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BW Businessworld

Let There Be Light

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A june afternoon in New Delhi can’t be anything but sizzling hot. Yet, Sashwati has a fleece jacket handy in her office drawer. Reason: It gets so chilly indoors that she gets goose bumps.  At around six in the evening, when it’s time to go home, Sashwati quickly puts her desktop in sleep mode and leaves, as do the 125 employees in her office.

This scenario is replicated in millions of offices every day, resulting in a massive wastage of electricity from air conditioners and computers. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), commercial buildings waste up to 30 per cent of the energy they consume.

Now, there is help available for such companies from Zenatix, a Gurgaon-based startup that helps commercial buildings save on the their energy bills, by understanding their power consumption patterns and providing insights.

“The main reason for this wastage is that people are not able to measure their energy consumption,” says Rahul Bhalla, co-founder and CEO of Zenatix. “Unlike the mobile bill that lists the cost incurred from calls, messages, and use of other services, the electricity bill just mentions the units of electricity consumed. It doesn’t brief how much energy is consumed by ACs, or UPS. If one knows how much energy is being consumed by which appliance in real time, one can take corrective measures,” he adds.

Zenatix installs energy monitoring equipments, smart meters and controllers on different appliances such as ACs, lighting, UPS, etc. to monitor the energy consumed by them through their cloud-based software. Then it analyses the data and sends information on energy-saving measures to customers via SMS or email.

YEAR OF FOUNDING: December 2013 WHAT IT DOES: Enable commercial buildings become energy-efficient USP: Provides actionable insights driven by energy analytics
FUNDING: $1,61,000
COMPETITION: Boston-based EnerNOC

This energy-efficiency model was a part of the research done by Amarjeet Singh, co-founder and CTO, who was a faculty member at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in New Delhi. During his research (2010 to 2013), he deployed energy sensors on campus to collect over five million data points every day. Insights developed from the data collected over the years helped in reducing energy consumption by 15-20 per cent at the institute.

In December 2013, he took entrepreneurial leave from IIIT Delhi to start Zenatix with his IIT Delhi batchmates Rahul Bhalla and Vishal Bansal. He launched this model commercially for large consumers of energy like office spaces, hospitals, schools, manufacturing units.

As they were doing their market research, the partners came to know of several companies that were engaged in gathering data and informing building managers about their energy usage using graphs and trend charts. But then, the building managers did not have the know-how to interpret this data and take corrective action. “So, instead of providing the information on energy consumption, we decided to interpret the data and give recommendations to customers by email alerts and messages to trigger action in real time”, says Singh.

This, according to Singh, is Zenatix’s biggest differentiating factor. “We have not seen any company in India that analyses the data and delivers solutions to customers to reduce their energy consumption and link all this to cost savings.”

Globally, Boston-based EnerNOC is helping commercial buildings automate energy operations.

The partners launched their first product in May 2014. But they are still working on building different algorithms and use case studies, so that this system can be deployed across a variety of customers with varying infrastructural support systems in various circumstances, such as factories, for instance, where the Internet connection might not be stable.

The biggest challenge for them initially, says Singh, was sales. The customers wanted to know how much they would save in costs. This meant installing their system and getting the data. But clients were unwilling to pay a huge amount upfront for this product. It was a chicken and egg situation, says Singh. So, they refined the business model and transformed it into a SaaS model, where companies pay a monthly subscription fee proportional to the area over which the sensors are installed. And, there is also a guarantee: if the client doesn’t make cost savings, Zenatix would remove the software without any  charge. This proved to be a game changer for them. Within one year, they had 32 clients with sensor installations at over 100 sites. Some of their large clients include Google, Mother Diary, NIIT, United Health Group, and IIT Delhi. In fact, they recently raised $1,61,000 from Google’s India  chief Rajan Anandan, Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal and Trifecta Capital’s Rahul Khanna, along with a bunch of other individuals.

Gaurav Bhatnagar, National Head of Infrastructure & Facilities at NIIT says, “We commissioned the project in April 2015 and in just two months we have been able to make energy savings of 5 per cent with just the low hanging fruits. For instance, Zenatix  suggested starting the chiller at 7 am instead of 6 am, so the building reaches the optimal temperature just before people arrive. The best thing is they don’t suggest any retrofits but give deep insights about performance of electrical equipments and how the building reacts to them.”

The company is now focusing on getting more customers and also making its technology seamless and plug-and-play.  

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 27-07-2015)