The Journey of Paaila Technology: A Kathmandu based tech-startup that is taking the Nepali automation scene by storm with Pari

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The Journey of Paaila Technology: A Kathmandu based tech-startup that is taking the Nepali automation scene by storm with Pari

 

Today, the first world is experimenting with automated cars that can drive you around. McDonald's is about to incorporate self-serving kiosks that will allow customers to order, customize, and pay for their meals without even having to interact with an employee. The automated sci-fi world that we see in movies is not too far in the future.

You might not have seen the use of automation in Nepal and might even think it will take quite some time to get there, but make no mistakes, automation is here. San Francisco startup Zipline makes autonomous drones that can carry three pounds of supplies for 75 miles on a single charge. It has been used to deliver blood for transfusions and medicine to small villages in Rwanda. Elon Musk’s Open AI created a bot that learned Dota 2 from the scratch and even defeated the game’s professional players in one on one matches.

One similar example of automation is Pari, a humanoid robot that greets and guides customers through their visit at the Durbarmarg branch of SBI bank. The humanoid robot by Paaila Technology is the first of its kind in all of SBI’s history- and of Nepal as well.

 

Initial flirtations with Robotics

While most of us just felt fascinated watching robots in movies, the co-founders were a step ahead of us, delving into the inner workings of autonomous machines starting right after SLC. Through online materials and courses on robotics, the team was already adept in the basics of robotics, as such it did not take them long to bond over their common interest once they met at IOE Pulchowk.

Although IOE did not have a formal course on robotics, the future cofounders of Paaila technology, Niraj Basnet, Dipkamal Bhusal, Sagar Shrestha, Rabin Giri, and Wasim Akram Khan who were all classmates started working on numerous robotics projects to hone their skills. Seeing the group’s ardor for robotics, the campus encouraged them to represent Nepal in ABU (Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union) Robocon, an Asia-Pacific robot contest, where their robots accomplished marvels for two consecutive years.

 

Seeing the group’s ardor for robotics, the campus encouraged them to represent Nepal in ABU (Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union) Robocon, an Asia-Pacific robot contest, where their robots accomplished marvels for two consecutive years

 

Learning beyond border

In 2015, the ABU Robocon held in Indonesia required the participants to make robots that could play 2 on 2 badminton. The robot that would win the tournament would go on to win the competition. The group’s robot did not succeed in winning the tournament, but they were still able to bag the Best Idea Award and the Mabuchi Motors Award. Click here to watch their robots play against China in ABU Robocon 2015.  

In 2016, the theme was promoting clean energy. They had to make two robots where one would autonomously propel the other by transmitting energy wirelessly. At the finish line, the propelling robot had to detach the propeller from the body of the propelled, climb a pole, and attach it to the top of the pole. Once again the team was not able to win the competition, but they still won the Best Engineering Award and the Panasonic Award. Click here to watch Nepal going head to head in ABU Robocon 2016 against India.

 

Creative final projects for graduation

The co-founders graduated with the batch of 2016, after submitting a voice command based object identifying robot, an autonomous wheelchair, and a 3D object tracking software for their final projects. The voice command based object identifying robot could understand the voice commands of people and act accordingly, while also identifying objects around it. It was an attempt at making a machine with human-like senses which they succeeded quite well in.

Similarly, 3D object tracking was also a project to develop a human-like visual perception of tracking movement of people and objects in a machine. The autonomous wheelchair had an advanced navigation system with which it could find its way from one place to another without requiring human control. “If the wheelchair would be produced at a consumer level, it could do marvels not only for the disabled, but also for the visually impaired,” says one of the founders.

 

Since I was ready to take care of investments and management, I proposed the idea to form a startup, which they said yes to,” says Binay Raut

 

From participation to a startup

“Representing Nepal in Robocon and standing out from some of the most advanced Asian countries gave us the confidence to bring the applications of Robotics to Nepal,” says Basnet, “However, we had no expertise in Business. That is when Binay dai came in.”

“I was looking for people with a background in robotics for a project in my real estate company when a friend of mine connected me to Wasim. When I met the team I saw that they were brimming with potential. I have a degree in both engineering and management and was looking for something new to keep things interesting. Since I was ready to take care of investments and management, I proposed the idea to form a startup, which they said yes to,” says Binay Raut, who then became one of the co-founders of Paaila Technology.  

 

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Paaila Technology before “Pari

As a team, their first project was Automatic Dhara which closely translates to “automatic tap”. It is a device that intelligently manages water for buildings and houses- pumping groundwater to fill up primary and secondary tanks. So far they have installed this system in over a hundred properties including City Centre. “Managing water is a repetitive process that people don’t need to be involved in anymore,” says Sagar.

They also made Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) for industrial processes in Nepal. A VFD is a type of motor controller that drives an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the electric motor. It is used in industries to control the speed of their manufacturing processes. Within 4 months of making it, they participated in an expo in Bhrikuti Mandap where they won the award for the Best Technology Company amongst an estimated 250 companies.

 

Exceeding expectations with “Pari

SBI bank wanted a robot for their new branch, SBIintouch and IOE Pulchowk Campus showed them the way to Paaila Technology. It was not until recently that they were done with the first version of Pari. It is a beautiful white humanoid robot that greets the customers of the bank and guides them through the processes that they are not aware of.

“Despite the fact that we had only 45 days to put Pari together, what we made exceeded expectations. This version of Pari works through two microcomputers, a proximity sensor and microcontrollers only. The next version of Pari will be able to move around and walk the customers through those processes seamlessly and communicate with them as humans do,” claims Raut. Pari, was awarded Best Innovative Product and Paaila Technology was awarded  Best Startup Company at ICT Awards 2017.

 

The next version of Pari will be able to move around and walk the customers through those processes seamlessly and communicate with them as humans do

 

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A common misconception

There is a common misconception and slight fear robots and machines are replacing manpower. But that is no excuse to halt advancement in technology as technology is actually meant to make human efforts more efficient. A farm that needed 50 men a hundred years back now only needs one man and a machine to get the work done. This is not putting the 49 other men out of job, but rather making the single man’s work efficient and giving the 49 other to engage in creative pursuits.

 

A farm that needed 50 men a hundred years back now only needs one man and a machine to get the work done. This is not putting the 49 other men out of job, but rather allowing them to engage in creative pursuits

 

A study conducted by a consultancy named Dulout revealed that in the past 150 years, industrialization and automation has created far more jobs than it has taken. “Pari makes it unnecessary for a person to stay by the door and greet every person that walks in. It is for such boring, repetitive, and unproductive jobs that humans need replacements, so that they can invest in themselves to expand their horizons,” says Sagar Shrestha.

 

The Future
Engineering students of Nepal do have a potential when it comes to Robotics. Many people won’t be surprised when they read about what the founders of Paaila achieved in ABU Robocon because that is what the students of Pulchowk Engineering have been doing every year for a long time now. The fact that such talents seek to capitalize on their skills elsewhere because “there is no scope in Nepal” will also come as of no surprise to them. But this does not hold true for Paaila Technology, because the vision of bringing mass production of machines to Nepal is what drives them. They are one of the few companies who can, if successful, effectively create satisfying jobs for many robotic enthusiasts in Nepal currently looking for opportunities elsewhere.

 

Engineering students of Nepal do have a potential when it comes to Robotics

 

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