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This Kolkata-based company has grown 3X in 3 years generating drinking water from air By Sujata Sangwan|7th Mar 2020 Kolkata-based cleantech company AKVO designs and manufactures a range of atmospheric water generators (AWG) that require no water source to produce purified drinking water from the atmosphere. Water made using AWG technology from AKVO costs only Rs 1.75 to Rs 2 per litre. 181 CLAPS +0 Water scarcity reports have become the norm across the globe. And our country has not managed to avert the crisis. According to a 2018 WaterAid report, over 12 percent of India’s population is already living the ‘Day Zero’ scenario, thanks to excessive groundwater pumping, an inefficient and wasteful water management system, and years of deficient rains.   Innovation is the need of the hour and a Kolkata-based company is doing just that by producing pure drinking water out of air.    Sounds like magic? Well, it is science, says AKVO Atmospheric Water Systems, which claims to be the first player in India to manufacture atmospheric water generators indigenously.     Atmospheric water generators (AWG) are machines that can produce water from air. They work on electricity and use the simple process of condensation and filtration to produce fresh and clean water, without requiring any external source of water.    Using the AWG technology, the Kolkata-based company replicates the natural process of condensation by simulating a dew point, which allows it to make water continuously, even in low humidity conditions.    Navkaran Singh Bagga ALSO READ Cannabis startup HempStreet offers Ayurvedic prescription products for pain relief The brainchild of Kolkata based second-generation entrepreneur, Navkaran Singh Bagga, who started this venture in 2017, AKVO works on a simple plug and play method and consumes one unit of electricity to run for an hour.    Says CEO Navkaran, “The water resources in the world are fast depleting, and it is time to make the world water positive and renew our groundwater sources. One of the solutions to this is AWG. By generating your own water, you reduce the consumption of groundwater and help in renewing and replenishing our groundwater resources. These factors made me reflect and lead my team in manufacturing AKVO, which is future-ready.” Sign up for our exclusive newsletters. Subscribe to check out our popular newsletters. Navkaaran points out that while marketable water is available from Rs 15 to Rs 20 per litre and always has the cleanliness suspicion tag attached with it, water made using the AWG technology from AKVO costs only Rs 1.75 to Rs 2 per litre. “AKVO gives you complete water independence without having to be bound to pipelines and water sources. Ours is India’s most cost effective machine that uses the least amount of power to generate the most amount of water, with zero environmental impact,” the Founder adds.  How AWG works AKVO currently has five versions of the machine available: 36K which produces 100 litres/day, 55K, which produces 150 litres/day, 110K, which produces 300 litres/day, 180K, which produces 500 litres/day, and 365K that produces 1,000 litres/day. Navkaran says the company also customises the machine according to the user’s need.  AKVO’s machine depends on the humidity and temperature in the geographical location it is installed in. It is designed to run at temperatures ranging from 10-degree Celsius to 60-degree Celsius with humidity factor of 30-80 percent, making it a viable model to deploy in coastal and hilly areas, especially in tropical countries that are rich in atmospheric moisture content.  “We will be launching a household model in 2020 and it will be a certain game changer. We are also working on a table-top model that can replace bottled water at hotel rooms, reducing the plastic usage and also saving the environment,” says Navkaran. “Our current machines can also be used for domestic purpose but since the capacity range starts from 100 litres per day, we are coming up with a more compact model which can produce 25 litres per day and would suit an average household,” Navkaran adds. AKVO is using heat exchange and refrigeration technology to generate water from air.  The team AKVO consists of a team of 25 members, nine of which work in production, research, and prototyping.  AKVO’s global sales and marketing head Pradeep Verma is a veteran of the water industry having worked with Eureka Forbes and then Marmon Holdings, Inc, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company. Verma has over two decades of experience in sales and business development having exposure to Indian and other South Asian markets across industries. AKVO Team Founder Navkaran has an undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK and also holds an MBA Degree from The SP Jain Institute of Management Research.  He is also the Director at Trishan Metals Pvt Ltd which is a joint venture with IFB Industries Ltd for manufacturing specialised Automotive Grade Steel. Navkaran has also been the Chairman of ALFA Network, the Youth Forum of Assocham, which has a clear focus on promoting entrepreneurship in India. He was also the Vice-Chairman of the CII-Yi Kolkata Chapter for the year 2016. The target audience Navkaran says that AKVO’s target audience will comprise anyone who needs fresh pure drinking water or areas that are facing water crisis due to depleting natural resources or people looking for an environmentally safe and renewable source.  