Sunny Kabrawala, the only name that is associated with a Private Company called Space Technology & Aeronautical Rocketary i.e. STAR that is dedicated in encouraging and educating about rocket & space science after ISRO. STAR is a research based startup that aims to make space travel commercial and colonise Mars. STAR is a platform for students who want to design, build and launch sounding rockets and small satellites. As it is perfectly said “Necessity is the mother of Innovation”, you all would surely like to know how this guy thought of something unconventional to begin with but before that let me take you to his childhood.
Sunny Kabrawala was born in Surat, in childhood his favorite time was night, he loved gazing at night sky and wonder about the creation of stars, moons and planets. He always wanted to build things that can fly. While growing up he didn’t have access to computer, smart phone or internet in his home, so he used to read about rockets and space science through books, magazines and used to watch T.V. shows based on space science. Also he tried to build a lot of rockets from fireworks, but not a single one worked. But still it was fun doing that in childhood he says, as he loved the sound of thrust which was like music to his ears.
When asked does academics matters? Or is a benchmark to what heights one will reach in his career?
Sunny says that he was studious and obedient student only in front of mother but a naughty child in schools and tuitions, though he was a good student till 9th standard, but still in 10th he just got 60% in science, failed in physics in 11th standard and almost got less than 50% in 12th board exams. On the contrary his favorite subjects were Arts & Literature. But all this conventional assumptions are just myths to judge what a person will become in future. Situations doesn’t determine where you will reach, but your will does.
After his schoolings he wanted to get into aerospace engineering for his majors, but couldn’t do so due to poor grades in higher secondary. So he selected Electronics Engineering as his majors and pursued it from Bhagwan Mahavir College of Engineering and Technology, Surat. But the passion for space was not yet over, as his desire to become space pioneer was still alive. Sunny belonged to a middle class family with no science background in family, so he never had thought of building his own agency, but only had desire to be into ISRO. And he feels that he was blessed to have a supportive family, as his parents always supported him in all his decisions and gave him the space to choose his own career.
He believes that parents support plays a very important role in a child’s dreams, vision, mission and career; if parents want their kids to be successful they need to give them open sky to fly high and not burden their legs with the loads of their expectations.
Though he had a very less number of friends during college time still with the few friends that he had, he always used to discuss model rockets with them. They built together model rockets, cansats & mars rover prototype and used to fly model rockets during college time.
It is unbelievable that a person who failed in physics is building rockets. Isn’t it? On this Sunny says (laughing out) ,”Seriously telling, with proper knowledge of Science and Maths, you can build a powerful rocket. But with artistic creativity and applying basic physics you can build a rocket at cheaper cost.”
When asked did he ever had self-doubt on his ideas? Sunny says that, “I always had that inner confidence and never wasted my time in doubting my vision, instead utilized my time on making it possible. Indeed in childhood I do had stage fear, though I was extrovert but still used to avoid situations of speaking in public, be it classroom participation. But I fought that with dance, I was dancer and dance was the reason behind increment of my confidence level.”
What was the inspiration behind STAR? Why STAR?
ISRO is doing tremendous work in space science. It built Indian space expedition very well so far. But due to limited budget (known from ISRO’s yearly budget available on internet) they can’t try unconventional missions. We need private agencies in india for space mission specifically in the field of launch vehicles. So I took this initiative of building a platform for students to do research in space technology.
Did you have fear of whether this unusual business would be accepted or not by society?
Sunny: It doesn’t seem unusual to me as I have been always aiming to touch the sky. And space is for everyone. Business community accepted us very well so far. We need to enter the international market now and see. In 2015, STAR was just a rocket club in Surat. But in 2017 we announced it as a startup. People were amazed. We got thousands of questions and appreciation from people throughout the globe.
How things began in early stage?
Sunny says he never set any goals or targets to achieve his childhood vision. He knew only that he wanted to be in ISRO. So he decided to get work experience by building projects. Meanwhile he often got chance to visit ISRO, during a space camp he visited ISAC and IDSN and saw signals coming from mars. Then he visited ISAC,IIRS and SAC in 2016.
Sunny was working on Space Technology and STAR was just a thought before 2015, STAR started as a rocket club in 2015 but it was tough to find funds for them to do research and build products, so initially to support their research they decided to generate revenue and that’s how it turned into business in 2017.
They began with conducting workshops and training programs.
When asked about the future vision of STAR?
Sunny told us that,” We are aiming to build a culture and community of private space agencies in India. We are working to make space travel commercial by building easy, economical and efficient rockets. We are also into small satellite market”
To make a startup big or keep the business running, everyone needs funds, investors. When asked about Sunny’s thought on need of raising funds from investors for STAR?
Sunny,” I believe in not approaching for any investment for at least first 2 years of startup. Because that is how you can form strong strategies for revenue generation. You can also develop a habit of working in limited resources. But surely we will need investors in near future to scale up STAR.”
Talking about achievements, Sunny says,” Failures and experiences that is what we have achieved till now!”
Not to forget that Sunny inspires many through his talks and have been speaker at platforms like TEDx, Josh Talks, E-Conclave’18 at GLA University Mathura to name a few.
STAR Lab Surat had recently conducted a 3 months course called Astrobotix for young students. And also had launched successfully rockets called STAR X XL, STAR-X21, satellite like GeoMag.
Currently they are busy in building an experimental launch system i.e. to build an advanced rocket with a liftoff capacity of 200 grams. Also they are working on few confidential projects.
To know more about their programs and to join them:
We support and wish STAR Lab and Sunny Kabrawala all the best for their endeavor to support new INDIA.