A Chat with Runal Dahiwade, CEO, Peppermint Robots

Rushabh Vora, Co-Founder, SILA Group had a chat with Runal Dahiwade, CEO, Peppermint Robots, a leading Indian company who specialises in creating intelligent robots to automate floor cleaning, to discuss the future of housekeeping services in India and the need for automation in the integrated facilities management.

Where is India today in terms of housekeeping robotics?

We are in the early years of housekeeping robots in India and catching momentum fast. With sustainability and automation being key goals for this decade, along with fast urbanisation and infrastructure development all around, housekeeping robots are well positioned for rapid adoption across sectors and use-cases.

What's next in terms of robots and automation in cleaning - new models.

Our mission is ‘to expedite the use of service robotsʼ and we are fully committed to make housekeeping robots across use-cases – Indoors, Outdoors, Horizontal and Vertical surfaces.
With our floor scrubber dryers (in two sizes of 45L and 100L) already in production, we have two new robots in the pipeline for indoor cleaning to be launched within the next 6 months (Carpet Cleaners and Vacuum Cleaners) followed by India’s first outdoor cleaning robot (Robotic Sweeper).
As an agile company, we are always ears for feedback from our customers and build robots leveraging our technology and production capabilities. Case-in-point were the significant enquiries for outdoor robots to clean the large canvas of land surrounding offices and factories; this led to us developing the first 100% autonomous outdoor sweeper robot, which is planned to start production within FY22.

Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you faced and currently face? Is the ROI stacking up India?

All physical technologies come in three phases – Big, Small & Invisible. Both in terms of their size and the mindspace they capture.
We overcome these by aligning the right expectations to start with. Our first goal is to educate the user, followed by delighting them with our robots + service.
In similar fashion, we are at the “Big” stage of Housekeeping services automation in India where we see deep interest, varied expectations and many queries. “Robots” as a subject can evoke many expectations, some reasonable and some imaginary. It’s a challenge to align those to practical technology capabilities.
We overcome these by aligning the right expectations to start with. Our first goal is to educate the user, followed by delighting them with our robots + service.
Cost of manpower in India versus in developed countries makes for different approaches to ROI. Apart form direct costs, there is also the allied costs of supervision, attrition, consumables, utilities (water and electricity) which in unison makes the ROI very much in favour of the clients. Industry standard for ROI for automation is 36 months and we are able to provide the ROI in less than 24. As operations of companies become multi-shift, the ability of robots to provide a consistent and predictable experience moves the consensus in our favour.

Which sectors do you see the most demand from?

At Peppermint Robots, our focus started from large spaces and hygiene conscious sectors. Therefore our early customers have been from Food Processing, Pharmaceutical, Warehouses and Manufacturing.
With the newer robots in pipeline designed for more use-cases like carpets and soft floors, we are excited to deploy Peppermint across sectors like Hospitality, Offices as well. We also see a growing customer base in gated residential real estate projects who are entrusting facility management and housekeeping to professional third parties.

Tell us more about your robot and technology, what makes peppermint different vs the others?

Peppermint was always planned and designed as an indigenous, rugged robot with three goals – Better cleaning, Accountable Operations and Cost Savings.
With the added risk factors of transmission of the Covid-19 virus, as well as chemical exposure and maintenance requirements at up to 50m heights with temperatures of 60+ degrees centigrade,we optimised our processes through our proprietary software, SILA Connect.
At SILA, we pride ourselves on placing great importance on issues of sustainability in our practices across projects, enabling us to minimize costs, while parallelly reducing the negative impact on the environment. Our diverse team of professionals has invested in expanding our knowledge of sustainable practices across our many assets, with major success for both our clients, as well as our on-ground teams.

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