AKVO has been successful in making its presence felt across the globe and in India. “We have a significant number of customers from all industries and I’m proud to say that at least 5,000 people consume water from our machines daily,” says Navkaran.   A dusty hamlet in Damoh region of Madhya Pradesh, with a population of around 1,500, faced acute water scarcity with no proper water system. The Public Health and Environment Department of Madhya Pradesh approached AKVO to come up with a solution. Now, after 10 months after the installation of the AKVO 365K machine unit in Hardua, villagers receive about 1,000 litres of fresh drinking water every day from air.   Over 50 machines have been installed in Chennai—which faced a severe water crisis last year—across schools, residential complexes, private institutions, etc. The company is also in talks with other big MNCs in Chennai to install the machine at its offices.  Over 44 AKVO machines have been installed at the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium, with an order for over 350 more.  To strengthen their proposition in the Middle East, AKVO has also installed its new 300 litre machine at SEWA (Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority). DP World, a logistics company in Dubai, has installed its first machine in its Dubai port. NTPC, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd Haldia, and other government bodies are working with AKVO machines to provide clean drinking water. Six machines have been installed in Lakshadweep island as well in association with the local government.  The present outlook and future The  Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report released by the Niti Aayog in 2018 states that by 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual six percent loss in the country’s GDP. “For a product like AKVO, the future is like a treasure box as there are multiple channels through which this product can serve humanity as a whole. The water produced from AKVO AWGs agree very well with the standards set by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The tests were also agreeable with the standards set by ISO 10500, 2012, and has been marked safe for drinking,” Navkaran explains.  AKVO has grown 3X in the last three years and is looking at continuing the growth momentum for FY20-21 as well. Presently, AKVO has sold over 200 machines worldwide. It is bootstrapped so far but is planning on raising funds soon as the firm is currently in talks with a few investors. While speaking about the revenue, Navkaran adds, “Currently, we’re at a top line of a little over Rs 2 crore and with an expanding distribution network and new markets in the Gulf, we expects to hit our target of Rs 12 crore in the coming financial year.” There are a few other players in the industry like Watermaker, but Navkaran claims that AKVO is the largest AWG manufacturer in India. “We’re the lowest in power consumption per litre of water generation globally,” he adds. According to the CWMI report, 21 major cities (Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and others) are in the danger of reaching zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting access for 100 million people. The country clearly needs immediate and long-term solution like AKVO’s AWG to effectively address the water scarcity issue. (Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar) KOLKATA STARTUPS AKVO ATMOSPHERIC WATER SYSTEMS ATMOSPHERIC WATER GENERATORS (AWG) NAVKARAN SINGH BAGGA AKVO 74+ SHARES +0 STORIES These UP-based tobacco business owners stepped out of their comfort zone to build a Rs 908 crore dairy products business By Bhavya Kaushal|21st Dec 2020 After dabbling in tobacco and real estate businesses, brother-entrepreneur-duo Jai and Anuj Agarwal launched Gyan Dairy in 2007. The Lucknow-based company, offering 27 dairy products, has carved a niche for itself in the Uttar Pradesh market. 18 CLAPS +0 Jai Agarwal was running a family tobacco business in Lucknow when in 2005, his brother Anuj Agarwal decided to join him. However, with no possible avenues for disruption in the tobacco business, the brothers decided to explore newer opportunities. “We were living in a semi-rural area. A tobacco business doesn’t need too much hard work or infrastructure. Additionally, there was no professional or social growth there. We were these entitled kids living comfortably. When my brother realised there wasn’t much for him to contribute, we started brainstorming for new ideas,” Jai Agarwal tells SMBStory. For a few years, the brothers dabbled in real estate but nothing materialised. But an old real estate investment changed gears for them.  The brother-duo decided to renovate and reset a shutdown dairy unit bought a few years ago and launched Gyan Dairy in 2007. The Lucknow-headquartered company started manufacturing dairy products, including milk, curd, chaach (buttermilk), paneer (cottage cheese), and butter, among others.  At present, it manufactures and sells 27 dairy products across Uttar Pradesh. The Lucknow-based company recently onboarded actor Manoj Bajpai to promote the brand’s launch in Kanpur. The brand also operates exclusive retail outlets called Gyan Fresh Stores, spread across 53 locations in the northern state.  Last year, the dairy brand clocked a turnover of Rs 908 crore. ALSO READ How the desire to constantly disrupt led this entrepreneur to build a billion-dollar turnover aviation business Disrupting the dairy industry with technology Initially, one of the biggest challenges for the brand was the lack of a proper dairy ecosystem in the eastern and central Uttar Pradesh, Jai claims. This was both good and bad for the brand as the entrepreneur-duo had to put in extra effort to get the operations and the supply chain in order. However, the good part was that they were able to dig up an untapped reservoir of opportunities.  