Sunny days for solar marketplace Glowship as it sees strong growth, plans expansion
No matter what US President Donald Trump says, climate change is for real. Each one can, and we say should, do their bit to help the environment. And lending a hand is Glowship.
The startup, registered as EnergyStar Technologies, was started in March 2015 and is already among India’s largest solar products marketplaces, offering solutions to set up solar water heating and power backup systems and solutions.
While that’s about what it does, since we last wrote about them, Glowship has been busy with its expansion. The team strength has gone to 20 from four, and in 2017, it raised close to a million dollars in funding from Infuse Ventures and nCubate Capital. Revenue went up from Rs 1.05 lakh in 2014-15 to Rs 50.9 lakh in 2017-18. Loses expanded too – from 14.9 lakh to Rs 1.02 crore.
Says founder Srinivas Potukuchi, an IIT-Madras and Stanford University graduate, "When compared to 2017, we have been able to increase our orders per customer by 20 percent.” He adds that the company gets between 150 and 200 orders per month now.
On other changes, he adds that former Bosch employee Raghuram Panyam joined the founding team in 2017 as the Co-founder and CTO, and the startup on-boarded an engineering team to design and set up rooftop solar panels.
Raghuram Panyam and Srinivas Potukuchi (L-R)
From then to now
But these achievements have not come easy, says Srinivas. Glowship's "challenges have changed as the business progressed," he adds.
The average ticket size increased from Rs 27,000 to Rs 28,500, but, "customers still hesitate to make online payments and sometimes insist on cash on delivery," Srinivas adds.
Also, customers are still hesitant about investing in solar power systems. However, "as our electricity expense calculators have become more sophisticated, the recommendation quality has improved and it is helping built trust with customers," he says.
Electricity expense calculators on Glowship's website
Glowship’s website offers an expense calculator where potential customers can put in details on how much they spend on electricity per month and what their consumption is, and can get how much they would save if they install solar systems for power backup.
Srinivas adds that awareness about solar energy is improving, and this helps the company. "Today, even farmers search for solar water pumps online, and get in touch with us," he adds.
Bengaluru-based Glowship has so far on-boarded several vendors, and lists several solar products, including residential solar power systems, solar water pumps, inverter battery packages, UPS and inverters, solar outdoor lights, booster pumps, borewell submersible pumps, domestic pumps, and agriculture pumps on its platform.
For the next phase of growth, Glowship is looking to expand to other key markets such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Telangana, Vishakhapatnam, Pune, Nagpur, Delhi-NCR, Coimbatore, and Madurai by the end of this year. "For Mumbai, we are focusing on solar rooftop since the terrace property is high there," Srinivas says. Glowship has already signed up some sellers from Chennai and Hyderabad.
Srinivas claims Glowship's business has grown manifold over the last year. "This has not necessarily been through geographical expansion, but the business growth is basically because we have improved our conversion rate and because of word-of-mouth playing out," he added.
The average conversation rate has grown to 25 percent as of now from 10 percent in 2016. Srinivas says power backup systems - invertors and batteries - are the most sold products on Glowship's platform, followed by solar water heater and solar pumps. "We have aggressively started selling solar rooftop solutions since last year, and sales are beginning to pickup." Glowship receives most of its orders from Bengaluru, followed by Tier II and Tier III towns in Karnataka.
Glowship has 250 sellers on its platform, and is now going beyond mere aggregation. Says Srinivas,
"Glowship now provides end-to-end enablement to both the owner and installer."
Glowship provides options for rooftop solutions with various configurations, and real-time quotes. For smaller capacity installments in individual houses, Glowship provides recommendations based on inputs like the number of rooms, the appliances used and so on. Srinivas says that for higher capacity installments in offices and larger buildings, "Glowship recommends solutions using inputs such as availability of shadow-free area on the roof and the energy consumption pattern of the site".
The startup has also partnered with vendors to conduct site assessments using its IoT-based site survey kit. GlowShip has an in-house hardware device - SunSync– which connects with the mains and eliminates the need for rewiring when using solar power backups. Glowship also recently launched a mobile application that allows users and vendors to monitor the performance of the solar power systems.
"With the app, customers receive real time alerts and analytics on their mobile phones," says Srinivas. He adds the app also lets a customer control the power supply to appliances like geysers and refrigerator in the event of a power outage.
"Based on inspections, we also offer exchanges for existing systems. In cases where an exchange is not possible, we provide servicing of old systems," Srinivas says. Glowship has short-term contracts with service providers and offers selective maintenance services in Tier II and Tier III towns in Karnataka.
According to Allied Market Research, the global solar energy industry is growing at a CAGR of 24.2 percent and is expected to touch $422 billion by 2022. Other marketplaces include Indiagosolar, India Solar Exchange, SunBrio Energy, and Ampulus Solar.
However, what makes Glowship unique is their product selector tools that help narrow down the available systems to provide specific recommendations of suitable models.
Since 2015, Glowship has helped solarise over 700 homes and businesses, and is now planning to expand its partnerships with manufacturers and select channel partners.
Going ahead, Glowship also wants to enable intelligent control and use of appliances to make solar power a flexible and dependable source of energy.