Tushar Devidayal, the founder & CEO of Devidayal Solar Solutions Pvt Ltd (DD Solar) founded the firm in 2015. With an MBA from London Business School, he decided to focus on designing and developing high quality, certified off-grid appliances like solar DC refrigerators, BLDC fans and coolers. The firm has made steady progress with its vision. An interaction with the founder.
Q1. How did the idea for DD Solar come up?
The motivation behind DD Solar was my passion for renewable energy appliances. As the need for de centralised cold storage solutions in rural and semi urban regions highlighted, the company became more inclined towards solar refrigerators and the impact it is creating.
Q2. Has greater energy access and connectivity led to any change in focus, or does the firm still see massive potential?
Yes, it is correct that India now has almost 100% energy access but at the same time continuous reliable energy availability is only 22% and the worst affected area is rural India.
At the same time our focus customers are below the pyramid low income earning micro entrepreneurs and households who are affected the most. Hence, we believe there is massive potential for decentralised renewable energy appliances.
Q3. Could the market evolve to more AC appliances in these areas powered by microgrids, rather than DC?
No, we believe that the market is evolving more towards DC or renewable energy resources now. The deployment of decentralized renewable energy is fuelling a disruptive transformation of the energy sector. The rapid growth of decentralized renewable energy technologies changes the structure of the energy sector towards a multi-actor set-up in which large utilities interact with self-producing consumers and mini-utilities.
India’s energy transition drive will get a fresh momentum after Prime Minister’s announcement at COP 26 in Glasgow regarding India meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2070.
Q4. What are the future plans at DDSolar?
Our 3 year target plan:
- 4000 units of Solar Refrigerator installed
- 1,50,000 units of Solar Street Lights installed
- 2,50,000 units of Battery chargers & Solar Charge Controllers
- 30,000 units DC Solar Fans
Q5. Tell us more about the firm, your business model. Does it involve outright sales at profit too, or supported/subsidised sales and distribution?
DD Solar’s headquarter is at Mumbai, India and our branch offices are at Indore and Delhi. Total number of employees is 15.
We customize cold storage solution depending on the ecosystem needs in the following steps:
- Planning (Govt. Dept /NGO + DDSolar) : Site Identification: Various typology of the sites are identified through different channels.
Need Assessment: A baseline form is created to gather as accurate information as possible on the right technological need, potential income generation through intervention to design an overall business ecosystem of the chosen site.
- Execution (DD Solar): Design of the product: A technological design (type of TECHNOLOGY fridge, autonomy required, capacity, solar design, battery back-up if any) is proposed considering entrepreneur’s requirement, financing available & potential market/ type of products cooled.
Installation & Clear Communication Selected solar and refrigerator designs are installed at the site, and one of the key aspects is to provide basic communication to the end-users on the usability, maintenance, defrosting, cleaning and other critical parameters about the fridge.
- Financing Financial Partner + DDSolar: Affordable and innovating financing During the assessment, the financial flow mapping is done for the entrepreneur. Considering the increase in income due to the intervention, loan terms are designed.
- Enterprise Innovation (Beneficiary/ Customer): Innovative product portfolio Entrepreneurs identify the impact of cold-storage access as an addition to their existing business soon after the intervention, and explore other business models to improve their livelihoods. Support is given to fine tune the solutions.
- After Support (Govt. Dept /NGO + DDSolar): Post installation support is a critical part for the intervention to have the desired impact. Access to easy servicing, annual maintenance support, and effective troubleshooting help the solution to sustain over long-term.
We have a traditional dealer-distribution model that makes outright sales. Also, we have supported the low income group by providing them the appliances at subsidised rates but it completely depends on funding & grants that we receive. But the process followed is similar as stated above.
Q6. How do you see the future of distributed solar, now that storage costs are coming down? Does that open up newer opportunities for you?
Our target customers are rural households and micro enterprises and creating impact in their lives. If we talk about distributed renewable energy appliances the market is huge in India and we have a long way to go as these households aspire for bigger appliances like refrigerator, T.V, water pumps, etc. now. Definitely lower storage cost will benefit us as and our inhouse product development team will be continuously trying their best to incur these benefits.
Q7. How much of your manufacturing is in-house versus outsourced?
Our solar refrigerators are designed exclusively in house and assembled in house. Storage batteries and solar panels are sourced from other companies in India.
Q8. What is the biggest challenge you face running the enterprise today?
Challenges: We are serving low income households, affordability is a major constraint in the off-grid appliance market. We have come up with a financing service of 12/18 months with support of Ashv Finance but we still feel the need for similar financing instruments in the market.
Another challenge that we face is about awareness. A major chunk of the rural population is still unaware about such a solution available for decentralized cold storage. Our successful pilots in fisheries, dairy, fruit pulp and the kirana segment are supporting us to spread the word of mouth and generate more referral leads.
Although we are serving non-renewable energy solutions, still some part of our business is impacted because of increasing fuel prices. Freight costs are a major part of our operational expenses.
The Powering Livelihoods initiative has supported us in clearly communicating our mission and the impact we are creating throughout different stakeholders of the ecosystem whether it is our verticalization strategy, marketing messages or our gender focus messaging. Villgro and Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) have supported us in connecting with industry experts who have eventually guided us in our technological, marketing or financial challenges.
Q9. Which are the key geographies DD Solar operate in currently? What is the top-selling product?
The geographies we focus on depend on different verticals:
- For Dairy & Kirana stores focused geographies are Rajasthan & UP
- For fisheries focused geographies are Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa
- For Fruit pulp it is Rajasthan
Our top selling product is 100 L & 200 L capacity Solar refrigerator.