Interview: Pranesh Chaudhary

Pranesh Chaudhary,
Founder & CEO at ZunRoof

“Absence of Single Window Approval for Net Metering and Govt Subsidies is a Big Challenge”

Lack of single window approval for net metering and government subsidies is one big issue which is a bit out of our hands - takes too much time and resource and hits our customer satisfaction scores negatively. In an exclusive interaction series with startup companies in the energy sector, Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Energetica India, interacted with Pranesh Chaudhary, Founder & CEO, ZunRoof Tech Private Limited. Here’re the edited excerpts from that interaction:

“Shed some light on Zunroof Tech Private Limited and how the formation idea originates?”

Gurgaon-headquartered ZunRoof Tech Private Limited is a home-tech startup company founded in 2016. The company aims to sell half a million IOT devices in the next 12 months along with powering 1 million Indian homes with solar by 2025.
With rampant electricity cuts in their home towns, the two co-founders of the company realised that India needs to tackle the twin problems of poor electricity supply and high electricity tariffs using technology. Their vision was to solve two major problems of demand and supply of electricity by offering world-class solar rooftop installations and an IoT-based electricity management solution.
Thus, the company’s two brands – zunroof and zunsolar aim to fulfill supply side of electricity issues of India by using un-utilized rooftops and providing comprehensive solar solutions. While, the other two brands zunpulse and zunpure aim to cater to the demand side of electricity utility by providing a sense and control of every appliance in one’s house.
The company till date has installed more than half a million IOT devices, assessed over 250,000 homes, designed over 30,000 rooftop solar systems in 75+ cities in India, and installed 15 MW+ of rooftop solar. At present, it has over 150 employees and touched USD 1 Million of monthly booked revenue in March 2020 and aimed to grow 3X this FY despite a quarter getting lost due to lockdowns.

“Investment and funding details”

Zunroof has raised over USD 4.2 million in funding from Godrej Family Fund, Intellicap Investment Network, IIT Kharagpur seniors and Ramakant Sharma.

“Details about founders and directors of the company”

Pranesh Chaudhary is the Founder and CEO of ZunRoof Tech Private Limited. He founded the company in 2016 with his long-time confidant and close friend Sushant Sachan, the Chief Product Officer at ZunRoof.
In 2018, Pranesh received the Young Entrepreneur Award for his entrepreneurial achievement in the field of installation of solar rooftop panels in India.
Prior to founding Zunroof, he worked at the Essex Lake Group, London and Capital One, Bangalore as a Management Consultant. He has over 10 years of experience in the domains of risk analytics and management, marketing & acquisitions strategy, customer segmentation, expense re-engineering and operations management.
He has graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, where he served as the Editor of their campus newspaper, The Scholar’s Avenue.
On the other hand, Sushant is the Chief Product Officer of ZunRoof. He has more than ten years of deep domain experience in solar power technology. Prior to founding Zunroof, he worked in a senior technology management role at Sunborne Energy Technologies.
Sushant has graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur with a dual degree in engineering. Considered to be a product wizard, he holds many years of hands on expertise in hardware and software product development. Sushant also contested in multiple tech tournaments during his IIT days, fiercely competed between multiple colleges and is always remembered as a product design and tech champion by his IIT associates.

“What are the product and services offered?”

The company is a home-tech company, powered by a mix of Image Processing, VR, IOT and Data Analytics. It offers rooftop solar installations, and provides sense and control of every appliance in one's house. It’s design and delivery applications ensures all-time high adoption and higher output per kW of solar.
During the design phase, the company’s app takes one image of the roof as input and instantaneously generates shadow profile of roof, optimum orientation and placement of panels and shows the customer multiple design options in a Virtual Reality Set Up.
In delivery phase, it has a supply-controlled marketplace to ensure lowest price and best quality plus financing offers for home-owners. Also, it has 50+ quality check-points for the customer. The company have multiple IoT devices to provide home-owners control of the generation and consumption of electricity in their homes. It applies machine learning to provide recommendations for better electricity usage.

“Focus and targeted markets for Zunroof Tech”

The company has operations in 12 states across India and currently provides services in more than 75 cities spanning from large metros to small tier-2 cities and towns.

“Market scope of the product and future plans”

Smart home devices are still an emerging category with huge growth potential, as more and more Indian homes subscribe to broadband connections powered by WiFi, their demand increased for Internet-connected smart devices such as smart bulbs, plugs, video doorbells and others for a variety of reasons: convenience, comfort, safety and greater control over their electricity consumption.
Currently, zunpulse is the only brand of smart home devices available in India that allows control of different products through a single mobile app. Our one app for zunpulse can take care of all connected home appliances. It also offers a wide range of smart devices for both residential and commercial use. The company said it has already received bookings for over 50,000 zunpulse devices from residential complexes, offices, co-living and co-working spaces, restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

“In your view, what are the start-up ecosystem challenges and solutions?”

Challenges are inevitable for any start-up. In our case, we are creating a category of home-tech products and services for home-owners, which by definition is a hard business to build. We had to educate the customers rather than sell to them. We have assembled the best talent for the team when being bootstrapped for the first two years, created a trustworthy and scalable distribution network of supply when the MOU’s and words of vendors didn’t mean a lot at a really small scale and at the same time ensured positive unit economics.
Lack of single window approval for net metering and government subsidies is one big issue which is a bit out of our hands - takes too much time and resource and hits our customer satisfaction scores negatively.

“What are your expectation from Government for start-up ecosystem?”

Government subsidy has helped customers warm up to the concept of solar and take up solar installations for their homes. We are also a Startup India empanelled company, which helps us if we need advice on anything such as understanding new government policies.
If multiple processes are done with and single approval is brought, that will open up new startups to come in the energy space.

“What are Zunroof’s new set targets?”

We want to put solar installations on the roofs of one million home-owners in the next five years, bring IoT tech to these customers, and save them money.
With our zunpulse range, we are currently focussed on helping public places including offices, hotels and restaurants resume their operations with full precautions and offer a robust contactless existence through our smart IoT devices.
We will soon launch another brand Zunpure and the aim is to monitor water usage effectively, reducing water bill and wastage, which is already a big concern in most parts of the country.

Interview 03/12/2020 by Manu Tayal
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