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Truck Driver's Son Launches Space Startup, Now Valued at ₹800 Crore

Space Zone India, founded by Anand Megalingam and his truck driver father in December 2021, aims to sell eco-friendly and cost-effective rockets.

By Bilal Khan
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Anand Megalingam: Co-founder At Space Zone India -

Anand Megalingam: Co-founder At Space Zone India

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Chennai-based young entrepreneur Anand Megalingam’s journey to becoming a leader in India’s space technology industry is nothing short of extraordinary.

Coming from a middle-class family, Anand’s father was a tractor driver, and his mother was a homemaker.

Despite his humble beginnings, Anand harboured big dreams. After completing his school education, he joined a private college to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering, as recommended by a family friend. However, the academic challenges proved too great, and he failed in all his subjects in the first semester.

Reflecting on this period, during an exclusive conversation with Startup Pedia, Anand recalls, "I was given a Transfer Certificate along with nine other students in each department."

For two years, he felt lost and uncertain about his future. However, his passion for sports secured him a full scholarship to a private university, where he chose to study Aeronautical Engineering. This decision changed the course of his life.

"When I saw an airplane on the college campus, I was fascinated," Anand says while explaining why he chose Aeronautical Engineering to Startup Pedia.

During his graduation, Anand immersed himself in various competitions, from glider and paper plane contests to scientific conferences, using his prize money to fund more projects.

"I created a paper plane for a competition with a Rs 100 entry fee and won a Rs 500 cash prize," he recalls while speaking to Startup Pedia.

Over time, he earned over 500 certificates and received the Young Scientist Award from the Chief Minister of Pondicherry and the APJ Abdul Kalam International Foundation.

After completing his B.Tech in Aeronautical Engineering with a 9.8 CGPA, Anand pursued an MS by Research in Anti-Drone Technology. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked as a junior research fellow, inventing new technologies and training students for competitions.

However, he faced significant challenges, including having to discontinue his MS project due to logistical issues.

"The final exam for my MS was in January 2021, but I had to stop because the project's location in Rameshwaram made it difficult to continue," he explains while narrating his journey to Startup Pedia.

Undeterred, Anand founded Space Zone India in December 2021, with his father as a co-founder and 50% stakeholder.

"My dad has been there from the beginning, supporting me through every challenge," the young entrepreneur says.

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Space Zone India's Rocket Technology:

Space Zone India, established on December 1, 2021, operates under two main areas: Rocket Development; and Learning and Development. The company’s mission is to advance space technology and promote education and innovation among students.

The Rocket Development sector at Space Zone India focuses on hybrid propulsion systems, which combine the benefits of both solid and liquid propulsion. This innovative approach makes rocket launches more cost-effective and eco-friendlier.

In 2023, the Chennai-based space startup successfully launched India’s first hybrid rocket from Chennai.

"We are planning another rocket launch in August 2024, named Rhumi 1, which will have the reusable technique," the space startup co-founder shares while speaking to Startup Pedia.

By using a combination of solid fuel and liquid oxidizer, the system offers greater control and efficiency during launch. This technology also enhances the reusability of rockets, significantly lowering the cost of subsequent launches.

"Our goal is to make space technology more accessible and affordable, especially for launching small satellites," the Chennai-based young entrepreneur explains.

publive-imageMobile Launch Pad and Composite Materials:

Space Zone India has developed a mobile launch pad with a separate hydraulic system for launching rockets. This innovative design makes it ideal for various launch sites across the country.

"We are working on a 3-metre-high rocket with a 15.8 cm diameter, designed using composite materials like carbon fiber and glass fiber, which reduces costs," the co-founder of the space startup explains.

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Cost-Effective Launch Solutions:

Space Zone India is committed to providing cost-effective space solutions.

"We can reduce the cost of a rocket launch to around 4.5 crores, compared to the 8-10 crores charged by other companies," Anand notes.

This competitive pricing, coupled with the advanced hybrid propulsion system, positions Space Zone India as a leader in affordable satellite launches.

