[The Turning Point] Why these friends launched solar energy solutions startup ZunRoof
Growing up, Pranesh Chaudhary and Sushant Sachan routinely experienced electricity outrages in their towns in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh respectively.
The duo, friends since their IIT-Kharagpur days, started brainstorming on this issue after graduating from the college. They realised that electricity expenses were a huge monthly outflow for all Indian households, and decided to solve this problem statement.
After years of immense research, brainstorming, and discussions with industry experts, the duo decided to solve two problems: demand and supply of electricity by building a marketplace for solar rooftop installations and an IoT-based automation solution.
What began from a flat in Gurugram led to the launch of smart energy solutions startup ZunRoof.
“We created a website, we made the creatives for our social media promotion to identify potential customers, we spoke to everyone who filled the form…we were writing codes for our app and we were the customer support staff as well,” Pranesh says.
Organising an unorganised market
While building a marketplace for solar rooftop installations, Pranesh and Sushant realised a few critical points.
The residential segment was dominated by unorganised players, leading to improper installations. Secondly, customers were being cheated and the good after-sales service was lacking.
“There was a strong need for an organised, one-stop EPC that offered design, delivery, and diagnostics of solar panel installations,” Pranesh says.
Eyeing the large opportunity, the duo in 2016 started ZunRoof, a home-tech company powered by a mix of image processing, virtual reality, IoT, and data analytics. It helps generate electricity through solar energy by making use of unutilised rooftops.
“We are solving energy issues of India by using rooftops for solar panel installation, and by providing sense and control of every appliance in one’s house through our in-house IoT-enabled hardware and accompanying apps,” he says.
Educating first, selling later
But starting up was not easy and came with a set of challenges.
“We were creating a category of home-tech products and services for home-owners, which by definition is a hard business to build. We had to educate customers rather than sell to them,” Pranesh recalls.
The founders focused on hiring and assembled the best talent for the team.
ZunRoof, bootstrapped for the first two years, managed to create a trustworthy and scalable distribution network and ensured positive unit economics.
Today, the clean energy startup claims to have grown 3 to 4x year on year and hit $1 million in monthly revenue in February 2020. Till date, the company has assessed over 250,000 homes, designed over 30,000 rooftop solar systems in 75+ cities in India, and installed 15 MW+ of rooftop solar and 50,000+ IoT devices.
Talking about the company’s future plans, Pranesh says, “We want to put solar installations on the roofs of one million home-owners in the next five years, bring IoT tech to these customers, and save them money.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)