The Government of India laid the ambitious goal of installing 40 GW of solar roof top capacity by 2022. However, the solar market in the country is afflicted by the information asymmetry related to the size of solar rooftop, life span and safety of the product, installation time, lack of standard financing infrastructure and model for consumption of solar rooftop products/projects.
Moreover, the subsidy allocated by the government to domestic and institutional customers for roof top installations is always much smaller than the potential capacity. And the subsidy disbursal is always delayed distorting the true price discovery of roof top solution.
It is with the urge to address all the problems, Harish Ahuja started IndiaGoSolar, an online solar marketplace, in December 2014. Delhi-based IndiaGoSolar offers right information and advisory on solar product technology, multiple market suppliers, price comparison, economic and commercial benefits, multiple options of standardised projects, delivery and installations. Once the customers gather information, they can start searching for finance partners, government subsidies and availability of loans.
IndiaGoSolar was bootstrapped with a seed capital of Rs 6 lakh. From designing website to convincing suppliers list their products and projects online posed multiple challenges. Building an online solar marketplace in the late 2014 was little ahead of the curve and therefore required significant generation of awareness.
We started sharing a lot of free content around solar technology, its adaption across globe, regulatory and policy changes and financing activities happening in solar sector. We also started an exclusive daily solar newsletter ‘SURYAVESHI’ for spreading the solar news,” says Harish.
Harish is a PhD holder in Electricity Markets from IIT Delhi and an MBA in Energy Management from NTU Singapore. He was the Join Secretary of Department of Power, Government of Delhi.
The first supplier of IndiaGoSolar was from Pathankot, who used to manufacture solar water heater and sell solar lanterns, panels and off grid lighting solutions. Harish woefully remembers how he had to follow up with the supplier on technical queries or delay in the product supplies to customers (by seven to 10 days).
Vowing on not to commit the mistake again, Harish decided to enrol only well-established solar manufacturers, EPC and O&M players who follow certain service standards, prescribed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). The company has on boarded 55 large solar companies including solar manufacturers like Sukam, Schneider, Optimal Power Solution, Power One, Southern Batteries, Top Sun and Elecssol.
IndiaGoSolar offers multiple ranges of solar products, projects and services. The price of solar solutions and projects start from Rs 1 lakh to 20 lakh. The company also runs auctions for roof top projects of size 50kW and above at a price range of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 2 crore.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal last year announced that Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA)’s loan scheme for rooftop solar power projects will provide loan at an interest rate between 9.9 percent and 10.7 percent. IndiaGoSolar therefore has tied up with PNB, State bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra and Karnataka bank to facilitate such loans to customers who buy roof top projects from their platform. It also provides techno commercial inputs to banks for assessing commercial viability of the project.
Engineering graduates who wish to shape up career in solar industry (given its growth potential) require specialised solar skill training around installation, operation and maintenance, designing solar PV system and regulatory policy. IndiaGoSolar has partnered with Skill Council for Green Jobs to offer online training courses on all such subjects.
Skill Council for Green Jobs is an initiative launched by the Government of India in associated with National Skill Development Mission. The objective of the council is to address the skilling needs of manufacturers and service providers of green business sector.
The platform currently generates revenue through margin on sales of solar products and solutions and subscription fee through B2B platform solarXchange. Going forward, it is likely to generate revenue from advertisements, registration fee and service fee. The revenue growth it claimed was 12-15 percent during April-June 2016 on month-on-month basis; however, the number remained low during monsoon.
The primary reasons seems to be purchasing decisions being delayed on account of high price, subsidy disbursal mechanism and certain approvals relating to net metering regulations by local utilities,” says Harish.
Residential, commercial, industrial and institutional collectively forms the customer base of IndiaGoSolar, which is more than 4,000. States that are generating significant traction include Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and AP, except North East region.
With 10 employees, IndiaGoSolar will increase the number to 20 and is eyeing one percent market share in the solar rooftop space by the end of this year. It is also in talks with few VC funds to further propel the growth and extend the reach across India.
According to a report by Bridge to India, India will become the fourth largest solar market in the world by 2016 with expected capacity addition of 6 GW, taking over UK, Germany and France. The report also stated that huge decline in the costs and rise in the demand for solar installation fuelled the growth of India’s solar energy sector.
Capitalising on the growth of this industry, few startups have sprouted in the past few years. Hyderabad-based Fourth Partner Energy (4PEL) focuses on financing and building rooftop solar projects for commercial, industrial and residential clients. Last year it raised $2 million in Series A funding. Started in 2011, Nuevosol Energy Private Limited builds solar mounting systems and structures for energy companies. Ulta Chaata converges rainwater harvesting and renewable energy for open spaces in smart cities, industries, or large campuses.