A Chennai startup is keeping things, and the planet, cool with energy efficient cold storage solutions

Founded in January 2019 by three PhD graduates, Tan90 focuses on the research, development and the manufacturing of energy-efficient passive coolants called Phase Change Materials (PCM). Its clients include Swiggy, Zomato and Zepto.
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From readymade idli batter and ice cream to life-saving drugs and vaccines, cold-chain supply players ensure products are delivered at the right temperature to preserve quality. 

 

Power cuts and lack of adequate infrastructure, however, plague cold-chain management in India. While large retailers have access to centralised cold storage as well as transport, smaller retailers and farmers do not. 

This is where Chennai-based Tan90 comes into play. The startup says it provides portable cold chain solutions that can allow businesses to use any logistical services for the transportation of their perishables. 

Tan90 is the brainchild of three Indian Institute of Technology- Madras PhD students Soumalya Mukherjee, Rajani Kant Rai, and Shiv Sharma.

 

While electric and solar cold storage solutions have seen a lot of research, thermal systems haven’t had much attention. Founded in 2019, Tan90 focuses on the research, development, and manufacturing of energy-efficient passive coolants called Phase Change Materials (PCM). These materials store thermal energy in the form of latent heat and hydration energy, providing a green way of keeping things cool. 

The three-year-old startup has already bagged clients such as foodtech giants Zomato, Swiggy, and delivery startup Zepto for the movement of horticulture, frozen foods, and ice cream. 

Materials used in Tan90 solutions, the founders say, are altered at the molecular level to increase their efficiency, and reduce their freezing time. 

“With our patented Phase Change Materials, we can help businesses to maintain the temperature of their perishables over a wide range of temperatures starting from +30 to -24 degrees centigrade,” Tan90 Co-Founder Soumalya tells YourStory.

With a portfolio of six products, such as micro cold storage boxes and bags, the startup aims to meet the requirements of customers across sectors and sizes. 

The price of the different SKUs depends on the temperature of the PCM used. Boxes of 50 liters with four panels of -1 degrees cost Rs 3,600 approximately. The bags cost from Rs 1,200 to Rs 4,000 from 20 liters to 50 liters capacity, the founders say. 

Fixing a broken supply chain

“With our flexible solutions, clients can convert any insulated truck to a reefer container, and furthermore, do part truck loading which is a huge gap in the present cold chain industry in India,” Soumalya says. Refrigerated containers or reefers are used in supply chain systems to transport temperature-sensitive goods.

 

The startup’s solutions can also cater to other fields as well, including industrial cooling and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). 

While designing PCM, Tan90 says it focuses on three major criteria: shorter charging time for the cooling materials (faster freezing); higher capacity of energy storage (higher latent heat); and environmental and disposal friendly.

The team

The team currently consists of 15 people, spread across various verticals. 

Soumalya completed his PhD in Biotechnology and Chemistry, and looks after the business development and administrative processes.

Shiv holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, and looks after operations and manufacturing while Rajani Kant Rai, who has a PhD in Chemistry and Biotechnology, looks after R&D and manufacturing.

Funding and monetisation

Tan90 has recently raised Rs 5 crore from Blue Ashva Capital, 3i Partners and angel investors (Shalini Chabbra and Venkat Rao Nekkanti). Previously, Tan90 secured Rs 90 lakh in its seed round from Social Alpha, and CIIE Initiatives.

With the current fundraise, Tan90 aims to expand its team and presence in five major cities (Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi) with a major focus on R&D and Business development. 

As part of the CISCO CSR programme, Krishimangal, Tan90 has deployed portable cold storage units in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with consortium partners for market linkages.

Additionally, it was awarded Rs 50 lakh from Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), in the form of BIG Grant and Rs 35 lakh from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) through their FLCTD (Facility for Low Carbon Technology Deployment) program for market access.

Tan90 claims to have been a profitable venture so far with net profit amounting to 20 percent approximately. 

“Tan90 has grown 5X in the past six months and aims to double the growth rate in the coming quarter. With temperatures rising and heat waves sweeping across the nation, Tan90 aims to touch Rs 20 crore in revenue by the end of this financial year,” Soumalya tells YourStory.

By the end of this financial year, Tan90 will be looking to raise its Series A round.

The road ahead

As per ISHRAE – Indian Cold Chain Industry Outlook 2024 report, the Indian cold chain market was estimated to be worth $19.6 billion in 2020 and is further projected to reach $36 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 16 percent.

With a particular focus on the last mile movement of ice cream and frozen foods, Tan90 has been providing energy efficient solutions for the last mile movement in major cities including Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi. 

“Tan90 is the only company in India that provides cold chain transportation on trains, with as present infrastructure and, along with our partners, we have been providing our solution on a cooling as a service model for seven routes, currently, and aim to scale it up to 20 routes in the next quarter,” Soumalya states.

“Routes are being planned with two other major clients and with this, we would be present in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra with our cooling as a service model,” he says.

Tan90 aims to expand its product offerings and is looking to provide temperature controls over a range of +130 to -60 degree centigrade. 

“This would help us to cater to other energy hungry markets as well. While in India, we would be focussing at increasing our presence in the metro-cities, we are also looking forward to providing our solutions in the Philippines and the South East Asian markets as well,” adds Soumalya. 

A majority of the PCM manufacturers are based out of the US and EU markets. Global players include Croda, Pure Temp LLC, Rubitherm Technologies, Cryopak, And Phase Energy Solutions, and while in India, Pluss Advanced has made a name for themselves in the past 20 years. 

“Market awareness for energy-efficient passive cooling solutions is still in the nascent stage and hence there is still a huge scope for the players in the domestic market,” says Soumalya.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti