Inside Enzen's efforts to bolster India's multimillion-dollar sustainability canvas
Some of the most interesting innovations in the area of sustainability have come from startups. This is perhaps because they are nimble, have a unique perspective, and are willing to deploy technology in innovative ways. And the fact that investors are increasingly investing in sustainability-focused startups is proof of the ability and expertise they bring to the table.
Funding for startups focused on sustainable development goals (SDG) has doubled since 2020, according to research by NGP Capital, a global growth-stage investment firm, which added that SDG-relevant startups founded on or after 2015 raised $24.2 billion in venture funding last year (2021).
So, it isn’t surprising that Bengaluru-based Enzen, a sustainability-focussed company, has a keen interest in startups.
The company began investing in sustainability-centric startups in 2015 when it pumped in around half-a-million dollars in Luminous Renewable Energy Solutions, which was later renamed Wish Energy.
Since then, the 16-year-old company has invested $50 million in 10 sustainability-centric startups, and has earmarked $10 million per year for investments in more such startups.
Founded by Satheesh Kumar, Enzen helps businesses, governments, non-governmental organisations and not-for-profits become greener and deploy environmentally sound practices. It also helps industries explore renewable energy options, optimise their operations to reduce carbon footprint, and find ways to reduce carbon emissions.
(Design credit: Yash Saxena, Team YourStory Design)
Enzen’s vision is to make energy and water more affordable, accessible, and sustainable for everyone. It does this by identifying customers’ challenges, developing strategies to solve them, so that they become sustainable, and then measuring the outcomes.
"Sustainability is a multimillion-dollar canvas in India, but the demand gap, not just in India, is widening,” says Satheesh Kumar, CEO and Founder, Enzen.
Explaining the demand-supply gap, he says there are several facets of sustainability that need smarter solutions than those that exist, such as:
- Technology, especially in terms of innovation
- Electric vehicles
- Energy efficiency
- Technology to help monitor and maintain existing sustainability-focussed infrastructure
- Hybrid energy, blue energy, wave energy
- Sustainable transportation technologies
"Startups can play a pivotal role in these areas, especially when it comes to technological innovation," says Satheesh.
Enzen has been actively investing in and partnering with startups that provide solutions for clean energy in India, Spain, Australia, the UK, the US, and other countries.
In 2017, the Indian clean-tech market was valued at more than $25 billion, and this number is expected to increase exponentially.
By the end of 2030, the Government of India hopes to meet 40 percent of its total energy requirements through renewable resources, up from 22 percent currently.
(Design credit: Yash Saxena)
Taking the partnership approach
Enzen doesn’t approach investments from a purely funding perspective. If Satheesh believes a startup could be a valuable partner, he explores a mutually beneficial deal with them.
“We don’t have a formula for how we approach investments. We keep an open mind and evaluate the best way we can add value to a vision—theirs or ours,” says Satheesh.
Enzen invests in companies in different stages of growth. It has also funded founders and startups who were still at the ideation stage.
(Design credit: Yash Saxena)
"As long as it helps us achieve our vision, we are open to any and all opportunities,” says Satheesh.
Enzen has set its sights on an initial public offering once the markets quell and has begun discussions with investment bankers. With public capital, it hopes to expand its operations and fund more ventures focused on clean and green energy.