Emerging Entrepreneurs

Using power with care

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 18, 2016

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Vidabest makes gadgets that help you track your energy consumption

The seeds of his present venture were sown more than a decade before he actually got into that business. Dayal Nathan, a plastics engineer from CIPET, was working in a company in Chennai that counted among its activities that of making compact discs. Nathan was involved in the manufacturing side but one fine day he was also asked to look at the business aspect. He realised that the company’s electricity bill was high, a point he had mentioned to his director, who when he became CEO of the business, asked him to do something about it.

Nathan found that the air-conditioning system’s capacity was more than what the plant required and this was contributing to the huge power bills that were accounted for by the manufacturing side. He took a series of steps that brought down the air-conditioning capacity, which in turn resulted in lower power bills.

“That was the birth of the idea. It was in my mind although I didn’t start it then,” says 45-year-old Nathan, seated in his office in a residential area in a southern suburb of Chennai.

Nathan’s company, Vidabest Energy Pvt Ltd, makes gadgets that help you know your energy consumption pattern, the data from which can be downloaded on to a computer and analysed as to how power consumption can be controlled. This gadget costs about ₹10,000, thus making it affordable to even small-size business establishments. The larger companies go in for energy audit and sophisticated energy management systems that would cost substantially more.

For individual consumers too, Vidabest, which sells its products under the Energyly brand, has a similar gadget that costs ₹1,000. Here, the users can set a limit on how many units of electricity they want to consume so that their bills don’t shoot up. The gadget will send out an alarm when the limit is close to being breached.

Android app

Vidabest also has an Android app that individual consumers can download for free and use it to get alerts for power outages from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, know their power consumption pattern and also pay their bills. Vidabest has about 20,000 consumers who have downloaded the app so far. This is more for brand building and creating an awareness about the company and its products, says Nathan.

Vidabest recently raised ₹62 lakh from the Keiretsu Forum in Chennai, a US-headquartered global network of angel investors. The company will use this money to strengthen the team and improve its marketing capability.

But, prior to starting Vidabest in 2014, Nathan had started two other ventures – one that ran an animation studio and another that made compact discs. Those days he was not aware of raising funds from outside investors. It was when he got to participate in an accelerator programme in Bengaluru conducted by the Silicon Valley-based Founder Institute that he firmed up his idea and business model for Vidabest.

When he started the company to make compact discs, he was able to bring in some of the energy saving practices from his previous job. He also realised that smaller companies could ill afford the huge fees for conducting energy audit or having in place an energy management system. A market survey showed that the establishments were prepared to pay around ₹10,000 for a device that will help them control their energy costs, while for residential units it was around ₹1,000.

Expansion plan

Vidabest is present in Chennai now, but has appointed a representative in Bengaluru and hopes to appoint one soon in Hyderabad. What will it take for him to go pan-India? Funds, says Nathan.

He is looking to raise about ₹2-3 crore that will help him scale rapidly. Nathan plans to pitch to investors in the US too, thanks to the connections he has with the Founder Institute.

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Published on April 18, 2016
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