Indian Innovation

Taking A Moonshot

Team Indus is a strong contender for shaping space tech in India  

PHOTOGRAPHS RA CHANDROO

Housed at their Aryabhatta Block office in Bangalore, Team Indus is hard at work to win Google’s daunting target — to land a rover on our nearest neighbour in space. If it does, as a contender in the $20-million Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP), it will be the first privately-funded organisation in the world to do so. So far, only three countries have managed this feat — The US during the Apollo Missions in the late 1960s, the Soviets in the 1970s, and China recently in 2013. Of course, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has the Chandrayaan II mission scheduled for December 2017 or early 2018. The former is the deadline for Team Indus too.

Team Indus - Company DetailsNumber game
The ‘geeky’ youngsters, spurred by Star Wars, are sure headed beyond the boundaries of Earth, but can they herald a new era for space tech in the country? The investors sure do seem to think so. Sharad Sharma, co-founder, iSPIRT, an early investor in Team Indus says, “For me, it’s an emotional bet. I love the spunkiness of the idea. And it marks a confluence of combinatorial innovation and missionary entrepreneurship (as opposed to mercenary entrepreneurship).” 

Like other investors, Sharma is also motivated by the idea of national pride. Ashish Gupta, investor in Team Indus and co-founder, Helion Venture Partners, says that if the team wins the competition, it will be a huge inspiration for a whole new generation of youngsters that it is possible to solve “hard problems” in India.

Team Indus is funded by over a dozen HNIs — first generation entrepreneurs, who have created companies out of India, says co-founder Dilip Chabria. Some of the investors include Nandan Nilekani, Pallaw Sharma, director of analytics at Microsoft, Subrata Mitra and Shekhar Kirani of Accel Partners, among others. 

That’s just as well as GLXP limits state investment to 10% i.e. contestants have to be more than 90% privately funded. That’s because most space technology is jealously guarded by various government organisations as of now. And Google’s Lunar XPrize  aims to encourage private investment in