[Startup Bharat] This Ranchi startup is making the transition to renewable energy as simple as buying a phone online

Ranchi-based clean energy startup SafEarth has facilitated a net investment of over Rs 100 crore into renewable energy projects in India. Today, it is used by some of the leading corporates like Toyota, Graphite India, and the CK Birla Group.
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According to the data shared by Invest India, India ranks fourth in the global renewable energy market. In fact, the country has set an ambitious target to generate 450 GW of renewable power by 2030, and helping the country achieve this feat is SafEarth Clean Technologies.

The Ranchi-headquartered renewable energy startup is making this transition from conventional fossil fuel as easy as buying a phone online.

Started in 2017 by two 26-year-old friends — Harshit Poddar and Anuvrat Saboo — SafEarth operates an online SaaS platform that brings solar power users, manufacturers of components, financiers, and execution companies of a renewable energy project online. It also provides the consumers with the best-quality solar plants at a lower cost, and with the required tools to manage the same.

“In the process, we can reduce the cost of the project by nearly seven to 10 percent, time consumption by 40 to 50 percent, and errors to an absolute zero,” claims Co-founder Harshit Poddar.

“Today, most consumers do not have the required knowledge and expertise to buy renewable energy plants. It is a buying decision that someone will make only once and live with the consequences for the next 25 years. Thus, it has deterred even the most enthusiastic buyers to often delay the purchase, which is now solved by SafEarth,” he adds.

The platform

SafEarth’s SaaS platform consists of three modules:

  1. SafEarth Project Marketplace: Helps customers install a solar project by identifying the best system, vendors in the country for that particular system, and arranging for the required financing to set up the plant.
  2. SafEarth Project Management Tool: This is primarily used by the vendors in managing their solar projects more efficiently by automating several steps of the project execution cycle. It also allows them to capture several critical project-related data to better themselves over time.
  3. The B2B ecommerce platform: Allows vendors to purchase the required equipment for their solar plants from the leading manufacturers. 

While several startups are providing these services individually, SafEarth claims to be the only clean energy platform that combines all the aspects of a project lifecycle and brings them on one common platform.

Tipping point

In 2014, while studying together at RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru, Anuvrat and Harshit realised that the prices of renewable power fall below the conventional fossil fuel power. This became a critical point for the co-founders in their journey of sustainability and saving the planet.

Inspired by this, the duo decided to work in the clean energy sector and joined a renewable energy startup to understand the space better. However, they realised that there several systemic defects within the renewable energy sector that was stopping the industry from reaching its true potential.

“We felt that this industry needed a new, more customer-centric approach, and only then could it scale up and save the world. We decided that the only way to do that would be to build a company, which would operate as the world's go-to clean energy platform that solves the problems consumers face when adopting clean power,” Harshit says.

Since its inception, SafEarth has been able to save over 50,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. At the same time, the startup has been able to generate stable, well-paying jobs in remote parts of India to manage the solar plants. 

At present, SafEarth has 20 employees, working across Ranchi, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Jaipur. Co-founder Anuvrat says that the team is rapidly growing, and is expected to have 30 employees by March 2021.

“Today, our platform has facilitated a net investment of over Rs 100 crore into renewable energy projects in India. The platform is used by some of the leading corporates in the country, including Toyota, Golcha Associated, Graphite India, and the CK Birla Group,” Anuvrat adds.

Revenue model and growth

SafEarth charges a success fee to vendors when they are awarded a solar project on its platform. In fact, it also charges a subscription fee from vendors and customers alike for the modules they use on the startup’s platform. 

 

For the past three years, the startup has been making strong growth, Harish says. After completing about 3MW worth projects in FY2018-19, SafEarth took up a 9MW project in FY2019-20. In FY2020-21, it has taken up a 35MW project.

“We expect to complete the year with a minimum of 50MW project. For the next financial year, we expect to cross the 100MW worth of solar projects. Each megawatt represents an investment of about Rs 3 crore and a carbon reduction of over 1,200 tonnes per year,” Anuvrat explains.

In terms of revenue, the startup has generated healthy operating margins year-on-year. Today, SafEarth has over 50 revenue-generating solar projects in India across states, including Rajasthan, Karnataka, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and in metros like Bengaluru and Delhi. 

Funding and roadmap

Bootstrapped with the co-founders’ personal savings, it subsequently raised undisclosed funding from friends and family. This investment provided an initial seed capital that funded the pilot run of the startup.

Post the soft launch, the startup began generating revenue that allowed the co-founders to grow the business, hire a team, and build a full-fledged platform. “Today, SafEarth is entirely financed by its own revenues,” Harshit says.

 

While the team plans to raise funding from outside investors next year, it will do so after introducing its fourth module. However, Harshit did not divulge more details about it. 

In the next five years, the startup aims to create a platform that provides global consumers with the tools and information, which they will require to buy and manage their renewable energy assets.

“We wish to accelerate the world's transition to clean power by making it as simple and easy as buying a phone online,” claims Harshit.

Edited by Suman Singh

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