Kerala Technology
A solar startup rises from the backwaters of Kerala

Cofounders of NyQuest (from left) CEO Harsh Mohan, CXO Kiran S and CTO Vinod Gopal, with their iCon device. Photo: TikTalk Newsletter

A solar startup rises from the backwaters of Kerala

Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on May 01, 2023
Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on May 01, 2023

As electricity bills rise along with the soaring mercury in Kerala, it is ironic that solar power still remains an under-tapped source in the state. One main reason that holds back the more widespread use of this clean energy source is the cost factor. A household has to spend over 100,000 rupees to install solar panels to generate enough power needed.

However, one startup in Kollam claims that they can help customers cut that cost by almost half, reduce power consumption, and slash electricity bills through the devices they have developed. The founders of the Mynagapalli-based NyQuest Innovation Lab say they have already installed their Energy24by7 products – iCon and the hybrid version iCube (which has machine learning capability) – in over 400 households in the state and have over 15 clients in Africa.

The group says from revenue of 46.6 lakh rupees in 2021-2022, their business generated 1.02 crore rupees in the subsequent financial year and it is expected to hit 4.74 crore rupees in the coming financial year.

The CEO of NyQuest, Harsh Mohan, says their business plan stems from the fact that over 22 lakh homes in Kerala have uninterrupted power supply (UPS) devices and inverters to tackle voltage fluctuations and supply interruptions in the state.

He says their gadgets connect batteries in these devices with solar power to charge the battery and reduce the electricity consumption from the grid. The users can keep a tab on their power usage through an app.

The firm claims that its service costs much lower than the current market rate for installation as it utilises the existing inverter and battery of the UPS devices. “Our package starts from as low as 37,000 rupees,” says Mohan. “If you have a UPS device at home, just give us a call. We will bring the solar panels and install our device. In a couple of months, you will notice a significant reduction in your power bill,” he adds, unveiling the company's sales pitch.

Even those without an inverter at home can opt for the hybrid version though it will cost around 100,000 rupees, but the reduction in electricity bills will be substantial, says the 32-year-old CEO.

Started by a group of engineers who graduated from Amrita Vishwavidya Peetam in Kollam, NyQuest had caught the eye of the Kerala tech community even before as they had landed a 25 lakh rupee grant from Kerala Startup Mission’s Grand Kerala Startup Challenge during the 2022 Huddle meet.

The emergence of the company also gives credence to the claims that enterprising startups are popping up in second and third-tier towns of India. Mohan says being in sleepy backwaters 30 kilometres away from Kollam town was never a problem during the product development phase and thinks it may have actually helped as it helped develop a close-knit group.

They decided to stay put at Mynagapalli even after their products went onstream due to economic reasons as moving to a city like Kochi would have multiplied their establishment by at least three times, says Mohan. But now having managed to raise funds totalling around 5 crore rupees and looking to scale up production, the establishment of a new base may be in the offing.

Mohan, says their whole journey started from a project work done by one of the cofounders, Akhil S, during their  MTech days, way back in 2012. The jump from lab to commercial viability came when NyQuest found a way to fit their gadgets with any UPS system currently in the market.

The CEO says they still tweaked their invention eighteen times since their inception and believes the current two models, iCon and iCube, have made the cut. He says the rising number of customers vouch for this as they had not embarked on any advertising campaigns which they could not afford.

Experience of two of their customers in Trivandrum seems to support Mohan’s claims and say their power bill came down significantly after the Energy24by7 products were installed. A former Rubber Board official, Hari Kumar, who lives in the Peyad area of the city says his household electricity bill used to be around 2,000 rupees earlier and it has come down to 800 to 1,000 rupees. But he said he had also installed power-saving devices like LED lights along with the iCon device two years ago.

Another user, who gave his name as Ajeesh installed iCube in his household of six in the  Venjaramoodu area over a year ago. Before installing the device, their average bill was over 2,000 rupees, but now it is around 600 rupees, he says. Ajeesh, who currently works in Qatar, also says that the device has been trouble-free and the company's service has been good.

The startup founders credit their success to the guidance of their teacher and mentor, Vinod Gopal, who became a driving force behind the startup and helped develop Energy24by7 devices by 2017. Gopal, who has designed products for renowned international firms like Apple, GE, and Medtronics, often pushed the young engineers to their limits, according to Mohan.

“He was tough and relentless in the targets he set. It was a steep learning curve but we kept going,” he recalls. Penetrating the market was also difficult as they had depended on social media to spread the word about their products, he says.

An unexpected break came when a social media influencer Mallu Discovery TV wanted to use their product. The entire installation and its impact on the user’s expenses were posted on YouTube and the video generated hundreds of thousands of views and calls to NyQuest increased by leaps and bounds. The surge in demand has lifted the confidence of the firm’s founders and they are now getting ready to go big.

With 46 million UPS devices in use in India and 280 million worldwide, NyQuest founders say they are approaching a take-off point and have been in talks with some well-known companies and venture capitalists to raise 4 crore rupees for the scaling up. The firm which started with eight people now has 22 employees.

NyQuest says their gadgets can be used with any UPS system, including older ones. “It is a plug-and-play product. You can use it with different voltage frequencies, be it the US, Europe or Japan,” said Gopal during an event in Trivandrum recently, where a Norway delegation was sussing out local startups. 

Gopal is still guiding his former students after taking the role as CTO of the startup. He says he is confident NyQuest is on its way to becoming a global name soon.

“My mission when I took up this teaching job was to show good products can be designed and developed in places like Kerala also. There is enough talent available among the youth and they can become world beaters,” says Gopal. “NyQuest is a great example of this.”



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