Changemakers: GPS Renewables – Mainak Chakraborty & Madhurjya Das (PGP 2010) and Jidesh Haridas & Sreekrishna Sankar (PGP 2008)
Clean Energy is the only way forward, it is inevitable. We as a society and the human race are facing the wrath of nature as a misdoing of many many years. It is high time we correct our wrongs to give future generations the world they deserve. A bountiful, plentiful, rich world where no aspect of nature is scarce.
Many organizations and companies are working in this field thereby bringing green and clean energy closer to the masses. GPS Renewables is one of the leading CleanTech companies of India, founded by friends, Mainak and Sreekrishna, who simply wanted to solve the problem of “how can we solve this garbage mess?” They were driven by the strong belief in “to transition the world to a cleaner and more sustainable way of living”. Madhurjya and Jidesh joined the GPS in the following years as a part of the core team.
GPS Renewables has recently raised $3M led by Triodos & Caspian, which the company will use to expand its team and invest in R&D. With the most favorable brands as their customers and four IIMB alums in the team, there’s absolutely no stopping them.
How did GPS Renewables come into being? What was the idea behind its conception?
In one word, Tech4Good. We did not have a eureka moment. Nor did we build upon any past experiences/expertise, as is the case with many companies. What Sreekrishna and I had decided was that we will give ourselves a year to figure out something around the concept of technology for good. Since we had neither any specific idea nor relevant background around tech4good, we started scouting for problems. The (un)fortunate thing about India is that we have so many social problems, and every problem a wantrepreneur picks up is massive. In our case, that problem happened to be waste (mis)management. As we dug deeper, we saw a social cum business gap around cost-effective urban-centric waste to energy solutions, and that is what led to GPS Renewables.
What are the different products/ services offered at GPS and who is your target audience?
Our flagship product is the BioUrja, a state-of-the-art biogas plant that converts organic waste into energy. We have close to 100 such plants across the SAARC region, and this includes many Fortune 500 companies/segment leaders such as Microsoft, Bosch, Intel, Cummins, Reliance, Taj, ITC, Marriott group, Accor hotels, IITs, BITS, and last but not the least our alma mater. The BioUrja is powered by the BiogasBot, a first-of-its-kind AI-powered biogas health monitoring solution. Today, our TA has expanded to ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) and we are working with some of the largest ULBs in India to convert their organic waste into vehicular fuel or power.
What inspired you to enter this space?
While we have our individual inspirations, a few common factors were from a decade back. Md Yunus’s pathbreaking “Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs” that came out in 2010 was a major trigger. The same holds true for some of the earliest social enterprises of India such as Husk Power Systems and SELCO, who were far ahead of their time. This was at a time when the Indian startup was yet to take off. We are talking of a pre-historic time when the cumulative funding raised by Flipkart stood at $1 Million! At such a time, companies such as Husk Power Systems gave us the confidence that it is possible to create & scaleup social enterprises in India while making profits, to raise funds from marquee institutions and in the process, create the kind of swift impact, that had never been achieved by middle-class first-generation entrepreneurs in India before.
Future of renewable energy and its sustainability.
I believe enough has been said and written on this. It is not a choice anymore. We are already late. It is the only way forward if we wish to protect our future generations and our planet.
In your opinion, what are some most rewarding and consuming aspects for an entrepreneur?
I would like to talk about social entrepreneurs. Building a social enterprise is not easy. Every fund talks about impact and sustainability, but the reality is that only a fraction of VC/PE money flows into the sector (YET). On top of that, building physical products, be a med tech device or say a remotely monitored & automated waste to energy plant, involves cross disciplinary engineering. Building such products and the necessary team(s) organically, retaining them, raising money from a non-existent VC space, et al are the most consuming aspects, and these make the gestation periods of building a social enterprise extremely long and mentally plus physically draining. The positive side is that it feels awesome to make the world a better place with every baby step, be it by deploying another biogas plant or a med tech device or a clean cooking stove. I personally feel, THIS satisfaction becomes even deeper and stronger when one becomes a parent; when we realize that every little thing that we are doing, is making the world a better place for our kids, who mean more than anything else to any parent.
How do friends fare as business partners and colleagues?
The most obvious advantage is that you KNOW them well, which is an important soft aspect. But friendships can come in the way when the going gets tough, say if someone is not performing, etc. Fortunately, in our case, we have managed to stick together and grow the company. Our core team includes four IIMB PGPs: Sreekrishna Sankar and Jidesh Haridas from the 2006-08 batch and Madhurjya Das and myself from the 2008-10 batch.
Any fond remembrance of the institute that you would like to share.
Lots. Most of all, the L^2s, even though the memories of them are quite hazy!
A favorite quote.
It’s only one straw. Said 8 billion people.
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