India’s vendor ecosystem is staggering in size. Decades of doing business with ISRO created about 400 private companies in clusters around Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and elsewhere, each devoted to building special screws, sealants and other products fit for space. One hundred may collaborate on a single launch.
Skyroot and Dhruva work in the relatively sexy sectors of launch and satellite delivery, but together those account for only 8 percent of India’s space business pie. A much bigger slice comes from companies that specialize in collecting data beamed by satellite.
Pixxel is a notable start-up in that area. It has developed an imaging system to detect patterns on the Earth’s surface that lie outside the range of ordinary color vision. It has headquarters in Bengaluru and an office in Los Angeles — as well as a contract with a secretive agency within the Pentagon. Even bigger chunks of the satellite business will inevitably go to consumer broadband and TV services, beamed down from low orbit.
In Skyroot’s hangar, its engineers turned entrepreneurs, educated at two of the original Indian Institutes of Technology and given on-the-ground experience working at ISRO, talk the language of venture-capital funding. After “the seed round,” Mr. Chandana recounts, “next is the series A, that was around 11 million, and then there’s a bridge round of 4.5 million.”
The company has raised $68 million, after four rounds. But they have no plans to cash out anytime soon. They are palpably more excited about the science than the business, which neither of them studied. Running a company, Mr. Chandana said, is “just common sense.”