Viz-A-Viz with Saurabh Marda, Founder and Managing Director | Freyr Energy

India’s long-term approach should be tax incentive based for solar sector

To boost the solar sector in the country, a tax incentive based approach across all customer segments is going to be a more sustainable long term approach, believes Saurabh Marda, Founder and Managing Director, Freyr Energy, Hyderabad-based full solar service solutions provider. In conversation with Saur Energy’s Sub-Editor, Manu Tayal; Marda spoke at length sharing his company plans and the challenges currently faced by the solar industry. The following are excerpts from that exclusive interview.

Saurabh Marda

Saurabh Marda, Founder and Managing Director, Freyr Energy

Q. Could you give us a brief overview of your company, various products & services and its contribution towards clean energy?

Freyr Energy is a Hyderabad based full solar service solutions provider with operations in India and three other countries overseas. The company’s products range from Rooftop Systems, Petrol Pumps, Solar Water Pumps to Microgrids. Our customers include home owners, farmers, hospitals, educational institutes etc.

We have also developed India’s first mobile solar application called Freyr SunPro which is our proprietary software. This allows our sales team and channel partners to instantly design and price solar systems based on the end-customer’s needs. In addition to this, the app also has facility to assess loan options for Individual as well as MSME clients.

Q. Being one of the fastest growing companies in the solar sector, can you tell our readers about some of Freyr Energy’s achievements in the recent past?

In the last three years, Freyr has installed over 900+ solar systems across 16 states in India, impacting over 50,000+ lives in rural India and Ghana. In addition to that, we now have operations in three other countries. In the last three years, we have grown ~15X and turned profitable in Year 3 itself. SunPro is currently being used by over a 1,000 people to design and sell solar systems.

We were one among the Top 10 winners of Anita B. Org’s Women Entrepreneur Quest (WEQ 2017), chosen among 257 applications.

Q. What are the major microgrid projects that Freyr Energy has completed so far. How have they impacted the lives of people in rural India and Ghana?

Freyr Energy is closely involved with the government to electrify villages, specifically in naxal hit areas. We have electrified more than 100 villages in the naxal inflicted region of Paderu in Andhra Pradesh and also have ongoing projects in Manipur, Assam and UP, to name a few.

In terms of long term benefits, there is a sense of security and increased ability to participate in alternative activities for women in rural communities due to access to energy and reduced reliance on daylight. An increased competitiveness of companies and increased ability for households to adapt and respond to economic shocks and stresses due to improved productivity and increased cost savings has also been witnessed.

Overall impact of our work goes beyond economics:

  • 5,000+ students have access to better quality education infrastructure
  • 20,000+ tribals/villagers have access to electricity
  • 17,000 people in Ghana have better healthcare infrastructure
  • 2,000+ people have reliable access to drinking water supply

According to USAID funded study, our Social Return on Investment for every US$1 raised is US$4.62.

Q. How does Freyr Energy’s microgrid solutions have an upper hand over others offerings?

Freyr’s solutions have helped power significant sections of rural India. Our ability to successfully navigate these social and geographical challenges, work with local communities and create long-term impact sets us apart. For example, we regularly work in areas affected by extremists. Most sites require on-foot transportation ranging from 5 km to 15 km in hilly terrain, streams etc.

Q. Last year Freyr launched SunPro. How does it help individuals and companies in running their solar businesses?

The Freyr SunPro mobile application is designed to help an entrepreneur run his solar business with ease. It is equivalent to a 5 person team consisting of design engineer, pricing specialist, customer management, supply chain and project management, having 24×7 support, and with 365 days to close orders. The entrepreneur makes a negligible investment and also, does not need to have a background in solar to get started. The channel partners focus on selling, and closing the deals with SunPro. Once the deal is closed, we take it on from there to provide installation, assembly and after sales support.

Q. Is SunPro helpful for entrepreneurs who lack in understanding of the solar or electrical sector? Tell us something about the investment required?

With FreyrSunPro app, the user does not need a solar or electrical background anymore to start their business. The training time to use the SunPro is less than 1 hour. The tool is so easy to use that anyone from any background can use it to start immediately in the sector. It can provide an instantaneous, error free system for design, pricing and proposal generation that reduces sales cycle time to just onetwo meetings with the customer.

The app is easily available for download on Google Playstore as well as the iOS App store. We see a lot of individuals increase their income by over 100% by using SunPro.

Q. What are Freyr Energy’s ambitious plans for the next five years?

Our goal is to continue offering innovative solutions for both our end-customers and channel partners. In India, we expect to capture 10% market share and expand to 25 countries in the next three years. Thrust areas for us would be technology development and deployment. Energy storage is the next big thing in the industry, and we are focused on providing cost effective solutions in this area as well.

Q. What do you think are the roadblocks which the Indian solar sector is facing, and what should be done to tackle these challenges?

While the scope for this sector is tremendous, the biggest challenge which the sector is facing is the lack of participation at the grassroot level. In addition to that, the current subsidy based policy of encouraging customers is not generating the desired results. We believe a tax incentive based approach across all customer segments is going to be a more sustainable long term approach. Finally, by encouraging banks to provide long-term financing, another major hurdle around affordability will be overcome.

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