We talked to JD Wei, CEO of AgileX Robotics, a world leading robot chassis manufacturer and mobile robot system solution provider and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
JD Wei: The Covid-19 epidemic did cause some inconvenience to our life at the beginning of 2020, which happened during the Chinese New Year. So we had to stay at home and stop meeting with relatives and friends. However, the Chinese government has made very strict controls in controlling the epidemic. In my city, the number of infections has always remained within single digits, so my family and I have resumed daily life and work in less than two months.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AgileX Robotics.
JD Wei: I was in charge of the Robomasters division at DJI, which is a global robotics competition for university students. I founded AgileX Robotics in 2016 after I left DJI. We started with parking AGV, but the business model was not fitting the actual market at that period, we gave up this project after two years. In 2018, we started to make outdoor ground mobile robots. At the end of 2018, we released the first ground-based mobile robot product. Unexpectedly, the market feedback and sales were doing good, so we began to deepen the field of outdoor mobile robots. At present, AgileX Robotics is very competitive and famous in this field, we are also in the process of internationalization, setting up business in different countries.
How does AgileX Robotics innovate?
JD Wei: Outdoor mobile robot is a very new industry. It can be said that the application of autonomous driving has driven the development of outdoor mobile robots. Outdoor mobile robots can also be understood as low-speed automatic driving, application as logistics robots and inspection robots. Because it is an emerging industry, we need to always pay attention to the cutting-edge research of global autonomous driving and mobile robots, maintain cooperation with the world’s top research teams, and also need to be vigilant about market trends. Only in this way can we continue to innovate and inject vitality into the robotics field.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
In the first quarter, there were indeed some negative effects, because the entire country was shut down. However, because the epidemic has spawned the demand for disinfection robots, some of our R&D returned to the company to develop disinfection robots in February, and we started to sell them in March.
This product contributed part of our sales in the first and second quarters. Because of the epidemic, the government encourages AI and robots to replace humans to enter complex work areas. Therefore, our outdoor mobile robots have also been widely used and brought us a 100% increasing in 2020 compared to 2019.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
JD Wei: When the epidemic came, I thought I made the right decision, which is to let my employees stayed at home and worked from home. This was not a difficult decision, because my employee is the most important property of AgileX Robotics, and I don’t want my employees to take the risk.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
JD Wei: Because of working from home, we used a lot of online sharing software, such as remote video conferencing software, sharing documents, etc. In addition, offline exhibitions have been postponed due to the epidemic, so we have increased our online promotion efforts and increased promotion expenses on Google, Alibaba, and Baidu. Therefore, our marketing staff has a big improvement of SEO and SEM skills.
How do you see competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
JD Wei: There were not many competitors in the market before 2020. However, there were some competitors that appeared in 2020 because of the strategy changing due to the epidemic impact, and the prospect of outdoor mobile robots. What we can do is to continue to innovate and continue to run at the forefront of the track, so as not to be surpassed by them. Before 2021, we were more focused on hardware. From this year onward, we have paid more attention to the development of the software and application scenarios.
Your final thoughts?
JD Wei: Through this epidemic, people will see more possibilities for robots.