Design and technology are two spectrums of human innovation which keep transforming everything they touch. Sustainable buildings are the present’s necessity and future’s designing technology.
The coronavirus pandemic also brought to the fore issues like creating safe, healthy, hygienic, pollution-free, eco-friendly, and living habitats giving its habitants an experience of comfort, connectivity, and peace of mind.
With this unique ideology, combining biotech, AI, and other emerging technologies, a visionary leader, Founder and Director, Mr Akshay Goyal, founded Tron Labs in Gurugram, the capital of Indian infrastructural innovations.
Under Akshay’s exemplary leadership, Tron Labs is fast emerging as a design research lab and a venture studio that is building infrastructural foundations for future smart cities.
In an interview with Insights Success for its edition of ‘League of Innovators -2022’, Akshay spoke about his futuristic vision and how he is transforming the Indian real estate sector with his unique idea Tron Labs.
Please tell us about your professional tenure in architecture and real estate industry.
I have a background in architecture, urbanism, and technology. For almost a decade, I was involved with research and innovation for buildings and cities, working in India and Internationally in the US, UK, and China.
Eventually, along with a couple of colleagues, we decided to set up a venture studio or incubator of sorts for innovation in the built environment in India. This was backed by Architron Group, a 38-year-old Indian company specialising in architecture and real estate.
At Tron Labs, our core business model is to utilize in-house R&D and partner with like-minded entrepreneurs to launch spinoff companies that work in the real estate and AEC sectors. Over the last couple of years, we have applied for several patents and launched five companies that are part of our portfolio.
We are working with emerging technology such as AI-based design, SynBio based solutions for occupant health in buildings, Large-scale 3D printing and robotics in construction, AR, and VR for real estate, among other things.
Who inspires you to wake up every day and keep making a difference in the respective industry you are catering to?
Rather than ‘who,’ for me, it is more of a ‘what.’ All of us are genuinely inspired by the idea of how design and technology can create a meaningful impact on buildings and cities, especially in emerging economies like India. For instance, when the COVID pandemic emerged, part of our team working on air pollution also started conducting experiments on disinfection and anti-viral measures for buildings.
We are proud that in a very short time, these solutions are now helping protect almost two lakh people every day across India, including at places such as the Delhi Airport.
This research has powered a successful spinoff company called Nessbot that works in the building wellness domain.
As a leader of Tron Labs, what challenges have you faced while establishing and running the business?
As a founder and entrepreneur, the challenges are never a finite set of obstacles that one can overcome. Every day is a new challenge that needs to be dealt with in an agile way, especially single. We are not a large company with immense resources.
One constant challenge is to get a like-minded set of individuals aligned with the mission and grow with the company. Also, hardware-related innovation and general prototyping in India are way more challenging than in a country like China. But most challenges are like caffeine shots, keeping the team on their feet and really helping the team focus on getting things done.
Brief us about the operations of Tron Labs, its mission, vision, and core values.
Tron Labs operates on a venture studio model, with a mission to create transformative products for the built environment with an emphasis on using emerging technology to improve the user experience radically.
Most ideas are conceived through a process of sectoral speculation, where our team is heavily inspired by science fiction and future foresight sciences. We operate at the intersection of Design Innovation and emerging technology to drive positive change and innovation for the cities and buildings that we inhabit.
The team is led by Harvard & MIT Alumni and is composed of an interdisciplinary collaborative team of designers, engineers, futurists, scientists, domain experts, serial entrepreneurs, and growth hackers. We imagine design and technology as catalysts for disruptive change that positively impacts business, ecology, human society, and our collective futures.
How has the current pandemic affected your business, and what steps have you taken to safeguard your employees while catering to your clients?
The pandemic has triggered a rapid digital tools adoption, which has been a direction that we were already very aggressive about. This helped us transition to a digital-first company easily.
We were able to cater to clients through remote charettes and meetings; in fact, we also taught design innovation online, which was an unimaginable feat prior to the pandemic.
The remote work culture has also helped our team by building a responsible culture that can balance work-life demands and question the 9-5 nature of work.
What creative ways have you employed to make Tron Labs’ work environment vibrant?
We are an equal opportunities company, and our diverse team spans across cultures. We believe in the constant growth of the employees and emphasize a proper work-life balance. Being a start-up, we prioritize a T shaped nature of work. Each individual has a broad horizontal set of exposure and decision making with in-depth expertise and focuses on one area.
According to you, what are the essentials of being an innovative business leader?
Constant innovation typically requires an open mindset that allows us first to observe and then connect the information in novel ways. For this, the leader should be humble and willing to hear and listen to a broad spectrum of people.
People such as Disney and Jobs had a very highly developed sense of perception based on which they could build a world-changing culture of innovation within their companies.
What would you like to share with the young generation of entrepreneurs looking to step foot in a leadership role in their respective businesses?
Develop persistence and creativity, and always be hustling! That way, you will keep on being innovative and thinking on the go because it is the approach essential for the future.
In terms of future growth, where do you see yourself and Tron Labs?
We are enthused by several things at the moment and are building that as core focus areas for Tron Labs.
Firstly, we have now two brands – Ubreathe and Nessbot – working in the building wellness sector, and we see a huge opportunity in this sector as a result of the paradigm shift and focus on all things health -in the post COVID era.
We are also very optimistic about the VR/AR sector and are building up a venture in this space with applications in conventional real estate as well as in the metaverse.