A profile story about the ClimateLaunchpad 2021 global winner SMDPower Solutions
“I never expected to win the Global Grand Final, the other 15 finalists were much further with their product and market activities. I will never forget being selected out of all of the teams from India, and then a few days later to be selected for the Regional Final. The prize money will help us gain traction in Mumbai, our beachhead market.”
Although founder Vishwesh Bhat did not anticipate winning our 2021 competition, he has big plans for his start-up SMDPower Solutions. We talked to him on Zoom to congratulate him on the impressive global win and to catch up on recent developments.
First off: congratulations on winning! Can you tell us a bit about your business?
“Thank you! I had never before heard my company announced as a winner, it gave me a real boost. Especially since I did not expect to win the Global Grand Final, I felt that the other finalists were more advanced with their product and market activities. But the jury really believed in our idea to operate AC’s (air conditioners) more efficiently.
To answer your question; iAC is an AI driven solution designed for existing AC’s to cool rooms sensibly and reduce electricity consumption. Traditional air conditioners are highly inefficient and haven’t changed in the last forty years, the technology to make them more efficient was not available. There was no IoT, artificial intelligence or machine learning, so the backbone of an AC relied on human intelligence. Installing iAC on an AC helps save fifty percent of the utility bill.”
That sounds really clever, especially with the growing number of AC’s across the globe. Tell me a bit more about how it works.
“iAC works as an internet of things (IoT) solution. By subscribing to our service, you operate it on your mobile and we control it through our servers. Our algorithms are tested and have proven to reduce more than fifty percent in electricity for split AC’s. An added benefit is that you never again have to search for the AC’s remote and you don’t have separate remotes for separate units, you get to control all your AC’s with your phone.
We focus on commercial enterprises who don’t have the time or capability to manage all of their air conditioners. We discovered that businesses in India spend eighty percent of their monthly utility bills on operating air conditioners. The market or commercial businesses is especially interesting as they use their AC’s for longer hours – at least ten hours per day. They have the most to gain with a more efficient use of energy.
The good news is that the use of air conditioners of course is not limited to India, around the globe it is a growing market. This is the time for us as a start-up to take a lead in that market.”
“iAC offers the possibility to save over fifty percent in electricity used for split AC’s.”
What can you tell me about the potential socio-economic and climate impact of your start-up?
“Like I said, iAC offers the possibility to save over fifty percent in electricity used for split AC’s. With our aim to get to one million sales over the next four years, that is massive. In terms of job creation, we need one technician for every 250 iAC’s. With one million iAC’s that adds up to 4,000 jobs. AC technician graduates are underemployed here in India and the competition is huge. We aim to close the gap and help them earn good money.”
What led you to this idea, what is your background?
“I have been a professional for the last twenty years and started SMDPower Solutions four years ago. Previously, I studied electrical engineering and I was an installer of uninterruptible power supply (USP) devices.
My passion has always been to control and save energy through electronics, but I came to realise that passion alone actually doesn’t pay the bills. I became a business development and sales engineer for electronic hardware. It was during that time that I decided I wanted to start something on my own, I wanted to create better, more accountable energy savings solutions.
My initial idea had nothing to do with AC’s, but during an audit of eighty air conditioners I noticed how the user had to manually control all of them. I realized we could do that better and more efficiently if we created a centralized solution. The best option was a basic controller based on logic. This is where my passion for controlling electricity kicked in, I was completely consumed by the idea. Boom! I need to solve this…
“As long as you keep your passion in the business, you won’t notice the tough journey of taking your business forward.”
The time was right. Solutions in the market did not match the customer’s needs. At that time controlling devices and artificial intelligence was becoming more popular. I went back to my office for two years of R&D; no customers, no earnings. I quickly understood that AC’s are a big industry. Because of climate change and rising temperatures across the globe, they will be needed for the future. AC’s are an everlasting business and I found a way to combine that with my passion for saving energy. As long as you keep your passion in the business, you won’t notice the tough journey of taking your business forward.”
That is a wonderful story and it is so true that passion drives business. How different is your start-up now, compared to the period when you applied to ClimateLaunchpad? What changed?
“My first Boot Camp was actually in 2019 when I first started my R&D journey. It really helped me discover what my business is all about. The trainer Pratap and the Climate Collective team helped me develop my original dea, which did not involve IoT. Two years later In 2021 I saw the ad on LinkedIn and with the world more familiar with these technical concepts and as our product was now ready for the market, I applied again to brush up my knowledge and skills. And of course, I wanted to validate my product this time around.”
“During Boot Camp I discovered what my business is all about.”
Did ClimateLaunchpad teach you something new?
“The whole process taught us a lot of things. As a business owner or founder, you need to have a clear picture of your business. ClimateLaunchpad was very helpful in that way by making us look at the market and unit economics of our idea. The curriculum also helps you to identify where your customers are.
We participated in other competitions before, but those were only focussed on business skills and we had less in common with those participants as we were focussed on saving electricity. It was a joy to meet and work with likeminded people and to receive specific climate tech training during ClimateLaunchpad.”
“We aim to get to 1 million sales in four years’ time.”
Why should anyone join ClimateLaunchpad?
“The ClimateLaunchpad Boot Camp offers education at such a high level, anyone with a green business idea will benefit from joining. In India the competition is hosted by the amazing Climate Collective team, they run it fabulously. I would tell any entrepreneur that the Boot Camp is simply a must.”
What’s next for your business?
“With the prize money from ClimateLaunchpad we are going to install an initial batch of 250 air conditioning units in a business in Mumbai, our beachhead market. We will reach the market through air conditioner technicians, as they already have connections in the market. We aim to get to 1 million sales in four years’ time.”
Watch SMDPower Solutions pitch during the 2021 Global Grand Final:Tags: Bootcamp, cleantech, Climate Change, Global Grand Final, global impact, start-ups