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Educational Programs of Space Zone India:

Aerodynamic Workshops:

These two-day workshops cost Rs 2,50,000 and can train up to 150 students. The workshops include hands-on training in drone technology, rocket and satellite development, and aeroplane engineering.

Satellite Training:

This ten-day virtual training program teaches students about satellite construction and launch processes. The program includes practical workshops where students integrate and test satellites using drones.

The space startup has set up three satellite labs for schools and colleges in Chennai and 13 labs for rocket manufacturing, testing, integration, and aviation. The entire construction process has a budget of 4.8 crores, with the facilities set to open on July 12, 2024.

Space Zone India’s target customers include companies like Reliance and Airtel, which aim to launch their satellites.

"We are the  Hybrid Propellant Rocket company in the Indian market that provides small satellite launches at a reduced cost," Anand states.

The company recently signed an MOU with a customer to launch five cube satellites in 2026.

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Challenges and Milestones:

Anand's journey has not been without challenges. From struggling academically to facing logistical issues during his MS project, Anand has overcome numerous obstacles.

"One small 1 mm hole in our rocket design caused a launch failure, but we redesigned and completed the project," he recalls during the conversation with Startup Pedia.

The company has also had to navigate regulatory approvals from the Ministry of Defence, Air Force, Airport Authority of India, and other bodies for their rocket launches. Despite these challenges, Space Zone India has received significant recognition.

The space startup was appreciated by the Prime Minister for launching 100 satellites from Rameshwaram in 2022. "We also received support from AIF, AKIF and various CSR funds, which have been crucial in our growth," Anand notes.

Space Zone India boasts a diverse and experienced team of 28 members, including fresh graduates and PhD holders in aviation and rocket technology. The company operates from a state-of-the-art facility with separate sections for R&D, rocket manufacturing, and testing.

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Financial Growth of Space Zone India:

Initially, Anand started the company with an investment of Rs 1 lakh. Space Zone India’s financial journey reflects its growth and potential. The company generated Rs 1.96 crores in revenue from 2020 to 2023, Rs 2.35 crore in FY 2023-24, and Rs 2.48 crores in April and May 2024 alone.

The Chennai-based space startup is currently valued at around Rs 800 crores and is seeking Rs 50 crore funding for further development.

"Our overall requirement is around 1400 crores over three years," Anand explains to Startup Pedia.

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Vision and Plan Ahead:

Looking to the future, Space Zone India aims to expand its rocket technology and educational programs. The company plans to generate Rs 42.50 crore in revenue by 2025, with a gross profit of Rs 5.58 crore.

"We want our brand to be recognized globally and to ignite a passion for space technology among young students," Anand shares.

The space startup is working on several new projects, including Rhumi H, Rhumi 1, Rhumi 2, and Rhumi 3, each designed to reach different altitudes and cater to various satellite launch needs.

"Our goal is to make space technology accessible and affordable while fostering innovation and education," Anand concludes. 

FAQ

Who founded Space Zone India?
Space Zone India was founded by Anand Megalingam and his father in December 2021.
What is the primary focus of Space Zone India?
Space Zone India focuses on rocket development and educational programs. The company aims to advance space technology and promote education and innovation among students.
What makes Space Zone India's rockets unique?
Space Zone India's rockets use a hybrid propulsion system, which combines solid fuel and liquid oxidizer. This system offers greater control, efficiency, and reusability, making rocket launches more cost-effective and eco-friendly.
What kind of financial growth has Space Zone India experienced?
Space Zone India generated Rs 1.96 crores in revenue from 2020 to 2023, Rs 2.35 crores in FY 2023-24, and Rs 2.48 crores in April and May 2024 alone. The company is currently valued at around Rs 800 crores.
What recognition has Space Zone India received?
Space Zone India has been appreciated by the Prime Minister for their satellite launches and has received support from AIF, AKIF and various CSR funds, which have been crucial in our growth