Sign up for our exclusive newsletters. Subscribe to check out our popular newsletters. According to a report by IMARC Group, the Indian dairy industry was valued at Rs 10,527 billion in 2019.  “We faced a lot of challenges in sourcing raw materials and convincing the farmers. These farmers have been cheated on so many times that they are not ready to trust companies easily who come to them,” Jai says. He claims that it took the brothers three years to convince them. Jai and Anuj Agarwal always had dreamt of giving back to their district (Farrukhabad). Jai shares, “There is a lot of capital and infrastructure cost involved in the dairy industry, but we took on the challenge. Gyan Dairy started interacting directly with the farmers. They set up several milk collections that have milk testing units.  “The Milk Chilling Centres (MCC) are places where the farmer comes with his milk and gets it tested for its fat and protein content. It’s an automatic machine, wherein the farmer’s milk is weighed and a receipt giving feedback is auto-generated,” he explains. Today, Gyan Dairy has collaborated with 3,000 villages and supports 1.2 lakh farmers across India for raw materials.  Good quality is the key The dairy industry is already dominated by giants, including Amul and Mother Dairy. Supplying good quality dairy products is the only way to survive and thrive in this industry, Jai claims. “The biggest evolution that I have seen over the years is the dairy industry going from low quality, low rates of dairy products to high-quality products. Initially, the consumer was price-sensitive,” he says.  For this, he claims, Amul has played an important role in transforming the country’s dairy industry and bringing in fair practices to play.  To date, Gyan Dairy has taken several steps to ensure good quality of dairy reaches its consumers.  “Milk has to be processed in the right manner. Further, it has to be chilled within four hours of milking. We also keep a strict check against adulteration. All the utensils and machines used in our factory are clean, and follow some very stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs),” Jai says. The brand pays utmost priority to its customers’ health. He says, “If you don’t do this and cut corners, then you will be compromising on the basic microbiological count of milk.” Apart from this, Jai also elucidates three factors that have contributed to manufacturing good quality milk. First, improving the breed of cattle. “A better breed gives you a better quality of products and a better yield for money.” Second, giving the right kind of feed to the cattle. “The feed that you give to the animal comes out in the form of milk. So, if you’re giving hygienic feed to the animal, it stays healthy and gives healthy and tasty quality milk.” Finally, the third aspect is amalgamating everything with technology. Jai says technology has been a blessing for the dairy industry as now the middlemen have been almost eliminated. He says dairy farmers can now apply for loans, get the right price for their milk, all thanks to technology. ALSO READ How this Rajasthan-based founder made Rs 4 Cr selling camel milk and its products Customising with consumer-driven perspective As he indulges more into the technological aspect, Jai says Gyan Dairy has launched a mobile application — the Gyan Fresh mobile app —  which delivers milk at the doorstep of customers between 6 am and 8 am, and works on a subscription-based model. “The idea was to power our brand and also to compete with strong cooperatives like Mother Dairy and Amul. These brands have been there for a long time, and just by providing better quality milk and packaging might not be sufficient to win the trust of the consumer,” Jai explains. The Gyan Fresh app was in trial stages when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, which spurred into a mainstream business for the dairy brand. While the pandemic was a “problematic” event, the Gyan Dairy team dug up resources, manpower, and infused investment in internal operations to set up the application, which is now available in a few parts of Lucknow.  It was successful in creating some positive buzz over the past few months. At present, it has over 24,000 active registered users, and over 9,000 deliveries are carried out every day.  Gyan Dairy’s business was down by 25-30 percent during the initial lockdown, but thanks to the mobile app, it has now recovered to its pre-pandemic levels.  According to Jai, the pandemic increased the market share of organised players as “people were not able to trust anything from the open market.” He says there was a spike in demand for several products, including packaged paneer, butter, curd, and lassi amidst the lockdown.  He adds that it will take at least two years for the dairy industry to recover because of the imbalance caused in demand and supply during the pandemic.  Going forward, Jai says, Gyan Dairy plans to diversify and introduce products like fruit-based yoghurts, dairy-based traditional Indian sweets such as peda and cheena kheer.  Gyan Dairy is also coming up with a fully-automated khoya manufacturing unit in Lucknow — the largest in the world — which will manufacture 20 metric tonnes of khoya in a day.  Edited by Suman Singh AMUL LUCKNOW ANUJ AGARWAL GYAN DAIRY JAI AGARWAL 7+ SHARES +0 STORIES How IIT leads in encouraging research and innovation among SMBs and other top stories of the week By Bhavya Kaushal|20th Dec 2020 This week’s top picks include IIT-Delhi incubated healthcare brand Clensta and OkCredit, a free business accounting app founded by three IITians. 