And now Balakrishnan’s DefMart in news!
Four ex-armymen - Major Biju Balakrishnan, Lt Gen Sudhir Sharma (Retd), Col Sudhir Kumar (Retd), and S M Kumar - co-promoted a company built on the merits of Indian Army. A Special Forces veteran, alumnus of IIM-Calcutta, Biju is the driver of DefMart. Creator of brands like "UrjaKendra", Solider, Xplorerand Solenco, Biju, an engineer, he is a well-known and sought out techno-commercial expert in the field of solar energy. He brings in passion, rich transnational experience in retailing and brand-building in a startup environment.
In an exclusive chat with Baishali Mukherjee, Balakrishnan expounds on the challenges and prospects of Indian solar sector.
Human civilization has harnessed solar energy for more than 2700 years. In 700 BC, glass lenses were used to make fire by magnifying the sun's rays. Only 0.01 per cent of the energy formed by nuclear fusion in the sun every second would be required to meet the earth's energy needs. Out of the overall installed power capacity of 167,077 MW in India, renewable energy (RE) sources add up to a meagre 7.7 per cent. To contribute to the RE sector we initiated DefMart in 2012-13.
Creating a positive impact to the environment
Initiated as a mission-driven company by a group of wannabe entrepreneurs with army background, DefMart aspires to give back to the society. The labour of our love and passion has flowered into a hale and hearty entity, incorporating 30 professionals and notching up an annual turnover of close to Rs 5 crore. We are headquartered at Gurgaon, National Capital Region (NCR), and branches, partner offices across New Delhi, Noida (UP), Patna (Bihar), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai.
We manufacture and supply a wide collection of Electronics Product Development and Solar System. Our product range includes Solar Energy System Component, Energy Efficiency Lighting and LED Lighting. Original Equipment manufacturer service, Training and consultancy service for designing and engineering of chips to the clients as per their requirements are our other areas of operations. We also offer Energy Audit Services and OEM Service to our clients. Our effort is to create a positive impact to our environment.
Prospects of solar companies in India
The solar energy goals have been amended to a higher level – both foreign investment, local manufacturing are assertively encouraged, and industry-friendly legislations are passed at central as well as state levels. Grid-connected as well as off-grid generations are receiving consideration and the government is all set to create a favourable regulatory situation. The government is encouraging the entrepreneurs to deliver. I strongly believe that the future of the solar sector is really promising. The present progressive and active government ensures an enormous prospect to do well. I feel that soon it will be the local companies who will address the problems which varies in India from place to place.
The off-grid sector is our present focus. Over the next few years our priority will be the villages and areas with no or limited access to safe and reliable electricity. Promoting energy effectiveness and responsible user behaviour in cities is another area which we will focus on.
Challenges faced by the solar companies in India
Funding, for smaller entrepreneurs and startups, remains a prime challenge in all sectors in India. The startup eco-system is still not very developed. Blockades in infrastructure coupled with red-tapism continue to be wearisome.
Collaboration with developed countries
The size of the consumption market in our country is enormous. Constructive use of the Western Technological and Project Management capabilities coupled with the Indian Entrepreneurs’ comprehension of the real problems, and their capability to innovate and yield economically will soon enable us to reach a win-win position. NRIs living in Singapore and the western part of the world are likely to be the key source of financing for this socially-pertinent sector with ample opening to produce excellent and stable ROI. A point to be kept in mind is that though competitions augur well for customers, the domestic manufacturers require some safeguard; or cheap Chinese exports would out-market them.
The RE sector has a huge potential for startups and we facilitate hands-on training and awareness to the aspiring youth entrepreneurs from tier 2 and tier 3 societies. Small and economical training modules are developed to help build startup units in remote areas which serve the dual purpose of creating private enterprise while enabling better standard of living by providing low-cost sustainable energy source.
What are the other ways to tap into the huge Renewable Energy segment in India? Please share your views.