest globally and the second-largest wedding market with a market size of 60 billion USD, Pixella sees a tremendous opportunity. Our consumer drones, set to be launched in early 2024, are strategically positioned to cater to the specific needs of wedding cinematographers and related professionals. We aim to capitalize on this vibrant market, offering innovative solutions for capturing the magic of Indian weddings. With over 10 million weddings happening annually in India and the market size growing year-on-year with a 20% CAGR, the potential is significant. Out of 60 billion USD, 16% is spent on Photography, in which Drones now have become an integral part. The addressable market is very huge. Recent appeal by our PM Shri Narendra Modi, to “WED IN INDIA”, will further act as catalyst in Pro-Consumer Cinematography drone demand, in fact in many ways GOVT is acting like a market maker and all indicators are positive
Q5. With the Indian government aiming to make the country a global drone hub by 2030, how does Pixella plan to stay at the forefront of this transformative journey?
Peeyush Kumar: Staying at the forefront requires continuous innovation and a keen understanding of market dynamics. Pixella is committed to investing in research and development, launching new products, and actively participating in industry initiatives. By fostering a culture of innovation, we aim to lead and contribute significantly to the industry’s growth. With the Indian Drone Industry projected to exceed 50 billion USD by 2030, and the consumer drone segment contributing almost 20-22% to that.
Q6. Pixella is anticipating significant revenue in its first business year. What strategies does Pixella have in place to achieve this ambitious goal?
Peeyush Kumar: Pixella’s strategy revolves around innovation, technology, quality, collaborations, and market reach. We have established strong connections across India with 28 planned distributors and over 300 channel partners. Our in-house developed key technologies are competitive with international brands. We are targeting revenue of over 100 crores in our first year of operations. Growth with profits is our mantra, ensuring that our success benefits every stakeholder, including employees, trade partners, and stakeholders. Bookings are about to open soon.
Q7. As Pixella prepares to launch its consumer drones in the top six metros, what marketing strategies does the company have to reach its target audience and create awareness about its innovative products?
Peeyush Kumar: Pixella has crafted a multi-faceted marketing strategy, including targeted digital campaigns, collaborations with influencers in relevant industries, and participation in industry events. By leveraging various channels, we aim to create widespread awareness and connect with our target audience in the top six metros, ensuring a successful launch and scaling up of business.
Q8. Considering the gap between regulations and implementation in the drone industry, how does Pixella plan to address safety and security concerns, especially with the use of drones in public events?
Peeyush Kumar: Safety and security are paramount for Pixella. We are committed to stringent adherence to regulations and have implemented robust safety features in our drones. Additionally, we will conduct thorough education and training programs for users to set a standard for responsible drone usage, particularly in public events. Our drones come equipped with safety features like return to home, return to land, battery fail-safe, geo-fencing, and airspace alert.
Q9. Can you provide insights into the company’s long-term vision and how it plans to diversify its product offerings?
Peeyush Kumar: Pixella’s long-term vision involves continuous growth and diversification. We will be expanding into the agriculture drone segment and FPV segment to leverage our technological capabilities. India is an Agri-led economy with over 6.46 lakh villages. The opportunity is huge in Agri-drone (#kisandrone). By catering to diverse industry needs, we aim to establish Pixella as a comprehensive solution provider in the drone technology space.
Our immediate objective is to launch and establish Pixella as the consumer drone brand, and medium-term objective includes expansion in Agriculture segment and certain niche segments in defence portfolios.
As understood, technology changes very fast & is continuously evolving but with key technologies in control & mastered in-house, Pixella will have very low gestation time to adopt and change as per market needs & applications.
Certain segments of interests in defence use case includes counter drone systems, loitering munitions and HALE. (High altitude long endurance) Category and HAPS (High altitude pseudo-Satellites)
Q10. What are the challenges the Indian drone industry is facing, and how does Pixella plan to navigate them?
Peeyush Kumar: The primary challenge faced by the Indian drone industry is dependence on parts and components from outside India. This is true for most electronics industries requiring semiconductors, sensors, cameras, telemetry, and avionics. While parts and components are allowed for import, individual discretionary interpretation during customs clearance at different ports at times create bottlenecks and delays.
