With water as fuel innovation, Hyd Gas is looking to radically change the LPG industry in India
“Hydgas is a cooktop that produces its own gas. It uses water as fuel and uses electricity to convert it to hydrogen and oxygen and uses that to cook food. It produces gas as needed, so there is no storage of any gases in Hydgas, which makes it completely safe compared to LPG. It can also be integrated with solar power,” says a proud Riswin M.H., Co-founder and head of operations at Reinwo Labs. Reinwo Labs is a 2014 startup, founded by a team of recent college graduates, focused on discovering and creating clean energy solutions. Hydgas is their flagship product. The name Reinwo Labs is a juxtaposition of the young founding team’s outlook. It stands for ‘REINventing the World’ explains Riswin.
In their second year in college, the present founders of Reinwo Labs were tinkering around making small websites and Android apps. Today they are poised to bring about a massive, and much needed, change with their potentially revolutionary product Hyd Gas- which splits regular tap water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be burned to cook food in hotels and homes. “It’s a clean, cheap and safer alternative to LPG and all other types of cooking,”
Hyd Gas’s invention is a classic example of the power of sheer chance. In their third year of college, dissatisfied with their digital tinkering and yearning to make an impact but unsure of what to do, the team came together to participate in an inter collegiate racing competition. Each team had to build a car to race in the famous Buddh circuit. While researching on how to develop a decent battery for their car, they discovered hydrogen to be a consistent by-product throughout all their experiments. Then they started research on renewable energy centred on this epiphany.
Gas distribution in India is notoriously monopolized by the government and a few handpicked agencies. Not only do urban customers suffer abominably when it comes to availability and affordability, there is deplorable rural penetration of the same. The consequences are at best incredible inconvenience and at worst disastrous kitchen accidents when people try to substitute homemade flames due to the lack of cylinders. This was the core concern behind manufacturing a product like Hyd Gas. “In India, the gas distribution is centralized in hands of big companies. We are trying to make it as de-centralized as possible,” Riswin shares.
The USP of the product, which the team is banking on to market, is the zero risk involved. “Since it uses only water as fuel, the pollution is practically 0%. The by-product of burning hydrogen is just water. And there is no gas storage which makes it completely safe,” he continues, “It’s cooking made free and clean.”
Reinwo Labs is targeting two kinds of consumers for Hyd Gas. Riswin says, “Firstly, the restaurants and hotels. An ordinary hotel uses an average of 3-4 LPG cylinders a day. We hope that with this rate of consumption they will find Hyd Gas to be a lucrative substitute. Our second potential customers are home consumers – the LPG market of home customers is really high and they are our primary market.
Initially the product will be sold only to hotels. More R&D has to be put on to the home version of the product.”
The path to developing a fully functioning product has been strewn with difficulties. The relative inexperience of the team was a considerable deterrent initially. As was the fact that Hyd Gas is the first product of its kind, without any kind of precedent to guide its growth. “As it is a one of a kind product, we had limited references for developing it. Also we are trying to reduce the price before we start selling to households,” he continues, “Technical challenges were high during the early stages of development, but now those have been addressed. We are now faced with challenges are in fields like marketing and innovation.”
Though they have only one client at present- the cafeteria of CUSAT (where four of the five team members have studied) - Riswin is pleased with the market response they have received thus far. “The market is responding quite well. We have already made deals with some hotel corporates and a handful of restaurants for making them as our initial customers. A number of NGO’s have expressed avid interest in Hyd Gas as well,” he lists.
For the first two months of its inception, Reinwo Labs was self-funded. Things started looking up soon after. “Then we got some initial funding from Kerala State Electricity Board(KSEB) and Startup Village. Final talking with the investors are currently ongoing for the next stage of funding,” shares Riswin.
According to Riswin, though the hardest part about becoming an entrepreneur is the responsibility- “The hardest part of it all is making decisions, from the smallest to the biggest. As we were new to everything including technology, we faced lots of problems in every aspect”- he doesn’t think the team has had to make any sacrifices. “About sacrifices, we love what we do, so there are none,” he winks.
The whole team- Vimal Gopal, Vijeesh TV, Nithin Mohan, Praveen Sridhar and of course Riswin- love being an entrepreneur because, “We work for ourselves. We can do whatever we think.” Someday soon they plan to change the world. For now, “We need to find a way to balance the needs of customers as well as grow the company in a smart way,” smiles Riswin.