Pavel Zhdanov completed his MSc in Risk Management and Financial Engineering in 2008. He went on to work as a physical commodities trader before making the leap to become an entrepreneur establishing himself in the brave new world of robotics. Pavel is very interested in developing robot capabilities to meet client needs.
What gave you the idea for your business?
My company has been selling robots worldwide for 4 years and frequently received feedback from clients about the features they wanted/dreamt of. So, we decided to start developing our robots to better suit our client’s needs. For example, banks told us they wanted to make internal communication easier simplifying tasks such as booking rooms, displaying contact lists and help controlling climate with temperature, humidity and light censors etc. In HR departments robots can answer a lot of questions regarding terms of work, therefore freeing up the time of managers and staff. As for the hotel industry robots can help with check in/out, ask for feedback from customers or even order a taxi!
Recently we have been exploring opportunities in retail shops, where robots can help customers choose the right products, provide advice on relevant discounts and guide people directly to the shelf – very convenient in big shops, where customers can end up walking around for ages!
How did it feel when your business launched?
It felt like rollercoaster with difficulties every day, however developing new ideas and products is also very exciting.
What was the greatest challenge you faced in starting out?
Initially we went down the wrong path and were developing all the features we could imagine. After a while we realised if we were to move forward we needed to focus on one feature at a time to create a more realistic working model.
How did your time at the Business School prepare you for setting up your own business?
"During my time at Imperial College Business School I studied a wide vision of how to do business and realised any business I started would need to be global in its reach. The communication skills I acquired and the ability to understand different cultures also help me a lot in negotiations and sales."
What have been the key lessons learned from the whole process?
When you start a new project you need to be prepared to do all by yourself to understand and have a clear picture of the whole process. Also, you need to be prepared in financial sphere, that first cash income can come later than you expect. And of course, you have to be ready make changes all time and be flexible, even if it leads you to absolutely different product by the end. And always listen to your clients before you start something, otherwise you can waste time developing a product you think is cool, but without real demand.
GBL Robotics is made up of a team of dedicated robotics professionals, who develop robots for consumers and B2B segments.
Their first test robot for retail, the Grammy (pictured) can:
- Independently communicate with the clients, understanding questions and answering them
- Speak 20 languages
- Show promo videos
- Collect feedback from customers
- Advise on the product and check in-store availability
- Capable of telepresence (remote control of the robot via the Internet via video communication)
- Autonomous navigation (independent movement of the robot inside the store)
- Connect remote consultants