Getting started post lock down is no easy task , for all of us the challenge is to get restarted while the Pandemic is on. At Nova when we had the task of restarting as an essential service we were not prepared for most of the issues that came up .Putting a small team together to get started almost seemed like an impossible dream . However we quickly adapted and figured out the way forward .
Accepting The Reality
The biggest mistake everyone is making is to prepare to get back to office post lock down. The approach should be to get back to work with the Pandemic around . This Pandemic will remain with us for a few months and we have to get back to our work . The office is a physical place that you may not have access to
At Nova we were cloud enabled and that helped our team to restart all back end operations seamlessly . For most of us who have never given importance to technology for business , this will be a difficult task that needs a quick focus and has to be implemented with speed . Technology for your business is the new real estate . You need a tech enabled business and the cost for the same needs to be replaced with the cost of your real estate ( your office) . Adoption of technology during the pandemic seems like trying to change the tires of your car while its still running . Almost a crazy idea . Then a video like this Changing Tires While Driving , forces you to believe that, out of the box approach and adapting to the situation at a fast pace is the need of the hour. My earlier webinar Work From Home has all the details of the technology that can be adopted by HVACnR dealers .
While you may adopt technology , its also important to understand the difficulties people go through these times . Everyone needs to be dealt with compassion , to help them overcome their fear . The other difficulties people will face is on working from home . We need to empathize with their situation and have a plan on handling the issues at being at home and handling work . In an Indian scenario the family needs to get used to the idea of whats the work discipline that need to be followed , where there is no separate study room and you need to be at work with the rest of the family .
Before the pandemic the easiest way to get anyone to work is to have a standard carrot and stick method . If you get to work you get paid , if your work harder you get paid more and if you don’t work or under perform you are asked to leave . How does that work when its compared to risking your own personal life? What can be so compelling that your team is ready to risk their life and get back to work . Finding a purpose for the team that’s compelling enough is important to get back to work . At Nova we found our sole purpose to get to work was to save every job in our company . We now wanted to get to work for the larger interest of our community . Nova Heroes was a 2 minute video that summed up all our feelings and encouraged us to get to work .
This is a time when you cannot be an owner , a head of department or a Manager . This is the time to introspect weather you have the leadership quality to put this dream team together . Its possible that you may figure out that you have the qualities of a great cricketer like Sachin Tendular , one who is an important member of the team but not good enough to captain the team . The task then is to find the Captain for your dream team and help him build the team .
Webinar on Building a Dream Team during COVID Crisis
I have been playing sports from school, always a below average sportsman with no serious commitment, the purpose of continuing sports was always from the spirit of fitness. Over the years I played Football, Squash, Badminton and regular morning walks. However I have never stuck to one sport and would loose interest, primarily because I did not excel in the game. This changed when I took to running, its been over two years and I look forward to my training and the upcoming marathons. This got me wondering, whats in running that got my commitment. My thoughts lead to this conclusion that there are lots of common areas between my running and my business. Since entrepreneurship was so well ingrained in my thoughts, that could have been the only reason that I took to running with so much commitment.
Setting the Vision and Mission
At work my Vision is to build the largest air conditioning services technology platform in the world and in the process our mission is to transform the lives of small businesses in this space, generate jobs for technicians. At Running my vision is to run every big marathon in the world and the mission is to stay healthy and age gracefully.
A business to get started beyond an idea needs two important components, a good team and good co founders. My business scaled and grew because of a super team that we built in Nova, this team takes care of over 25000 customers in our portfolio managing over 250 calls a day. An elaborate process of providing consistent and reliable air conditioning solutions. My Startup Pureblu was born out of this domain experience and all I needed was to bring on board a like minded co-founder Manish Jain. Running was no different for me to get started, a community of runners – CCI –Striders, which I was part of made all the difference. These are people who are there with you all through your training and in the journey of you achieving your Vision and Mission . All through this, I found my core group in the running community in Vikram and Nikhil who shared my plan of consistently improving and going around the world doing various Marathons.
Benchmarking against your personal best
In business and in any sport there is enough enterprises and people to compete with, but nothing replaces the fun of competing against yourself. In business every year after year its all about evaluating your performance with the previous year, you want to keep an eye on the top line and the bottom line, its no different in running, its all about the distance you have covered and the pace you have maintained. You are constantly trying to improve on your personal bests.
