–This story originally appeared in Challenge Cup news on the 1776 site–
Energy Guru makes a very special kind of solar boiler. Called SharperSun, the boiler is being used to displace industrial fossil fuel. Most industries are using hot water, thermic fluid, steam or drying. But using the SharperSun technology can reduce their fuel related operating costs, especially as industrial energy usage accounts for 52 percent of total global energy use. Most industrial heat usage is low to medium-temperature, which is the sweet spot for Energy Guru’s product.
The Indian startup has received and confirmed orders for projects worth over $500,000. It also won the energy category of the Challenge Cup’s Bangalore competition earlier this month. Cofounder Umesh Choori made the winning pitch and in this interview breaks down the impact of his solar boiler. In May, he’ll advance to the Challenge Festival in D.C.
What does Energy Guru do?
What our solution does basically is to convert solar energy to heat. The advantage of this is by converting solar to steam or heat you get much higher efficiency.
We realized there’s a gap in the market. There are technologies for high temperature and technologies for low temperature but in the middle and for cost-effective solutions there isn’t anything. So what we did is take the product at the high end and make it lower cost.
By focusing on this, who are your target customers?
We’re going after industries that use medium-temperature-range applications. That would be food processing, pharmaceuticals, textiles, as examples. Most of the industries use medium temperature.
How did you come up with this technology?
I’ve been working in this industry for some time assisting large power plants in India, and we saw this gap. We made the product to suit those needs.
How long did it take to develop SharperSun?
The technology took 12 years altogether between manufacturing, getting a prototype done, getting approvals by the Indian government and actually getting a manufacturing plant set up. Then we got customers. So we’re about two years into the journey. There was quite a bit of industry knowledge that went into this.
Do you have competitors in this space?
Yes. There have been a few competitors both in India and abroad. There are also similar [but different] technologies [addressing the same issue]. But I think the way we beat them is by price. Especially in the U.S., there are some similar technologies but they are quite expensive.
You mentioned you’ve been in the industry for many years. What specifically is your background?
I‘m a chemical engineer. I did a Masters in engineering, and I’ve been passionate about the environment and applications of engineering for some time. This is an application where there’s a need and it’s a multidisciplinary problem. So I bring a lot in terms of the understanding of the chemical industry.
What did you get out of Challenge Cup?
It’s been a great experience. Learning to think from the audience’s point of view and learning to put a pitch into one minute, I think, is more challenging than I imagined. I was very lucky that I finished it in exactly 58 seconds.