10 CLAPS +0 This week, SMBStory’s top picks include Clensta, an IIT-Delhi incubated brand that helps soldiers, patients maintain personal hygiene with its waterless products, and OkCredit, founded by three IIT graduates. It is a free business accounting app that has over 5.5 million MSMEs on its platform. OkCredit Harsh Pokharna, Gaurav Kumar, and Aditya Prasad, Co-founders of OkCredit If the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown has taught Indian MSMEs anything, it is that digital, contactless payments are here to stay. This comes in wake of the need to record and account monetary transactions digitally.  Bengaluru-based startup OkCredit’s founders may not have predicted the pandemic in 2017, but they were willing to place their faith in building mobile-based digital accounting solutions for MSMEs.  Frequently interacting with local grocery stores, IIT Kanpur graduates Harsh Pokharna, Gaurav Kumar, and Aditya Prasad noticed shopkeepers would do most of their accounting on paper. Tallying took long, the process was prone to human error, and the small slips of paper could be easily misplaced.  This led them to launch OkCredit – a free, digital-based credit balance recording solution for small business owners in 2017. Harsh Pokharna, Co-founder and CEO, OkCredit, says the company’s USP is that its products are simple, secure, and technologically advanced. They run on a basic smartphone and help automate business transactions of retailers with customers and wholesalers. It has 5.5 million active users and saw transactions worth $7.5 billion recorded in October 2020. Read the full story here. ALSO READ B2B ecommerce platform SOLV helps MSMEs digitise supply chains and grow sustainably Clensta Founder and CEO, Puneet Gupta, Clensta Puneet Gupta, sales and marketing graduate from IIM Calcutta started his career with the US-based technology and manufacturing company Honeywell. Fascinated by the growth of the Indian startup ecosystem during the last decade, he decided to leave his well-paying job at the US-based MNC to work with Indian startups, specifically catering to the defence sector.     While working in the sector for eight years, he closely observed the unhygienic conditions of the soldiers working in extreme weather conditions in places such as Siachin, Kargil, and Drass. The challenge of not being able to maintain personal hygiene (like not bathing for days) led Puneet to develop waterless technology products in 2016 under the brand name Clensta.     In an interaction with SMBStory, Puneet Gupta, Founder and CEO, Clensta, says, “Starting up needs a strong idea but to sustain the business, an entrepreneur needs huge funds and infrastructure. To create innovative healthcare products, we needed a strong R&D, and thus, we joined hands with IIT Delhi to help us make hygiene accessible for anyone, anytime, and anywhere.”  While Puneet is the sole founder of Clensta, Prof (Dr) Anurag Rathore (Department of Chemical Engineering – IIT Delhi) serves as the Scientific Advisor for the brand. Situated in IIT Delhi’s Biotechnology Business Incubation Facility, Clensta has developed a waterless body bath and shampoo that can be used by defence personnel, patients, elderlies, and adventure enthusiasts to take baths without water while maintaining proper hygiene.     For the same, it has developed a simple formulation devoid of alcohol, SLS, and any other harmful ingredients. These products can be directly applied to hair and body, massaged, and dried off using a towel, without any use of water.  Clensta has raised undisclosed angel investments for scaling its product and portfolio from shareholders and investors, including Sanjeev Jain, an IIT Delhi alum and a seasoned angel investor, and Indian Angel Network and its maiden VC fund – IAN Fund. The Delhi-based company rakes in an annual turnover of Rs 3.5 crore.   Read the full story here. ALSO READ 10 Indian brands that turned challenges into opportunities by pivoting at the face of the COVID-19 pandemic Imperial Holding Group Manav Singh. Chairman, Imperial Holding Group Manav Singh, the Chairman of Imperial Holding Group, says he practically lived out of a suitcase for a few years after he returned to India from the US in 1996.  During his early years, with his never-say-no attitude, Manav went on to sell night gloss powder, non-CFC gases to refrigeration companies, and refrigeration oil, among others, before he chanced upon the aviation industry.  At present, Manav’s multi-billion-dollar Imperial Holding Group operates various businesses, including Aerostar Aviation (spare parts supplier), Imperial Air (air charter and air ambulance services), FarmX (ecommerce), and Imperial Realty (real estate). Manav also introduced fractional ownership in India. Fractional ownership can mean owning half a plane or even one-tenth of a plane. So, people buy according to the number of hours a plane flies. For example, if a plane flies for 1,000 hours, you can end up owning it for 100 hours. Additionally, if the plane costs Rs 100 crore, you only pay Rs 10 crore if you want to own one-tenth of the plane. This is beneficial because you own the plane only for the amount of time you want to fly in it.  The Delhi-headquartered company reports an annual turnover of over Rs 1,200 crore. The spare parts business contributes majorly clocking Rs 900 crore turnover annually. Read the full story here. Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan IITS CLENSTA OKCREDIT SMB WRAP 3+ SHARES +0