What is fueling the growth for cleantech startups in India?

In a panel discussion with YourStory’s Daily Dispatch, Ankur Mittal of Inflection Point Ventures, Kishan Karunakaran of Buyofuel, and Amol Anand of Loom Solar, discuss the future of cleantech startups.
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India’s recent coal crisis was a result of an unprecedented uptick in demand for power amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This led to the question of considering alternative energy sources subsequently, bringing to the forefront the cleantech startups incepted in the country. 

Besides government initiatives, there has been a drastic change in citizen behaviour, which is now environment-conscious, owing to climate change. These factors have increased the relevance and possibilities for investments in cleantech startups. 

According to a report by Impact Investors Council (IIC), Climate Collective, and Arete Advisors, about 120 cleantech startups raised $1.2 billion in the past five years. 

Despite the dip in investments due to COVID-19, the sector continues to provide green solutions for energy and electric vehicle infrastructure. 

In a panel discussion with YourStory’s Daily Dispatch, Ankur Mittal, Co-founder of Inflection Point Ventures, Kishan Karunakaran, CEO of Buyofuel, and Amol Anand, Founder and Director of Loom Solar, tread on the future of cleantech startups and identify trends. 

What attracted investments into cleantech startups? 

According to YourStory’s 2020 Annual Funding report, venture capital and private equity players have demonstrated interest in energy organisations, especially solar and wind power. 

In fact, the cleantech sector secured 6.7 percent of the total funding in startups over five years (2015-2020). 

Inflection Ventures’ Ankur Mittal said cleantech startups have been in focus for investors globally for years. He added, 

“What we look at is the total market size and the base and growth rate of that market. We will prefer investing in a business, which is, even at growth, a very small percentage of a large market versus looking at a business, which is a large percentage of a small market.” 

He outlines three investment criteria — a business that can grow; is part of a large ecosystem; grows in a competitive market. 

Inflection Point Ventures has invested in cleantech startups, including Buyofuel, Prescinto, Kazam, and BluSmart, among others. 

The future: solar energy and biofuels 

In recent years, residential and commercial complexes are increasingly adopting solar panels. 

“We have grown up to Rs 100 crore,” said Amol, on the growth noticed at Loom Solar, which specialises in rooftop solar systems. 

He attributed this rise in demand to the solar panels’ prices, which have plummeted and identified maximum demand coming from markets where power is failing. 

The key market segments for solar energy are metropolitan cities, Tier-II cities, and commercial markets, Amol explained. 

Increasing awareness of solar energy and the ‘one-time’ investment factor that comes with solar panels has also contributed to the rising demand, according to Amol. 

Amol Anand (L) and Amod Anand (R), Cofounders, Loom Solar

In the case of Buyofuel — an online marketplace for biofuel manufacturers, aggregators, and consumers — the demand for biofuels is drastically increasing, Kishan said. 

“The technology in biofuels manufacturing has also evolved significantly over the last five years. Five years back, the type of waste processed into biofuels was much lower. Now, a wide variety of waste can be manufactured,” he says, adding that this leads to biofuels becoming cheaper than other alternatives.  

This uptick in demand for biofuels, he added, is primarily driven by the millennial generation and corporates who want to integrate sustainability into their business model. 

At present, the future of the cleantech ecosystem is largely led by government initiatives that push for greener alternatives, the depletion of fossil fuels, and technological advancement in the industry.

Edited by Suman Singh