Facing onslaught of Chinese products, how this Bengaluru company revived losses to shine in the solar energy space
As the world seeks more sustainable energy solutions, solar power has become the most sought-after alternative to fossil fuels. With more thrust to swap out everyday products with more eco-friendly ones, the country is switching to energy-saving measures that are good on the planet and light on the pocket too in the long run.
Sohan K Jain and Dinesh P Jain, Co-founders, MicroSun Solar Pvt Ltd
Seeing how space was gaining traction, brothers Sohan K Jain (59) and Dinesh P Jain (50) founded MicroSun Solar Pvt Ltd in 2007 with a loan and personal investment of Rs 1 crore.
In a conversation with SMBStory, the company’s CMO Yash Jain, who is also the son of Dinesh P Jain, explains how the company came to be, the tough times it faced while dealing with the onslaught of products made in China, and how a new dawn shone upon MicroSun after the company decided to diversify.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
SMBStory: How was MicroSun Solar started? What is the business?
Yash Jain: It all started in 2001 when we acquired ‘NALSUN’ black chrome technology from National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore to manufacture flat plate solar collector fins. Within four years of business operations, we became one of the top OEM suppliers to the solar water heater industry in India. There were very few companies that were into manufacturing of copper fins in India during that era. We picked up really fast and started selling to big companies that were into solar water heating systems. But slowly we started finding it very tough when China aggressively marketed solar water heaters and related components at dirt-cheap prices in the Indian market. We were facing losses and losing our market share. So we decided to diversify.
After thorough research, discussion with industry experts and a few trips to China, we were ready with our new company, MicroSun Solar Tech Pvt Ltd, to manufacture solar photovoltaic modules.
MicroSun Solar is a renewable energy company and one of the leading manufacturers of solar photovoltaic modules/panels, solar pumping systems, solar lighting systems, and solar power packs in India. It is a pivotal company in the area of renewable energy providing end-to-end solar PV solutions ranging from manufacturing solar PV modules to solar EPC projects. We carry more than 12 years of technical experience of successful solar module manufacturing and project execution in India. The company has set up its own state-of-the-art facility with a capacity of 150MW per annum of solar PV modules manufacturing plant in Bengaluru, India.
Veeren Jain, COO (left) and Yash Jain, CMO (right) with Co-founders, MicroSun Solar Pvt Ltd
By integrating manufacturing, commercial expertise, research and development across the entire solar value chain, MicroSun Solar provides industry-leading solar energy solutions that not only includes module manufacturing, but also turnkey solutions throughout the entire life cycle of solar power plants and solar water pumping systems from project design, engineering, procurement, construction management, and maintenance services.
SMBS: What is the market size of your sector and how are you differentiating from the competition?
YJ: The target is 175GW until 2022 by Government of India under Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, of which only 30GW has been completed in India. The USP of our product and solution are that we do not compromise on our premium quality at any cost. The solar industry is trending more towards a price-driven market and we stand on the other side of the corner, sticking to our quality, because we see the future and not the present.
Talking about the solutions, we feel the better services and solutions that we have provided to our customers has gained us a huge amount of positive response.
One by one, many companies in this sector are shutting down operations because they took the shortcut to earn the goodwill and profit – for which they compromised on aspects of the product.
SMBS: What are your challenges in sustaining the business?
YJ: We have faced a range of problems while sustaining and growing the business. As a business grows, different problems and opportunities demand different solutions - what worked a year ago might not now be the best approach.
For us, costing of the products poses a major challenge. The bigger the plant is, more variable is the cost. But as we are in the stage of scaling up, we struggle with the higher cost of raw materials. Due to competitive prices in the market, we can’t even surge the price of our end products.
MicroSun Solar modules
The MNCs and other bigger brands are stepping into the solar industry. As they are already established in the market, it takes them less efforts to market their products and capture a portion of this industry. But, for growing brands like us, it takes time to stand out.
Hence, struggling with the prices and pacing with the existing brands are the major challenges that we face.
SMBS: How are you diversifying your business?
YJ: It was our strategy to increase profitability and achieve higher sales volume from the products that are included in our portfolio. At present, we manufacture solar photovoltaic modules, solar rooftop systems ( on-grid and off-grid ), solar water pumping systems, solar street lighting systems, solar home office lighting systems, EPC for grid connected projects (KW and MW scale power plants), solar inverters (on-grid and off-grid ), and solar energy storage systems.
We are expanding to a new segment of the same industry by introducing designer solar panels called Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) that will add aesthetics to the exterior of the house.
We are working with architects, construction companies, and also vastu experts to implement such products in their projects.
SMBS: Who are your clients?
YJ: At present, we are catering to corporate chains, integrators, private sector, the Indian Defence Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBP), PSUs like Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Sericulture Information Linkages and Knowledge Systems (SILKS), Mysore Sales International Limited (MSIL), and more.
SMBS: What are your future prospects?
YJ: We are coming up with a whole new business model with new products and solutions that will cater to the Indian solar industry. We started our plant with 8 MW and scaled up to 150 MW capacity. In the next three years, we plan to grow threefold and increase the capacity upto 500 MW.