When two bold, gutsy youngsters attempt to revolutionise the Indian solar sector

Posted By: Rise Team|Dated: June 4, 2014

Sasi and Santhosh, our fictional characters in this story, are aspiring entrepreneurs. Here, we replay a conversation they have that triggers the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey.

Sasi, a young management consultant, is fiddling with his iPad as the IPL is running in the background. The doorbell rings and Santhosh, Sasi’s classmate from ISB Class of 2006 walks in. Since their MBA days, they’ve discussed several business ideas, but they never really took the plunge. While exchanging notes on how their IPL fantasy teams were doing Santhosh, an engineer-turned-MBA, turns to Sasi:

Santhosh: “C’mon man, let us pursue the solar idea now. The time is right; we have reasonable financial backup, let’s take the plunge.”

The trigger for Santhosh was an article he read in a KPMG report at work about how Solar Power could become affordable to the masses by 2018. Santhosh kept speaking, even as Sasi switched off the IPL and gave him his full attention.

Santhosh: “The idea we had at ISB for a do-it-yourself solar kit can now become a reality. You remember the design we created at the Atrium?”

Sasi: “Of course I do. We even thought of variations of that idea, right? The solar-powered rice cooker, the solar-powered home office and all that. I remember that conversation really well. Tell me, what do you have in mind?”

Santhosh: “Look, I think the time is right to build that rooftop solar start-up for a couple of reasons – One, we’re at an inflection point and in four-five years solar is going to be everywhere. Two, our idea of doing a do-it-yourself solar kit is attracting attention. Mahindra even has an innovation challenge around this idea. We need to move fast.”

Sasi: “I agree. Plus, from a technical standpoint, the prices of solar panels are coming down. Also, solar is attracting the attention of policy makers. I think Narendra Modi even spoke about how Gujarat generates over 900 MW of solar and gets 4 per cent of the state’s energy requirement through this source.” (Borrows Sasi’s iPad and reads…) “Apparently, Germany generates 35 GW of solar power. And, Italy and the US generate about 10 GW from this source. So, the potential for India is huge. Typical ‘big problem-large market’ that potential VCs will love.”

Santhosh: “But you do realise that our idea can potentially be disruptive right? We’re not talking about building a utility-scale solar power plant. We’re talking about building a DIY solar rooftop kit, something that consumers can just buy at any retail store and then, set it up on their own. It is a B2C product.”

Sasi: “I do realise that. The Mahindra Rise Prize actually goes a step further. It says the product should be designed in such a way that it is affordable and small-sized, keeping in mind that a lot of homes in India do not have the space for large solar panels. (Runs a Google search) I see there are two US-based companies in this space –Clarion Power andArmageddon Energy. Wow, Clarion Power also won the GE Consumer Challenge. Their product is not yet available, but their 200W DIY solar product is priced at US $799-$899 and their 1kW product is priced at US $2995-$3995. Okay, let’s research this some more.”

(Sasi’s wife walks in. “What are you guys talking about. Another billion-dollar start-up idea? Just do it guys. I am sure it’ll work out.”)

Santhosh: Man, your wife is too chilled out. Anyway, let me check with my home minister too! (Back on topic) So, the goal of the Mahindra Solar Challenge is to not only build a do-it-yourself kit, but also to make it affordable and small-sized?

Sasi: Okay, let us break this up. One, we need to understand the technical challenges – the solar panels, the micro-inverter and the use of lenses/ mirrors. Two, we need to figure out the packaging and mounting structure, so this one can be retailed, transported and set-up easily.”

Santhosh: “Exactly, my dear Watson. Basically, we need to ask ourselves: How would Steve Jobs approach this challenge?!”

Sasi: “Wait, let me pull up the KPMG report on the solar sector. It is titled The Rising Sun. Apparently today the cost of generating solar power is Rs. 7.4/unit versus Rs. 4.6 per unit for other sources. But by 2018, the report says, solar power will be cheaper at Rs. 5.46 per unit versus Rs. 5.82 for energy from other sources. Of course, these numbers are probably for utility scale power plants. Let us figure out how this feeds into our plan.”

Santhosh: “Okay, next steps…Let us divide up work between us. I’ll research solar panels, usage of lenses and mirrors and dig up some research work done on solar power. If you can work on packaging/mounting ideas and come up with an initial note on that, it’ll be awesome.”

Sasi: Sounds good. Let’s plan to enter Mahindra’s Solar Challenge. If we do this well, it could possibly be our angel funding to set the ball rolling. And like you said, let us put our Steve Jobs hat on!”

So what are you waiting for? Wear that thinking cap, turn on the creativity tap, and get set on the solar road!

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  • vinod

    Local electricians dont know how to install & how to face d problem when there is repair; so they simply discouraging abt solar.so govt. Should take a fasttrack course of 15 to 30 days for electricians of free cost in india ; then only all people will install solar systems in their houses with out no hesitation.this is my idea.

  • B.samatha

    keep solar systems in old age homes,orphan peoples with low cost and rural areas mainly farmers houses and land area.keep retarited and educated peoples for serving’s and work for low salary will guide correct way.

  • rithishkumar

    provide a solar system to farmers houses, government offices,roads lightning and universities initially provide this system upto 5years year by year increase the solar energy by solar technicians reduce the power bills day by day.helpful to the state government

  • sukhjinder

    as of now i feel every mobile should have a body of solar panel , like on back side it should have solar panel fitted on its back cover, that will save at least a small amont of energy that today world consume (specially youth ) on charging there phones. like this we may slowly add these pannels in every small small unit to limit the energy.

  • sukhjinder

    one more thing that now as we all say plant a tree on your birth day, i would like to say that it will be very good if we plant a tree on our alternate birthday and on left alter years we must plant a solar tree. the concept of solar tree will be like make a panel in shape of tree with small small panel they will be leaves and those should move according to sun direction and generate maximum energy at every point of time.

  • Vuppala Raju

    All commercial & public buildings shall be provided with water proof & thermal insulation envelope using material, which also produce solar power with out compromising on architectural aesthetics

    research shall be taken up to find the best possible material

    It shall reduce the heat load on air conditioners & generate electricity, twin advantage

    And on the other hand buildings durability is also enhanced

  • amarnathpappaka

    It is now essential for renewable energy for power generation especially for rural areas and my idea is to implement automatic solar streetlighting

    • sehwag V

      Thank you for bringing more information to this topic for me. I’m truly grateful and really impressed. pizap Really appreciate for your amazing article. Thank you for this valuable information.

  • BHANU

    India is rich in cultural heritage.The idea of imbibing in politicians, children;s mind and educating about the importance of solar power is essential.The awareness is very poor.Like other friends suggestion to support for minimum usage of solar power, I also feel that all the canals to be covered with solar panels.2 advantages- space, garbage control in pure flowing water.Encourage Indian entrepreneurs to develop cost effective solar panels which is the main cause of non utility of solar power.

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