NxG Award 2019 Finalist Yashraj Khaitan
Member Association: India
Project description: Gram Power - Smart Grids for Sustainable Electrification
Gram Power is in the business of radically reducing power distribution losses for State Utilities and Businesses in India - a $31B/year opportunity - by providing them our patented smart meters and online platform to detect and control leakages and losses in power infrastructure.
Year initiated: 2012
About the Family Business Gram Power is focused on the $31B/year market for power distribution management in India. We provide solutions to State Utilities and Businesses to help them stop leakages in their power distribution using our integrated hardware-software platform. We provide the industry's most cost effective smart metering solution with a very comprehensive online power distribution management portal.
Yashraj Khaitan is the Founder & CEO of Gram Power, an energy technology company founded out of Berkeley, California. While the company started off with building low cost solar products and microgrids for rural electrification, today it is the market leader for smart metering solutions for the national grid in India and is managing over 100,000 kW of power in over 15 cities across the country. Yashraj has recently been awarded Forbes 30 under 30 Asia - Industry, Manufacturing & Energy 2019. He is the 4th Generation of an Indian enterprising family in the textile and paper machinery manufacturing industries.
How does your project provide a solution to a problem or satisfies a specific need?
We cater to three markets:
1. State Electric Utilities - Here we partner with a Utility and invest in replacing 100% of their meters to our smart meters. Once replaced, all the billing, payment collection, leakage and fault detection, and several other business operations of the Utility get automated and digitized. We recover our investment through a per meter/month fixed fee that the Utility pays us for successfully billing their consumer each month.
2. Co Living Spaces - Close to 14M rooms/flats in India are becoming online for rental accommodation. These rooms are being aggregated by several companies and there is a need to intelligently and digitally bill each of these rooms monthly for power. We partner with such companies who outsource their electric Utility operations to us. Our customers use our prepaid smart meters for consuming electricity which work like prepaid cell phones. We've been able to help consumers reduce their bills by up to 50% through our energy saving analytics
3. Restaurants - There are 900,000 restaurants in India alone and about 25% of their monthly expenses are in electricity. We provide cutting edge analytics to them using a smart meter and our mobile app which has helped brands like Chilies, Subway, etc. reduce up to 30% of their monthly electricity bills.
How do you create customer value?
We create customer value as follows
1. Utilities - We help them reduce their operating costs and radically reduce their distribution losses. With smart meters, we have reduced losses for some Utilities in Bihar (India) from baseline levels of 86% to less than 12%.
2. Co-Living Spaces - We help our aggregator clients centrally and digitally manage complete electricity Utility operations in their properties scattered across India. The tenants who use our meters, for the first time ever, are able to monitor their expenses in real time through our app, get intelligent alerts to reduce their expenses, and use a pay as you use prepaid system to pay for electricity.
3. Restaurants - We add significant value to them by helping them reduce their electricity costs by up to 30%, thereby improving their profit margins by almost 8% month on month.
How is your project innovative?
1. Technology - We are the only company in the industry providing the complete technology stack ranging from the metering hardware to the online distribution management platform to patented machine learning and artificial intelligence based analytics for power theft detection and intelligent load management
2. Business Model - Not only do we provide the most advanced technology for our applications, we are also the only company providing the entire technology platform as a service instead of having the customer pay upfront for it without realizing any savings
3. Business Process Digitization - We build technology to manage all business processes in a digital manner. For example if a new consumer wants to get an electricity connection, all they need to do is submit their information on our app and and within hours someone will come and hook them up with a new connection, unlike the earlier manual systems which would take months. It's within these hours that we're able to register a new consumer, get a automated technical analysis of the grid done to understand if the new consumer's load can be handled by the existing local infra, check the material availability with the Utility and align the nearest field worker through our field force management app to pick up the material and head to the consumer to give the connection. This is just one example of how we digitize business processes.
What is the most valuable mistake that you have made, and what did you learn from it?
While I've made a large number of mistakes, the most valuable one is not diversifying our technology's application soon enough to different market segments. We were early on just focused on State Utilities where sales cycles were long and unpredictable. This hit us hard and we were on the verge of closure when our largest Utility contract got terminated overnight due to an external factor we had no control over. Within 6 months of launching our products in non Utility segments with the same technology platform, we were able to achieve a 50:50 revenue share between both segments, which has given us the much needed strength and recurring cash flows to wait out the larger Utility contracts and deal with the risks associated with them. This approach has also greatly expanded our client base thereby making us less vulnerable to unexpected circumstances.
How being from a family business has impacted you as a person, and which influence this has in turn had on your project?
Business runs in my family and they got me involved in our other businesses since I was 12. Due to this upbringing and seeing my parents take risk all their lives, starting my own company was an objective I had set for myself as a very young kid. But apart from this background, I feel that I've benefited most from the experiences my father and mother have had in running their businesses and living through the ups and downs which has always provided me the much needed motivation to persevere in my work. Lastly, my father is involved in Gram Power as Chairman of our Board and adds a lot of strategic value to our decision making due to his abundant experience.