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Aiming for the sun

Amol Shirodkar, founder, Amrova Power, is scaling up his business in solar systems, finds out Serilda Coutinho

The announcement of the Goa State Solar Policy has energised the handful of solar solution dealers in the state. Most of them foresee a boom in business from residents who are keen to invest in energy saving solar systems. Using this trend to its advantage Amrova Power, a unit located in Ella, Old Goa is drawing up ambitious plans of garnering a chunk of the solar pie.

“Post launch of the policy our company’s prospects have improved,” claims,  Amol Shirodkar, director.  He reveals that the company has 150 kwt of solar projects on hand and is working towards fulfilling additional orders worth Rs 4.5 crore on hand. In 2017-18 the turnover was Rs1.2 crore.

Established in 2013, Amrova Power deals in a range of solar products such as batteries, water heaters, roof-top panels, inverters, etc. The main area of operations until recently was installations of solar water heaters. Some of the projects were a hotel in Arpora, the Panjim Residency, residential projects for Acron developers in Candolim and Porvorim and for the Konkan Railway starting from Margao, Tivim upto Kudal railway station.  “Earlier we used to get around three-four inquires a year but this year we have already got about 20 inquires, so the impact of the policy can already been seen,” he points out.

A first generation entrepreneur, Shirodkar is a MBA from the Goa Institute of Management. After finishing his business studies he worked for about seven years with a battery manufacturing company in the production line before deciding to set up his own business.  He explains that, his company is an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor. It configures solar systems sourced from outside and tailors it to provide end to end solutions to customers depending upon their requirement. “Our product tie-up is with Sara Solar Energy, a Pune based company,” explains Shirodkar.

According to the Shirodkar, consumers are now considering solar power generation as serious business. The investment that a goes into installing a solar generating system ranges from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. By investing in solar generation consumers can not only cut down on their electricity bills but also earn extra revenue by selling the unused power to the Goa electricity department. “This is possible through an on-grid system that feeds the surplus generated directly into the main  grid after fulfilling the daily consumption requirement,” says Shirodkar.

He adds that, current demand is for on-grid solar systems compared to the off-grid systems. “Our sales of on-grid systems are increasing. Off-grid systems are not connected to the electricity grid and therefore require battery storage. The high cost of the battery and inverter along with the maintenance needed for this system makes it expensive,” points out Shirodkar.

He reveals that, although increasing business is a priority area, he believes in selling systems to customers depending on their need. The company works on a 10-15 percent profit margin and provides a performance warranty of 20 years on solar lighting and 10 years warranty on solar water heaters. The life-span of most solar products is usually about 20-25 years.

“Prior to the installation of any solar system we prepare a feasibility report by conducting a site inspection. We looks into backward calculations like returns of investment (ROI), customer’s daily energy consumption and climatic condition in the area. Working on these lines we have managed to gain the trust of customers,” he says.

Amrova operates with a dedicated team of five members for small projects and outsources team from Pune for larger work orders. “We take in fabricators, installers, supervisors and electricians among other support staff for a bigger project. We have to outsource the workforce for this kind of projects as the risk factor involved is high and requires skilled labour to handle the fittings,” he says.

A keen observer of Goa’s upcoming solar market,  Shirodkar reveals that, environmentalist who wish to switch to green energy to reduce the carbon footprint are willing to spend on the expensive system but it is the common man who requires to understand the backward calculation crucial for the investment.  He further explains that calculating ROI at the planning stage itself can help to recover the cost invested on the products. “Solar water heaters can recover the cost within a mere time span of two years while for a solar generation system it takes about seven years but the benefits of both these system are long term,” says Shirodkar.

Expecting to see a drastic growth in the sales of solar products in the next two years as the solar policy is picking up in the state and awareness improves, Shirodkar plans to target housing societies. He adds that, for housing complexes, solar power systems can reduce the society maintenance cost by taking care of the external lighting. “In Pune we have already worked on a similar project,” he says.

Shirodkar’s advice to individuals desirous of investing in solar products is to avoid falling prey to cheap deals. “Customers tend to compare the prices offered by a large supplier with contractors in the unorganised sector to save a little money but finally end up spending the double amount on servicing related issues. This is a common problem as some contractors do not have an office or servicing team to provide after sales service or the maintenance,” he says.

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