“Smaller, reliable grids definitely can be a game changer”, Meenakshi Vashist,TekUnCorked

“Smaller, reliable grids definitely can be a game changer”, Meenakshi Vashist,TekUnCorked

As renewables increase their share in grids worldwide, the issue of grid stability has moved centre stage, even leading to the dreaded ‘curtailment’ as we know it in India, on a massive scale in South Australia for instance. This has also opened up opportunities for startups to build solutions, and one of those is Tekuncorked.

TekUncorked is making an impact worldwide with its LVIoT platform that claims to makes the electricity distribution grid Smart, Connected and Predictive to eliminate grid losses and help decarbonize the grid. LVIoT forecasts and mitigates risks and threats to the electricity distribution network, provides accurate insights about power quality, load management, demand forecasts and grid losses and health of the grid assets. As one of the early providers of integrated and comprehensive solutions for eliminating grid losses and reducing the carbon footprint of the electricity distribution grid TekUncorked sees a huge opportunity for itself.

We caught up with its Meenakshi Vashist, Founder-CEO of the firm for a quick update on the firm.

Tell us more about your work before TekUncorked, and the best memories and learnings from those.

Meenakshi Vashist, Founder and CEO, TekUncorked

Meenakshi Vashist, Founder and CEO, TekUncorked

I spent a couple of decades leading new product innovation programs in Space Research, Telecom Networks and System on Chips for Automotive and Cellular Sectors during 25 years of my corporate experience. What then followed was a journey across India and my first start-up which focused on working with young minds to build consumer products across various innovation themes. My love for building product platforms to solve large problems eventually led me to co-found TekUncorked. Each part of my professional journey added different dimensions – years in corporate brought in experience of leading multi geo product development programs and maturing the product for end customers, my first start-up taught me about building a business frugally with lean teams and turning it to a revenue generating machine starting from scratch. TekUncorked has been all about solving a large enough problem and driving impact.

Why turn entrepreneur? You didn’t consider doing the same work as part of an org?

All through my organizational career, I had been someone who would step up to take on challenging assignments. It made my work exciting and fast-tracked me on the corporate ladder. After spending a few years in my last assignment which called for leading multi-million dollar product development programs spread across a dozen locations worldwide, I was ready to step off the corporate ladder to go into unchartered territory of building a technology business from scratch.

How has the entrepreneurship journey at TekUncorked gone for you? In terms of funding, first deal, and future plans now.

The start-up journey specifically if you are building a Hardware, AI start-up is very tough. It was tough developing the LVIoT Edge Devices and the Software platform on a shoestring budget. However, somewhere during the journey we started getting support, grants, funding and recognition from organizations like Microsoft, Qualcomm. UN Habitat, Act4Green, Climate Collective and Third Derivative. TekUncorked is already generating revenue now and has validation from some of the biggest Electricity Distribution utilities in India. The next few years are all about building organizational and business scale now and driving large scale impact in climate tech space.

LVIoT. Tell us more about how this is different or adds value.

The TekUncorked LVIoT platform comprises a small IoT device which monitors distribution grid access point like Distribution Transformer for equipment health, operational performance and electrical load. Any anomaly detected which can lead to losses in the grid is closely monitored. If the anomaly persists then Utility is notified and alerted about faults and various performance issues which should be resolved. Outage-free, reliable electricity for end consumers, savings for utilities and reduction of carbon footprint of the grid by making the generated electricity being able to serve a larger number of consumers are some of the value adds of LVIoT.

Who are your competitors?

Grid Resiliency is an interesting area and there are several organizations who are researching to bring in improvements in the grid efficiency

We have seen countries like Australia struggle with grid balancing after a high share of renewables came on board, to now India planning trillions of rupees in making its grid stronger. Are there better options out there?

Electricity is vital to the well-being of an economy. Making the electricity grid stronger and smart and realizing a vision of reliable, outage-free electricity for all by creating a right balance between microgrids and main grid supported by intelligent solutions like LVIoT to manage load, demand, technical degradations and anomalies in the grid is the way for building resiliency in the grids of the future.

With more and more EVs hitting the roads, do you believe they offer a possibility of aiding grid support as we hear, or will they be a strain on the grid?

EVs would give a boost to the initiatives of strengthening the grid. Today, while utilities extend the grid to remote areas, they are usually ignored while prioritizing grid infrastructure strengthening projects, primarily as such areas are low revenue generators. As EV penetration scales and presents an opportunity for additional revenue streams for the utility, it is inevitable that remote areas would receive more attention from Utilities leading to improved electricity availability and hence the overall economy of those regions.

What is the current size of TekUncorked and your operational spread?

We are a 15 people organization and growing. We are currently operating in three States of India.

With all your experience, what is the one game-changing initiative you would like to see from the government here, that has not been tried yet?

Working capital and funding support to start-ups operating in some of the critical sectors like Energy, Water and Agriculture, when it is most required.

10. Is the whole concept of a national grid as important as it was say, 10 years ago? Why don’t we consider smaller grids with the new tech that is available today?

Smaller, reliable grids definitely can be a game changer, however strong backbone of a national grid into which all smaller grids feed into or draw excess power is vital to dynamically manage loads and user demands efficiently across the entire country. 

What is the biggest change you expect to see in the power sector, a decade from now?

A sector which is nimble and innovation centric and very conscious about managing losses, climate impact and satisfaction of its end consumers.

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