Knocking out the familiarity of power cuts is Chennai based startup SolarTown
India is familiar with power cuts. It may be the 21st century, and notwithstanding all the technological developments, several rural areas and second tier cities see hours of planned power cuts every day, while the metros have their own share of disruption. An interesting initiative I can across recently was an individual attempting to crowdsource information about the power cuts in India, with one primary aim of make it accessible in systematized format for public use. Without getting into the merit of this initiative, at best it could be a useful tool to start a discussion on power cuts. What next? Chennai based SolarTown, a renewable energy products company, is attempting to address the issue by targeting power backup segment of the Indian energy market. They offer rooftop solar power generators as products, to consumers as well as businesses who have power needs for back up.
In the early part of 2012, a team of 4, Vikram Dileepan, KJC Vinod Kumar, Ramanathan Kalyanasundaram and Sarath Babu, approached consumers in Tamil Nadu to understand their power requirements and the shortage they faced. “Most people were facing heavy power cuts ranging from 5 to 16 hours a day. The conventional power back up of Inverters and Battery sets were not holding up in the face of such heavy power cuts. That is how we decided to explore the power backup segment with a suite of Solar Power products”, says Vikram.
The motivation, Vikram says, took root from the fact that as Indian Entrepreneurs they wanted to target basic problems ‘that moved India from a non-subsistence economy to a subsistence economy’. The team decided to do that in an industry which matched their engineering skill set. “We wanted to do something that we loved to do and which the market really needed, that's all that is necessary to start-up”, says Vikram, earnestly.
Since its inception, SolarTown has sold about 40 product (in the price range of between INR 25,000 - INR 2,50,000) systems all over Tamil Nadu.
Of the four founding members, Vikram and Vinod, are alumni of BITS PIlani while Ramanathan has completed a masters in Renewable Energy from Northumbria University, UK and Sarath has a masters in Renewable Energy Systems and Technology from Loughborough University, UK.
Speaking of the challenges, Vikram says, “consumers are unaware that economics of Solar works out cheaper than other forms of power generation such as diesel generators or even traditional utility in the long run”. The company believes that scaling up depends on demonstrating success in one geography and they aim to have a Pan - India presence in the next 5 years.
Speaking of the markets, Vikram believes it is at a nascent stage with several unorganized players and no clear emerging leader yet. “Solar is estimated to be a $20 Billion market in the next five years and there is a lot we can achieve here”, he emphasis.
So far their primary marketing has been through referrals and inbound leads and the company is confident that their efforts on the customer experience is paying off well. The company is now looking at raising funds to the tune of $500,000, which will help them replicate their sales and service models around South India, besides, developing the company infrastructure, marketing and brand-building to raise customer awareness and hiring a team, which will aid their growth.
“Eventually, we intend to become a fully integrated Solar Major, much like what Shell / Chevron / BP means for Oil”, says Vikram, ambitiously.
Company Website: SolarTown