Though Indian drone eco system for manufacturing is evolving but like any other industry will take time, efforts, Govt’s support and lot of investments. The most relatable industry can be of Mobile phone where majority of electronics parts and components are still being imported but manufacturing and export is happening in & from India.
Few other challenges which industry is facing is the lack of supporting infrastructure of drone certifying bodies through QCI especially in North and East India and the time taken up to issue type certification to drones, availability of trained pilots and reluctancy among insurance service provider to cover drone as a product.
The above challenges are very detrimental to the MSME and Start-ups and delays their business cycle.
12. What do you think will be growth areas in Indian drone market for next five years?
Mr. Peeyush Kumar: We can broadly divide the growth drivers into two categories 1) Defence 2) Civilian.
In defence Pixella understands that there will be great demand in newer applications of drones which will involve swarm of drones, FPV with long endurance which can be operated by unit soldiers independently, HALE and anti-drone systems. In asymmetric war drones are game changers.
While in Civilian segment growth will be driven by consumer aerial photography drones, agricultural drones, mapping and surveillance drones. Growth of % may vary, but all categories will be led by technologies which will involve further evolution in computer vision, autonomous control, encryption, smart battery management, artificial intelligence, data capturing and its analysis and machine learning.
13. We are near to budget for next year, what will be your request to Finance minister and cabinet?
Peeyush Kumar: Yes, we have few requests, to Hon. Finance Minister, Minister of civil aviation, Minister of commerce and the entire cabinet which if considered will help Indian drone industry to grow fast with indigenous capabilities and be competitive.
One very pertinent bottleneck in the fast adoption and competitiveness of drones in India, is the slab of GST which is applied on drones, on consumer aerial photography drones it is 28%, which is making make in India drones, un-competitive against international brands, resulting in still the grey market flourishing. By reducing the GST on consumer drones to competitive slab, will help Indian companies to fight international brands. Even in agriculture drones GST is 18% which is high for an individual farmer.
Govt has taken a very bold and industry building step by announcing PLI scheme, it is requested that the tenure of the PLI be extended another three years, this is to have more inclusive participation of companies in the PLI scheme, as out of 400+ companies, only few got the benefit from PLI. The focus should be not on the PLI revenue target but on the number or base of the companies which got the benefits. The more the companies in PLI, more will be capability of the industry in India.
Govt is running many schemes and have involved many ministries to act as market maker for drone and to encourage drone adoption in various application, it is requested that such initiatives be continued further and subsidies like in agriculture segment for drones continues or increased to other segments also.
Export of drones is also a pain point, despite lot of interests from many countries, in India regulations, processes, and compliances are still not clear, not implemented and evolving, it is well understood that Drone is a dual use technology but if we compare other countries there is no requirement of end use certificate in case of Nano or Micro drones. Exports for these drones should be free like any other product say a car, bike or a tractor. We need to differentiate the class of drones when exporting and their possible use or applications.
GST which is charged on billing, it is requested that for start-ups and MSME, GST should be charged on receiving the payments or auto deducted like a TDS by paying parties. the problem is that due to long payment cycles the working capital is getting blocked first in GST and then secondly at the customer end. Further it is also to be noticed that most of the electronics, imaging, avionics components are imported and requires advance payment, advance duties and GST. A considerate view on MSME / Startups involved will solve their working capital challenge, as money blocked in system is of no use to anyone.
One last point which I would like to request is to exempt the MSME and Start-ups from minimum turnover threshold for participating in tenders or reduced threshold limit. As understood drone industry is largely driven by entrepreneurs, MSME and Start-ups, So the minimum revenue threshold criteria to participate in tenders is a clear blockage and favours only handful of companies who have already taken a lead. Let’s encourage and build thousands of successful companies instead of a few.
Pixella understands & recognizes the challenges in the drone industry and the existing gap between regulations and implementation, demand & supply, products & technology, supply chain & manufacturing. The forecasted revenue reflects our confidence in navigating these challenges successfully. We believe in growth with profits and want that in our success, every stakeholder also has equal rewards and benefits, with happy employees, trade partners, and stakeholders we are going to set Pixella as an industry benchmark in products, technology, and No.1 preferred brand in the Drone Industry.
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