As the solar power ecosystem expands, traditional market forces are increasingly giving way to new players, innovations and business models that bring with them the promise of creating greater cost and operational efficiencies. In this context, digitalisation has become a key differentiator, making operations simpler and more effective. An emerging company in this space is MYSUN, a digital analytics and marketing company that acts as an enabler by creating a marketplace for system integrators and potential rooftop customers. In September 2016, MYSUN launched a digital platform to cater to the business development needs of vendors, independent power producers, and engineering, procurement and construction contractors. It is currently in the beta testing phase.
The company was formed after keenly observing and analysing the trends in the competitive bidding space, post the Rs 4.64 per unit price phase in 2015. According to Gagan Vermani, founder and chief executive officer (CEO), it was concluded that with every bid the project sizes kept becoming bigger and the discovered prices kept reducing, thus improving the economics of the solar power system. However, given the auctioned capacities, intense competition and limited scope for innovation and scaling in the utility-scale segment, Vermani and his team decided to enter the rooftop solar segment instead.
MYSUN’s digital platform gives potential customers a detailed insight into the benefits of installing rooftop solar systems. The platform maps the entire country, locating sites and customers through pin codes and segregating the queries according to three consumer segments: residential, commercial and industrial. The platform also takes into account the consumption of the entity by asking for the average monthly electricity bill. This information is then analysed with the direct normal irradiance data for the specified location through the “solar calculator”, to provide a tailor-made rooftop solar information report to the customer.
The platform indicates the potential savings by calculating the electricity bill with and without the solar installation. Vermani claims that the platform works at 95 per cent accuracy, and is being improved. The platform promises to transform demand-side management by making the solution accessible to end-customers and vendors alike. So far, it has attracted 400 partner companies, 50,000 registered users and 300,000 visitors on its portal.
Given the number of untapped customers in the residential segment, the company is now entering the developer vertical as well in order to cater to the growing demand. This has been introduced through “MYSUN Assure”, which enables the company to provide a complete solution – to install, deliver and maintain it for the next 25 years for customers opting for it. However, Vermani says that the company is at this point giving these contracts to their partners instead of building the required human and equipment inventory.
One of the challenges that the company faces is the lack of awareness. Most consumers are averse to adopting rooftop solar for a host of reasons that stem from low awareness about the installation, maintenance and benefits associated with the technology. In addition, there is the offtaker challenge due to the small size of these projects. Vermani observes that the residential segment accounts for about 90 per cent of the traffic on the platform, and yet none of the 400 companies with which MYSUN partners is catering to 5-10 kW systems, which are what is typically required by residential consumers. Getting companies to tap this segment, therefore, poses a challenge for MYSUN.
Policy and regulatory challenges continue to plague the rooftop solar segment. The net metering policy, while being an enabler, also poses a considerable challenge due to lack of implementation in states. Moreover, projects do not need subsidies any more but the existence of subsidies delays the decision of the consumer in the hope that capital subsidy would be extended to them.
Growth and outlook
At the time of its launch, MYSUN raised $2.5 million in investments and is scaling up cautiously. The company plans to eventually extend the site visit service to more locations according to the potential of customers available. Even though MYSUN Assure has not been officially launched yet, the company is generating some business through it and believes that it will grow considerably in the near future.
MYSUN aims to focus on increasing consumer awareness. In a short span of time, Vermani and his team have identified the issues prevailing in the market and ways to solve them, and have created a database of potential sites, consumption parameters and customers.
Summing up, MYSUN intends to tap the huge opportunity available to make solar a mainstream commodity in the residential segment; in other words, “retail-ise” the rooftop solar segment.