‘Switching on the Sun’ for Smart Cities — In Conversation with the Team of Exchange4Solar

Even so much focus of the Indian government on solar energy, adoption of solar by Industries is not growing at a pace as seen in large MW scale solar projects. The duo of Sourabh & Vignesh has identified the problems that are holding back the same.

Exchange4Solar.com aims to make buying rooftop solar projects as easy as booking a flight. To begin with, they help customers switch to rooftop solar at lowest possible costs while ensuring high quality . For customers who do not want to invest in buying a solar project and yet save electricity costs, they help them secure solar power at a discount, in comparison to the prevailing tariffs — all this with NIL investment under model known as Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) or Purchase Power Agreement (PPA)

Focusing on the sustainable sources of power generation, their startup is surely enabling in transforming urban spaces into smart cities.

Tell us briefly about the startup?

While selling rooftop solar solutions for over 3 years we realised that the customer finds it very difficult to choose the right vendor, right technology and the price he should paying for his rooftop solar project. There is substantial risk that consumers perceive when trying to switch to solar. They have doubts and questions which arise due to the lack of standardization in the solar market. Exchange4Solar.com acts as a trusted facilitator by resolving all these and enabling them to switch to solar. Our ultimate aim is to help customers cover their roofs with solar panels as effortlessly as they book a flight ticket.

What is your strategy on achieving this?

We are reaching out to companies that have higher cost of energy and large roofs available with them. We offer them attractive savings and even a zero investment BOOT/ PPA model. PPA model is one where the rooftop owner can switch to solar with zero upfront investment. A third party investor invests in setting up a solar power plant on the rooftop. The roof owner benefits by getting into a PPA with this investment, where the tariff is less when compared to the tariff that they currently pay to their distribution company.

Key features of your product?

The key feature is that we try to eradicate the unnecessary levels in the purchase procedure by eliminating doubts and be a facilitator to our customers, thereby helping them switch to solar instantly .

What inspired you to create this product?

As we mentioned before , when a customer chooses solar energy, he/she faces a difficult set of choices such as — 1000+ vendors and lack of standard products to choose from. Overall there is lack of awareness in the buying process as most of them are considering solar for the first time. But we feel this should not be a reason for anyone to opt out of the idea of being eco-friendly. So we’ve just taken an initiative to do something to ease this process.

How is this product going to bring a change?

With the kind of downfall in costs in the past few years,solar power is now an economically super-attractive proposition.When we successfully eliminate the earlier mentioned hindrances , we can drastically hasten adoption of solar energy in our country.

What is your target audience?

We are currently helping industrial and commercial rooftop owners to switch to solar. This is because there is commercial feasibility for such customers to switch to solar.

Solar is not commercially feasible for residential customers unless their tariff is Rs. 8/- per unit. Government now plans to introduce 30% subsidy for residential customers. With this subsidy, solar would become commercially feasible for even residential customers paying Rs. 5/- per unit.

With introduction of subsidy for residential customers, by start of 2017 we will also be able to expand our services to households and be an integral part of all smart cities.

Who are your competitors and what are they doing?

Our other peers working in this space are independent consultants who also offer similar services by helping clients in choosing a right technology and vendor selection. There are some other startups who are attempting something similar but with different approaches .

How is your product better than that of your competitors here?

Like we mentioned earlier, the ventures that you refer to by ‘competitors’ are not really competitors as all of us have a similar vision but varying approaches and target markets . And for our product, we are building the portal that will make it switching to solar much easier and reliable.

Personal statement that defines you as an entrepreneur?

We believe that when one is doing things which he/she is passionate about , the person is already substantially richer !

How has AIM SmartCity Accelerator Program helped you till now?

The program has been a tremendous learning experience. As a business we’ve been asked some hard questions that we did not have answers to and made us do some thinking. This helped us see some possibilities that we did not see earlier.

Message for other startup people?

Validate your hypotheses and be convinced before you go all in. Be a learning machine, keeping improving and trying new things.