Online food delivery company Zomato has acquired TechEagle Innovations, a Lucknow-based startup that works exclusively on drones. TechEagle will help Zomato move towards offering drone-based food delivery in India, by creating a hub-to-hub delivery network powered by hybrid multi-rotor drones.
TechEagle was founded in 2015 by IIT Kanpur alumni Vikram Singh Meena during his college days. It works with a prime focus on custom-made drones capable of carrying up to 5 kg payloads.
It is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) recently legalised flying commercial drones and also announced a policy called Drone Regulations 1.0. While these guidelines banned the use of drones for delivery of goods and food, on September 19, minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha hinted at including a clause on the application of drones for ecommerce and food delivery in the draft Drone Regulations 2.0
Deepinder Goyal, founder and CEO, Zomato, agrees with the fact that India is currently in the early stage of aerial innovations and is taking baby steps towards building a future where users can expect a drone to deliver the food they ordered online.
“Our first ‘delivery job’ currently is to design multi-rotor drones that can pick up a payload under 5 kg and set up drone delivery circuits for reducing the last mile delivery leg. We believe that robots powering last-mile delivery is an inevitable part of the future and hence is going to be a significant area of investment for us,” said Goyal.
Zomato currently delivers 22 Mn monthly orders and is leaving no stone unturned as far as last-mile delivery is concerned. The company boasts a last-mile delivery fleet of 1.5 lakh partners and has over 75,000 restaurant partners offering food delivery services across 100 cities in India.
So far, Zomato has made 12 acquisitions globally. In the last two years, Runnr (September 2017) and TongueStun ($18 Mn, September 2018) have been its prime acquisitions aimed at boosting its food delivery and logistics network. Other startups acquired by Zomato include MapleGraph, Sparse Labs, NexTable, Mekanist, Urbanspoon, Cibando, LunchTime, Obedovat, Menu Mania, and gastronauci.pl.
Globally, Amazon is one of the first movers in this segment. As a June 2017 CNN report said, “In 2013, Amazon unveiled plans for a new delivery service called Prime Air, which would use drones to deliver packages. Amazon made its first drone delivery in the UK in December 2016. The company plans to expand the service to dozens of customers near its British facility in the near future.”
However, beating Amazon is another company — ZipLine — which has already completed more than 4,000 deliveries via drones since its launch in 2016.
Recent reports suggested that Amazon is looking to start with drone deliveries in the next five years. However, it could take much more time to enter India. Thus, the Indian drone market is right now offering a highly unsaturated opportunity to players like Idea Forge, Aero360, Drona Aviation, and Skylark Drones, among others, to collaborate with consumer internet companies, particularly in segments such as ecommerce, food delivery, and hyperlocal delivery.