Rathod’s venture develops the software to find structural flaws or damage
Harsh Rathod, 29
Co-founder + CEO, Niricson Software
Life Story: Harsh Rathod was working toward a PhD in civil engineering at UVic in 2016 when he learned that a bridge on the busy Mumbai-Goa highway that some of his family members often used had collapsed, killing almost 30 people. Fortunately, his relatives were unharmed. But that disaster changed everything for Rathod, whose doctoral work focused on using robotics and computer vision to assess the condition of dams, bridges and other infrastructure. “I was doing research to address this exact issue,” he recalls.
Rathod hadn’t thought about business applications for his work, which aimed to replace antiquated techniques. Even today, inspectors typically climb a structure and hit it with a hammer to check the concrete. “We’re still using 18th-, 19th-century methods,” says Rathod, who came to B.C. from India in 2014.
Over the next several years, he developed drone-based software that makes infrastructure inspections faster, cheaper, safer and more accurate—and uses signal processing to detect subsurface damage. Rathod created a business plan, too. “I was a geeky researcher, and I literally had to transform myself.” Luckily, he had some role models. His mother’s side of the family works in real estate, and Rathod’s father and his four brothers, who supply auto parts to the Indian Army, built their business from scratch.
When Rathod co-founded Niricson in 2020, the year after he finished his PhD, the company was accepted into the prestigious Techstars-Arcadis accelerator in the Netherlands. It also landed several dam inspection contracts with BC Hydro and Power Authority. Niricson, whose name means “inspection” or “detailed investigation” in Sanskrit, is a data analytics business, Rathod explains. Rather than fly drones itself, it contracts out that work or helps clients set up their own programs. “We basically enable them to collect proper data using our technology,” says Rathod, who sees a huge potential market.
Bottom Line: Now working with other utilities and building a software-as-a-service product, Niricson will have 10-plus multinational clients this year as it moves into bridges and tunnels, too. The 16-employee company is also pursuing more capital after raising about $800,000 in 2020.