Stock - Team Aelius
India's startups get active in the ESG space. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Pick up all your ‘green building’ needs from a single platform – that’s what a startup from India is promising as its USP.

Mumbai-based Aelius Turbina’s “focus is to use all possible renewable energy solutions – from a vertical perspective, we can do industrial and hospitality projects as well as individual homes,” said Ankit Modi, founder. “We have got some good leads at the Expo.

“We actually do the entire process. The first time anybody comes to us, we do a site analysis, we also understand what the requirement is.”

Once the analysis is done, “we come up with a combination of products that can be leveraged to fulfil their needs,” said Modi. “We also do the implementation - if it requires actual solar panels (and) we assemble the entire thing.”

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Aelius, which imports solar panels and devices suddenly found itself at a relative loss when COVID-19 brought global trade to a halt last year. “We thought it might actually affect us, but we had really good support from Indian manufacturers,” said Modi. Thanks to that, “we were able to fulfil supply requirements.”

For Aelius and its peers, India, which is on track to achieve its renewable energy target of 450 gigawatt (GW) by 2030, has become a land of opportunities. “The scenario has completely changed with huge government support, especially with the affordable housing projects - they are providing subsidies to all the people who are going for green energy,” said Japen Shah, the company’s CFO.

The ‘Housing for all by 2022’ programme calls for the construction of 20 million urban and rural homes for an estimated cost of $31 billion. “We are self-funded, but we want to have our footprint across the globe,” said Shah. “We are looking for partners who are really interested and - yes - there may be JVs which can really accelerate our growth pace.”

The founders

Modi started his higher education with a degree in construction engineering from the Shah & Anchor Kutchhi Engineering College. He later joined the University of Nottingham to pursue a Masters in renewable energy and architecture.

Modi, who founded Aelius Turbina in September 2019, is also the CEO of EnerArch, which again offers green building services.

Chennai-based Wegot uses emerging technologies such as IoT (internet of things) and cloud to help cut water usage. “We fix water flow sensors and pressure sensors in large campuses and buildings at water usage points,” said Mohamed Mohideen, co-founder and CEO. “We collect all this data through the cloud and we process this data and share this information with our customers as a report or infographic.”

Wegot, founded in 2015, initially focused on residential customers in Chennai before moving to industrial and commercial clients. The startup’s big break came in the form of a tie-up with Danish engineering group Danfoss. “We have given our solution, which helps Danfoss with their sustainability programme - they have done a lot in electricity and water was a missing piece for them,” said Mohideen.

Funding chances

In a world where companies are increasingly adopting ESG (Environmental, Social, and (Corporate) Governance) practices, Wegot has a bright future and expanding the business is key. After raising $3 million in 2019, the company is looking for an investment of around $15-$16 million. “This is mainly for the expansion outside India, as well as other northern Indian cities,” said Mohideen.

An alumnus of Chennai’s Crescent Engineering College, Mohideen had earlier founded Denvik Technology, a tech start-up with expertise in electronic manufacturing.

First principles
ESG norms require companies to be socially responsible businesses and align their wealth and value-creation activities with the interests of other stakeholders such as the employees, environment, and society at large. Of late, big institutional investors have supported the movement, backing companies that follow these standards.

Some of India’s biggest companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Reliance Industries recently announced roadmaps towards reduction in greenhouse gas emissions towards zero.