As a toxic grey haze covers North Indian cities every year in November, the issue of air pollution becomes more evident. Policies are issued and advisories are put into place.
To combat the very high levels of emissions in the air and the smog, the Delhi government has banned the usage of diesel generators which are considered to be a major contributor to air pollution, beginning on October 15 through March 15 in Delhi-NCR in accordance with the Graded Response Action Plan.
Pi Green Innovations, a Pune-based company Pi Green Innovations is trying to address this issue by retrofitting vehicles to limit the harmful emissions released by diesel generators.
The problem we’re trying solve is particulate matter emissions from the source and in the air around it,says Irfan Pathan Co-founder and CEO of Pi Green Innovations.
According the company, in contrast to the current solutions, which rely on water or filters, Pi Green provides a filterless option that cuts down on the requirement for changing filters.
The technology, patent-pending over 30 nations like the US as well as China, UK, European Union, China and Singapore is the brainchild by Rizwan Shaikh, co-founder of the company.
The process begins
The story began in 2016 , when Rizwan and Irfan attended An event that took place in Pune.
Rizwan who ran an AC servicing business, had developed a device that was housed in a wooden container, that when connected to a motorbike turned the fumes generated by the motor into powder. Irfan who attended the event to discuss his venture to make cold coffee watched a short video of the product that Rizwan was developing that he was selling to investors.
Irfan was interested and believed it was a great decision to invest. A pitch to this event, was then followed by follow-up meeting at an McDonald’s outlet about 15 days following, for a discussion of hammering out the specifics. We created our business plans in McDonald’s tissues, remembers Irfan.
Rizwan and Irfan determined that the venture required an investment of between Rs 15 lakh up to Rs 17 lakh. Irfan himself invested money into the venture.
But it wasn’t easy and the team failed several times before they came up with a viable product. They came up with 40 to 45 prototypes of various efficiency levels before they were able to achieve an improvement in particulate matter of more than 90% during an automobile test that was conducted in the last quarter of 2018.
Shantanu Sonaikar, who was running an advisory firm for corporate finance at the time, advised Irfan during the early days–on the business and its growth potential Pi Green was involved in prototyping, pilots and validation, and then established an organization. Then, Shantanu joined as a co-founder in the year 2018.
Shantanu has said, With Irfan and Rizwan for two or 3 years I became immersed in the whole concept that was Pi Green and what it offered to the market.
At this point, Irfan had already put around Rs 1.5 crore to the business. However, Pi Green was still in need of capital in order to run and also to file patent applications. Therefore, with a solid evidence of their the idea and three partners, they were able to raise money from investors.
In the year 2019 the three partners formed the partnership company into a corporation. In that same year Pi Green raised a initial investment of $300,000 by Harshal Morde, Director of Morde Foods. Then, in 2021 the company was able to raise more than $4.5 million in an A round of funding that was led by the investment firm Opus Consulting.
How does the product work
Traditional solutions require a lot of operations and are expensive, says Irfan. Pi Green, he says is trying to solve these issues in its product by introducing design changes.
Pi Green’s carbon cutter technology is based on the concept the electrostatic precipitator. It is used extensively to power thermal plants of companies like Forbes Marshall and Thermax.
The electrostatic precipitator utilizes the power of high-voltage to charge particle within the gas stream. These charged particles called smoke in this case are attracted by the electrodes, leading to soot and pure air is released (70-80 percent pure).
The most significant problem with electrostatic precipitators is that it requires a lot of downtime needed to clean the plates, and there are operating costs as well, says Irfan.
To tackle this issue, Pi Green patented a self-cleaning mechanism that is designed to be cleaner through design changes.
Electrostatic precipitator units are usually very heavy. In the case of an industrial boiler, it can be as massive as a building with three floors. Pi Green has succeeded in decreasing the size of the precipitator to fit smaller requirements in diesel Gensets.
The retrofit device of the company is approximately one quarter the dimensions of diesel generators (usually about 40′ long eight feet wide and 14 feet tall). Since it’s filterless and therefore, the issue of changing filters every couple of months or over a period of time is not a problem.
Usually the filter is responsible for 40 percent of the total cost of the device. When a device is not filter-less it is possible to save this expense.
The carbon cutter is designed specifically for requirements of diesel Gensets. It makes use of the battery in the diesel genset to draw energy for electrostatic processes, with just one unit electricity over 10 hours.
Our product is between 20%-30 percent less expensive than competitors. It’s not just the price of the product, but it encompasses the total cost of ownership, too, says Shantanu.
Pi Green’s product has been awarded accolades and prizes by Smogathonin Poland in 2018. World Wildlife Federation in 2019 as well as Clean Air Challenge by UNDP in 2021.
The story of growth
The company began its first contract with a customer in the year 2020. It was able to fulfill its second order and also the largest one valued at around Rs 1.32 crore on December 31, 2021. Since its beginning, Pi Green has made more than 150 installations.
Presently, Pi Green has 70-80 customers, which include large OEMs ports, hospitals as well as clients from the manufacturing sector in India and around the world.
Pi Green says its revenue was 2 crore for FY2021 as it operated for just one month during the outbreak. In FY2022, the company’s revenue was 12 crore. In FY2022 the company plans to hit the 100-crore mark.
The startup currently serves Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Delhi-NCR. Maharashtra. It competes against companies like Chakr Innovation and Novorbis Itus.
The market for diesel generators in India is projected to grow at a rate of 9.4 percent to $1.8 billion in 2030, as per an study from P&S Intelligence Market Research.
When asked about the obstacles the company had to overcome, Irfan says, Everybody turned us down two or three years ago, telling us that they thought it (the product) isn’t feasible and that it wouldn’t perform.
Today, these companies are Pi Green’s clients or are in talks to become Pi Green’s customers. In the past, the issue was one of how long the company would survive and whether its product could succeed or not. Nowadays, the challenge is getting involved with the government.
Having an efficient and sustainable business model is just as crucial, says Shantanu.
The company is testing a prototype for large vehicles. It measures 3 feet by 1.5 feet and is placed beneath vehicles. The company is also developing an after-treatment system for industrial boilers, and is currently in talks with several municipal corporations about pilots on crematoriums.
Additionally, the company has been pursuing opportunities in markets outside of the United States that include Poland and Poland in Europe, Southeast Asia, as well as other regions of Asia.