The New Breed of Indian Green Techies
There’s a new breed of technology entrepreneurs in India. They are not tech gurus or computer geeks, but passionate innovators who see green as the way of the future. These entrepreneurs have started with a germ of an idea and developed it into a feasible product. Some of these start-ups have succeeded in taking a product to market, but many of them still rely on the generosity of family and friends to stay afloat. Deals India took a close look at three such companies at various stages in their development cycle.
SuRe Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd.
Sure Energy SystemsOne of Sure Energy’s prototypes is a small, solar-energy based light.
Founders: Mushtaq Ahmed and Anupam Kunwar
Founded in: 2009
Funding: $150,000 from friends; looks to raise second round of funds through convertible debt from existing investors.
Product: SolarMax CAL is developing a low cost, solar lighting product that is designed to illuminate dark interiors and exteriors inside warehouses or perimeter walls.
Idea: SuRe found technology that uses a certain type of material to create a lower cost solar panel that can generate 20% more energy.
Profile: Mushtaq Ahmed and Anupam Kunwar were friends since childhood and after stints abroad decided to return to India and start a company. They set up a lab in Hyderabad and developed prototypes, completing design work for their pilot line with seed funding of $150,000. SuRe uses a third-generation photovoltaic technology called “dye solar cells” to develop solar panels that absorb light that work even in dark interiors and exteriors.
SuRe Energy Systems is looking to raise over $1.34 million to help undertake more research and development before they start a pilot-scale production line.
HMX Systems Pvt. Ltd.
Founder: Vaidyanathan Anandhakrishnan
Founded in: 1998
Funding: HMX received a soft loan from USAID; in 2008, it became a subsidiary of the A.T.E. Group, a family-owned conglomerate with companies in several manufacturing sectors.
Product: Ambiator, a low-cost product that uses carbon-based cooling technology to cool large office space and meeting centers.
Idea: Mr. Anandhakrishnan, who worked in companies that made industrial heating and cooling systems, realized that air-conditioners were an expensive luxury that also were not energy efficient. He devised a system that made air-conditioners less cold and less dry.
Profile: Mr. Anandhakrishnan after more than 20 years as a senior manager at various companies decided to turn entrepreneur. He started the Bangalore-based company, initially known as Sumaya HMX Systems until the investment by the A.T.E. Group, with an idea to create ‘comfort conditioning’ that was energy efficient. Its first innovative product called Ambiator consumed 60% less energy than similar air-conditioning systems. Its various partnerships have helped the company manufacture these products that are now sold to large companies and factories. Its clients include Wipro and Saint Gobain. The next step for HMX is to develop a system that works in cities with high humidity like Mumbai or Chennai, and a combined heating and/or cooling system.
Green Tech Aqua
Founders: Kumar Subrahmanyam
Founded in: 2010
Funding: Family and friends for first phase; tie-up with Mazda Ltd. of Ahmedabad in the second phase.
Product: A technology called pneumatic saturation and condensation process and system, which uses water present in exhaust gas of power plants to desalinate seawater and release water present in the fossil fuel, which is the source of energy.
Idea: Mr. Subrahmanyam was visiting a power plant near Chennai when he found out that coal contained 30% moisture. It was at a time when the southern Indian city was in the midst of a severe water shortage, so this struck a chord.
Profile: Mr. Subrahmanyam, a chemical engineer by training, came up with a three-step process to tap into the excess water in fossil fuels, and at the same time use the heat generated to desalinate sea water. This, if his pilots go well, will provide a cheaper option of treating water and at the same time finding an effective byproduct of expensive power plants. Mr. Subrahmanyam founded Green Tech Aqua last year with the intention of proving his technology. He obtained a government loan and raised the rest from his friends and family to build a facility at a cost of 6 million rupees. He found a willing industrial partner in DCW Ltd., a chemicals company, which allowed him to set up his pilot plant on the premises of its Sahupuram unit along the coast of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The second phase of the plant, which will test whether the process can generate 40 tons of water from a 25 mega watt power plant, is under construction. Mr. Subrahmanyam, initially, could not find funds but later found an engineering company, Mazda Ltd. of Ahmedabad, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, was willing to take the risk with the guarantee that the company would get the resulting work order.