Spacetech Startups In India: Exploring The Final Frontier

Spacetech Startups In India: Exploring The Final Frontier


There have been 30+ significant deals between 2014 and May 2023 which have helped space technology startups raise close to $233 Mn

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Interim Budget on February 1 allocated INR 7,313.73 Cr for space research and space technology

This huge monetary infusion demonstrates that the government is committed to developing India's space exploration and technological capabilities

On August 23, 2023, India became the first country to land a spacecraft on the unexplored south pole of the moon with Chandrayaan-3. It was a remarkable moment for Indian space technology. 

S Somnath, Chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) proclaimed, “We have achieved soft landing, India is on the Moon,” announcing to the world India’s massive achievement in the domain of space tech. 

These words still reverberate in the mind of every Indian. Briefly after the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3, India embarked on another space mission- Aditya L1 under which the ISRO launched India’s first space-based solar observatory. 

The spacecraft aims to study the solar atmosphere and solar magnetic storms and their impact on the environment on the Earth.

The year 2023 registered 100 startups with the Indian Space Research Organisation. There have been 30+ significant deals between 2014 and May 2023 which have helped space technology startups raise close to $233 Mn.

Further, to leverage opportunities for spacetech startups in India, several steps have been taken by the government. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council announced a 0% GST regime which includes Spacecraft (including satellites) and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles

This acted as a catalyst for spacetech startups. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Interim Budget on February 1 allocated INR 7,313.73 Cr for space research and space technology. 

This huge monetary infusion demonstrates that the government is committed to developing India’s space exploration and technological capabilities. 

Another important step in the same direction was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ISRO and tech giant Microsoft to provide spacetech companies in India with technology tools and platforms, mentoring to help them scale, go-to-market support and become enterprise-ready.

Why Were These Missions Important?

India’s success in spacetech is a matter of great pride. But the question here is what is the importance of these missions in the trajectory of India’s growth? 

These missions have introduced new information to scientists which can prove to be extremely useful for future expansion of space tech. These missions have helped researchers gain valuable insights into land profile dynamics and this information is being put to good use to build sustainable solutions. 

Another treasure that these space missions aim to unlock is the evolution of the universe and celestial bodies over millions and billions of years. This would pave the path for further understanding of our roots. 

With new technology coming up every single day, new fields will benefit from this. Some fields that have seen development in leaps and bounds through space tech are agriculture, weather forecasting, satellite and drone imagery, defence and communication. 

It transforms agriculture with precision farming and crop monitoring. Meteorologists count on space-based observatories for precise weather forecasting and climate monitoring. 

High-resolution satellite and drone imagery is useful for urban planning and responding to catastrophes. In defence, space-based monitoring improves national security, while satellite communication networks provide dependable worldwide access to telecommunications and Internet services.

The Introduction Of Private Players In Space Technology

For a very long time, spacetech was considered a government organisation’s domain. Until very recently, when tech giants like SpaceX and Blue Origin started participating in bringing innovations to this arena, this myth was broken that space tech was reserved for government agencies. 

The reason why spacetech has become a matter of interest for private companies is because of its infinite potential, there are innumerable opportunities to be explored and capitalised on. 

This shift has proven to be extremely beneficial for spacetech startups as the introduction of private players brings with it a commercial approach which makes it quite easy to raise investments and funds. 

In the Indian context, the year 2023, saw the opening of ISRO’s doors to private players in the field of space technology. The government has also been working to provide the desired and necessary guidance and mentorship to spacetech companies. 

Unveiling The Commercial Potential Of Space Tech

The commercial potential in space technology is immense. It is manifold. Spacetech hardware makes up one major chunk of this domain which enhances the commerciality. This includes basic infrastructure from the tiniest part to the most important and complex parts of a spacecraft, such as launch vehicles, rocket engines, transponders etc.  

Payloads are major tools that provide the angle of commercialisation to spacetech. Payloads are the technological or scientific instruments carried on board a satellite for a specific purpose. They are designed based on the requirements and necessities of a project and have a certain motive. 

Hardware is incomplete without software. Modern-day technology requires extremely efficient software that can function effectively even in the most complicated situations. This is where spacetech piques the interest of developers, coders and information technology professionals. 

This is one of the biggest strengths of the Indian ecosystem as India has the largest number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates. More and more students pick up STEM as their chosen field of study and make valuable contributions to space tech. 

Debris management in space has emerged as a major challenge. With so many countries actively pursuing their ambitions in space exploration, more and more artificial satellites, rockets, space stations and spacecrafts are being launched every year. 

This has created a lot of waste and debris in space and this will become a pressing issue in the future, if not taken care of now. Therefore, this is another aspect of space tech that is being explored. 

Investing In Space Technology

It can’t be denied that investing in spacetech is rocket science because of the intricacies and complexities of the field. But this won’t stop the influx of funds into spacetech from investors. New startups will definitely take centre-stage and will capture the interest of investors. 

Spacetech needs big money as the development of equipment for any space mission requires a lot of capital. This can be provided by investors. Space technology involves a substantial amount of invention and intellectual property, which has resulted in several patents and exclusive technologies. 

Investors can profit from these intellectual assets by sponsoring R&D activities, obtaining licensing for patented inventions, or investing directly in firms that own important intellectual property rights in the space technology industry. This intellectual property can provide a competitive edge by spurring innovation and perhaps increasing returns for investors in the expanding space sector. 

One thing that investors must keep in mind while investing in these startups is patience as the revenues and returns might not be immediate. It must also not be forgotten that sometimes, space tech ventures are a 1 or 0 game. They might turn out to be extremely successful or might not be able to achieve their targets. But the risk is always worth taking as investors get a chance to witness the ever-growing potential of startups. 

With the Indian government’s support and push for innovation in the exploration of the cosmos, the stage is set for founders of spacetech startups. There is an increasing demand for well-researched information, numbers, statistics and facts. 

To put it simply, information is the new gold. To match this demand, as mentioned earlier, there is a great supply of engineering capabilities and scientific rigour. Thus, this growing demand can be very easily capitalised on by Indian startups. 

Incubated in the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, AgniKul Cosmos Private Limited is a pioneering startup in the Indian spacetech landscape. The startup endeavours to build and deploy a small-lift launch vehicle, like the Agnibaan, capable of orbiting payloads up to 100 kg (220 lb) at 700 km (430 mi). 

Currently, spacetech is a hyper-competitive space as founders, today, are aware of the entrepreneurial potential that lies in Earth’s outer space. 

As for investors, this is a sector that cannot be missed. It is time for investors to learn the rocket science behind investing in space technology. 

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.

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