Building Self Driving Cars in India, the greater vision behind Minus Zero and indigenous innovation in India, building stuff and writing books. Gagandeep Reehal might be just 20 yet his work speaks for him.
While India as a country is subject to brain-drain and ‘engineering’ is being pursued for the sake of it, there are still people out there who envision India as a potential leader in technology, and are working towards building a future for the mankind that millennial generation dreams of, no matter what it takes.
I came across Gagandeep Reehal as one of those few whose story needs to be seen by our generation. He is still 20, yet already has a lot of things going on. Gagandeep Reehal is a deep-tech engineer, AI researcher, author and a technology entrepreneur, presently involved in multiple and massive projects under Cognitive & Human-centered Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicles/Robotics. He is Co-Founder, CEO & CTO at Minus Zero, a deep technology startup working on Self Driving Cars in India, and is an Advisor and Research Scientist at Fermi Center for Applied Sciences, helping nurture frugal innovation in the country.
Having just been 16 years old when he penned down his first book, he has been writing ever since. He already has two book publications to his credit, and yet another book coming up this year.
He loves giving back to the community and can always be found helping the young tech enthusiasts. He has mentored and judged 65+ developer events/hackathons worldwide and spoken at leading conferences.
I recently had the privilege of having a one-to-one conversation with him and we talked about a lot of things, most of it I put it down here.
SK: I can’t imagine you are 20 and doing so much stuff. How does that feel?
GR: Haha… there is still a long road ahead. So I guess I might not be eligible enough to answer that.
SK: That’s interesting. How did it all start though for you?
GR: It all began with habit of reading a lot in childhood, I must say. My mother had assembled a complete mini library at home and I grew up between books both literary and technical ones. But age of 10, I was able to scoop down a 300 page book in 3 hours. And then slowing my two major passions evolved through scribbling on the the last page of my notebooks during class, and pulling apart gadgets in the house to see what’s inside. That did not always have a happy ending, when I found it difficult to put it back together.
SK: Ohhh I see… Well, let’s talk about Minus Zero. It’s concept has intrigued me ever since I got to know about it.
GR: At Minus Zero, we are a team of passionate engineers and technologists working on two major projects. First one being, robust and affordable Self Driving Cars for India, which can drive autonomously through the challenging Indian traffic with zero human supervision. We plan on an initial release in mid 2023. We need such innovation in India to emerge as a global technology leader. I believe that is one of the first steps needed to make India’s self-reliant. We have a lot of potential in the country.
SK: That’s seems like science fiction turning into reality. Isn’t Self Driving Car project similar to what Elon Musk’s Tesla is working on? You have a big competition.
GR: Ah! That man is an inspiration. Yes, the goal is quite similar, but we have some competitive advantage over that in PoC stage which aligns to fool-proof solution demanded by the challenging traffic like India’s where anything can happen on road. And moreover, we aim at making that technology affordable enough so that everyone can have access to it.
SK: As far as I know this domain has a lot of risk and it will take time before it starts generating revenue.
GR: Yes, you are right. Indian startup ecosystem mostly has service-based industry, which is comparatively easier to build and get out in the market. But deep tech domain can be tough, but the results are massive both in terms of technology and sustainable economy. These are long projects and needs a lot work and resources to be put into R&D, but I hope we will bring it on roads soon. Challenging, but fruitful eventually! Few of the best examples are out there – SpaceX or OpenAI.
SK: That’s good to hear. By the way, you are a literary enthusiast too. Can you tell me more about that aspect of yours?
GR: I would put it forward like this – ‘science’ drives me forward and ‘literature’ keeps me stabilized on this journey.
SK: That’s great. On an end note, any message you have for the younger generation out there?
GR: Haha… I myself belong to the same generation. If I had to give a message, I guess it would be, “We are a generation who have unlimited access to knowledge. We have internet. Make the best use of it. And apply your learning in real life.”