With Google calling off its Lunar Xprize after none of the competitive teams could get off the ground by the mission deadline, it is clear that it was not just India's TeamIndus who found it challenging to accomplish the mission. Be it technical or financial issues, a moon shot is not an easy thing to accomplish and that too, by a handful of private individuals without any proper funding and support from the government, said experts.
“Space missions fail even after full-fledged government backing. Such well-backed missions may succeed or may not succeed. It did not come as a surprise to me when TeamIndus aborted the mission and subsequently ended its contract with ISRO's Antrix. TeamIndus is just like any other start-up and of, say, 100 start-ups only a handful of them succeed. There is nothing unusual here,” remarked Kris Lakshmikanth, founder of Bengaluru-based recruitment firm Head Hunters.
He said the Indian government also has its own mission—the Chandrayaan-II—and such missions require immense resources. Often, these also do not stick to their deadlines. “I would not like to say that the TeamIndus venture flopped as a lot of learning has happened from this. There would have definitely been financial issues for the venture as usually seasoned venture capitalists (VCs) do not invest in such ventures as they mainly look for cash returns. Only individuals such as Ratan Tata or Nandan Nilekani will invest in such ventures as they do it out of their personal interests. Such ventures also do not have much commercial value. They, in fact, had a very different objective—that of winning a prize. Probably, Antrix may have also realised that the venture will face financial roadblocks and will not succeed and hence, mutually terminated the whole agreement,” explained Lakshmikanth.
On the other hand, a few experts felt that the whole venture was led by technologists who failed to comprehend the different eventualities in case of future roadblocks such as any financial constraints or cracks in the agreement. “I feel the venture, though was good in terms of technology, lacked in proper management. In order to succeed, you need good managers with technologists. This failure puts a big question mark on the managerial aspects of the venture. Also what looks surprising is that the whole agreement with Antrix ended abruptly and both of them mutually agreed on it. That proves that the terms of the agreement were not very concrete and lacked vision,” Alok Shende of Ascentius Consulting told THE WEEK.
Further, he said that such a failure may give a negative precedent to any other start-up venture that may try to step in a similar technology space. “There should be end-to-end planning for such ventures. This includes planning for finances to fund the venture from time to time. A lot of emphasis was there on meeting the technology milestones but the financial aspects were not properly looked into. I feel that the venture failed on that front. These technologists did not have a clear futuristic vision about the whole thing despite getting widespread publicity in the media through an aggressive public relations campaign,” added Shende.