BW Businessworld

'Yes, There Is A Market For Everyone In Solar Including Startups'

In a chat with Rajyalakshmi Kola, Director Sunworks, whose company is increasing becoming a well know name in the solar market amidst the biggies, not competing with them but targeting its own set of audience in the same market

In a chat with Rajyalakshmi Kola, Director Sunworks, whose company is increasing becoming a well know name in the solar market amidst the biggies, not competing with them but targeting its own set of audience in the same market.

Solar has been the talk of the town with everybody wanting to grab a piece of. Unlike all the other sectors where the start-ups have created a space for themselves, solar remains, not untapped, but a unviable option for many such start-ups. The capital intensive nature of this business doesn’t allow the startups to venture into this risky water.

However, that did not stop this start up in foraying in this ever shining sector and looking beyond manufacturing.

Rajyalakshmi Kola, Director, Sunworks Energy is working towards defying that myth along with her co-founders Sandeep and Arjun. Started two years back, the company begun its journey by providing a comprehensive suite of services beginning right from the concept to commissioning a solar project to EPC, design and management.

“If there is somebody who wants to set up a solar plant at their facility or a large scale plant, we evaluate their project, the usage, the machinery, area and accordingly tell them that this much capacity is good or feasible for them and how they could expand in future. This is the consulting part that we do”, says Kola, whose company apart from the advisory services, also provide a complete turkey solution which involves right from land hunting, construction, financing, design to complete commissioning of the solar project for residential and commercial.

The manufacturing part is taken care of by imports from China and Europe.

With the recent ongoing bidding wars, the company works at the backend with major solar players, advising them with the feasibility of their bids and the overall project costing.
“We do not sign PPAs with the government or take part in the tenders. Rather we work with the companies who bid in the process and provide them with advisory or EPC (Engineering Procurement Construction) service to deliver that power”.

Kola agrees how manufacturing is not a viable option for start-ups due to its nature of being capital intensive. “There is a high cost set up. That is one of the reasons why start-ups are restricted to consulting, EPC, trading or outsourcing part of this business. There is no big startup in the solar sector yet. If there are 10 players then it is likely that you have heard of one, which has done a good amount of projects. Everyone is doing one or two projects. There are a lot of small players, which also includes small manufacturers, but very few”, says Kola.

She explains how five years back solar was the new thing and everybody was starting out. Even the big players did not know what was happening and were on a learning curve themselves. That made everybody a startup!

“The start-ups started entering into this space since 2010 but were restricted to EPC only. Some of them survived and some had to exit. The ones who have survived till date have an edge of knowledge of this sector but the ones who plan to enter today, will have to face several challenges”, says Kola.

She goes on to elaborate the startup's journey in solar which begun from EPC. Later these start-ups became complete solution providers and got into the consulting part of the sector, to split the costs. It came out as a holistic business model. Today some of them have become developers, where they produce their own power and sell it in the market.

Kola says there is a market for everyone including smaller players or start-ups today.

“Companies like Adani, Greenko etc are looking at the larger scale projects of 100 MW, especially the government tenders. But that doesn’t mean that everyone needs 100 MW. This divide of big and small doesn’t cut down the number of projects, there is something for everybody in the market”.

Soon solar is going to become a commodity like in countries like the US and there will be enough for everyone including both small and big players, believes Kola.

The biggest challenge that companies like Sunworks face is reaching the right audience. The market is so huge that it becomes difficult to know whom exactly to target. So does this come to the advantage of the bigger players who have more visibility in the market? No, it all boils down to again the requirement of the customer, according to Kola. At the present scenario, the company has mostly been approached by the client itself, by word of mouth.

With a lot of start-ups coming and exiting the solar business due to variable factors like costs, knowledge, Sunworks plans to take the operations to other states. The company’s major market includes Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and is planning to expand in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and maybe Delhi.

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