Scanning the Depths

Silky Agrawal’s GeoCarte provides innovative geo-exploratory services using GPR technology.

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is considered a great tool to detect metallic or non-metallic objects in soil, water, ice, concrete and other domains. Compared to other non-destructive techniques, like infrared thermography, ultrasonic or microwave, GPR, which is based on the principle of scattering of electromagnetic waves, offers more penetrating power. This enables the detection of defects and deteriorations at greater depths. The technology can, thus, be used in applications like utility mapping, transport infrastructure monitoring, estimation of groundwater level and archaeological investigations.

One of the key players in this field in India is GeoCarte Radar Technology. Founded by Silky Agrawal and incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar, the start-up provides advanced geo-exploratory services using GPR technology.

Agrawal, who holds a master of technology degree in civil engineering from IIT Gandhinagar, participated in the All-India Road Show on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship (AIRSWEEE 2.0), a Public Affairs New Delhi grant program implemented by the U.S.-based nonprofit organization The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE Inc.) and its India chapters.

Excerpts from an interview.


How did you become interested in radar technology? How did GeoCarte Radar Technology come together? 

I was a student of civil engineering at IIT Gandhinagar. With the soul of an engineer and heart of an entrepreneur, I initiated the start-up GeoCarte Radar Technology Private Limited, working in the field of non-destructive geo-exploration using GPR. We are currently incubated at IIT Gandhinagar. 

Being a girl from a traditional family, starting a company as a single founder and working in the infrastructure domain in India were a big deal. I faced issues to start it up, but the motivation and support from my mentor, Professor Amit Prashant, kept me moving forward.


What are some of the skills you deem crucial to achieving success as an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship requires a high risk-taking capability, the ability to think big and to take your idea to new heights, as well as possessing equally high patience to tolerate the downfalls. Another important skill is to know a little bit about everything in your business. But, hard work is the key to success. To achieve something, one has to come out of their comfort zone. The harder you work for something, the better the result you will achieve for it. 


Could you briefly share some of the successful applications of your technology? 

I was working in Dholavira in Gujarat, one of the largest Harappan civilization sites, using GPR technology during my master’s at IIT Gandhinagar. While learning this technology, we came across its limitations and, eventually, developed an advanced analysis tool. We realized its commercial potential and decided to start a company to provide quality services for complex projects in underground scanning. 

At GeoCarte, we provide comprehensive professional services for all kinds of non-destructive geo-explorations, ranging from utility mapping to archaeological investigations and many more domains, using GPR. With our advanced technology, we can map the underground utility services without digging, and detect leaks in existing pipes. This can save huge amount of time and money, and can considerably reduce the undesirable delays in a project. We have successfully completed several projects for utility mapping, road inspection, railway ballast investigation and archaeological investigation. 


What were some of the your biggest takeaways from the All India Roadshow on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship (AIRSWEEE 2.0)? 

I got to meet amazing and inspiring female mentors. At AIRSWEEE 2.0, I got to learn about the difficulties that woman entrepreneurs could face. 

My takeaways were to just give your 100 percent to anything you want to do, and you will always find a way for it. Don’t get constrained by the surrounding environment; it is ok to go against the common thinking sometimes, you will always be appreciated at a later stage for all your hard work. There is nothing impossible, and nothing that females can’t do that males can. 


Do careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have a glass ceiling for women? What issues would you like to see improved? 

I am a civil engineer, part of a field where, even today, you will not find many females. In spite of all the stereotypes, I go on sites myself, at nights on roads, to supervise. In the infrastructure domain, this is very uncommon for a woman. We ourselves put constraints on what a woman could do. There is nothing you can’t do. You need to have confidence, will and courage; nothing can stop you. It’s all about your wish and desire to do something.


Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.