Discipline and the price you pay
While in business or in running the most common factor is discipline. You have to stay put on your plans and make it happen. Your commitment to achieve this will always come at a price. Most often though its your family and friends who will be most affected, You will miss time being around your family and friends, they will end up making lots of changes to accommodate you. Every time you will be challenged in taking these calls as it comes along , one day at a time . Its a delicate balance about managing your time between your passion and spending time with family and friends.
Running a small and medium sized enterprise business especially in the field of air conditioning has never been easy . The challenges are around Cash flow , attracting and retaining dependable human resources , managing compliance , managing principals and managing competition . All of these challenges comes in the way of an entrepreneur from growing this business .
The No.1 requirement for India is to create jobs for the ever growing pool of youngsters getting ready to be employed . The MSME’s in India are the largest employers and the largest job creators . They provide jobs for highly skilled , semi skilled and unskilled workforce . The Air conditioning and refrigeration trade is one of the biggest job creators , in a trade that is fast growing . The MSME’s not wanting to grow their business is not a good sign when it comes to the task of creating jobs and that is a concern .
So what is it that motivates a handful of them to want to grow , scale up and explore disruptive ideas . The only think that keeps them from doing this is their love for the business. Some of these entrepreneurs have Fallen in Love with the business of air conditioning and refrigeration , they don’t see any of these challenges , for them each of these are opportunities to solve , fix and scale up their business . RATA Day / Refrigeration and Air conditioning Day of India is celebrated in February every year , the day celebrates the spirit of these entrepreneurs who love this business . They have given up the idea of competing with each other and are discovering a whole new way of scaling up their business , collaborating with each other.
Air conditioning and Refrigeration are equipment that require service support and constant maintenance to ensure reduced energy consumption and the the longer life of the equipment . The entire services sector is managed by micro , small and medium enterprises . These enterprises could never afford advanced technology to increase their efficiency , reduce operational costs , increase profits and scale up their business . That is all set to change with Pureblu – http://www.pureblu.in .
Pureblu is a cloud based solution that helps air conditioning , ventilation and refrigeration service providers manage their business seamlessly at a very low cost . The services ecosystem has three pain points – The Customer Experience , The Spares Availability and The Technician Training . Pureblu is building the service ecosystem in the following manner :
The Customer Experience
As described in the presentation above , IoT (Internet of Things ) devices would be installed in existing machines and the new machines would be wifi enabled . These IoT devices would communicate with the Pureblu platform . Everytime there is an issue with the equipment the devices would send out the self diagnostic error code to the Pureblu platform through wifi or a GSM Sim and a complaint / trouble ticket will be generated on the dashboard . Pureblu would then identify the right technician based on the right skill required , and his current location ,and allocate the service call immediately to a technician . All of this can also be done manually from the back end coordinators . While this is being done customers are notified as to when the technician will be expected to fix the issue , and a digital service report is generated when the problem is fixed . Customers can be intimated by various modes through Emails , SMS or Whatsapp messages . Smart AMC is a service that has been launched where a customer can get daily updates of his energy consumption , a free service with the AMC of the equipment . This helps users save energy . With 60% of the commercial and residential energy utilization being HVACnR equipment , any saving will be a huge saving . Bureau of Energy Efficiency has mandated star rating to ensure energy saving . IoT devoices will empower the users to monitor this energy efficiency through the life cycle of the equipment . This method widely enhances the customer experience as he now does not have to search for a reliable authorized service provide nor does he have to coordinate with any back office staff to ensure dependable services in case of any equipment failure .
Spares Availability – Online Market Place for Service Providers .
Spare part availability is one of the critical components of ensuring service response is quick and the equipment downtime is the shortest . Consider the age , types , and the multiple brands , its a difficult task to procure the relevant spares of the machine at the cheapest rate . When a machine complaint is logged into the system the technician takes a photo of the spare part that has to be replaced . Image recognition will identify the spare part number of the specific brand and model number and make it available to the service provider as and when required . OEM and spares suppliers can log into the platform and update the spares availability in the inventory module . Service Provider can now procure spares from anywhere in the country , Just In Time . OEM can reduce their spares inventory costs and common spares between brands can be procured by service provides directly from the spare part manufacturers . The spares marketplace will now encourage lots of small enterprises to get into component manufacturing for HVACnR systems based on the consumption analytics and easy access to the market .
Technician training has been an expensive and inefficient all across the HVACnR industry . The products from various brands and the different types equipment , different compressor , multiple refrigerants and proprietary communication protocols make training a large pool of technician talent an expensive proposition . Moreover India does not have a technician certification program . There have been number of cases where equipment have been damaged by untrained technicians . Safety has also been a concern of the industry which has been lax due to the lack of training and certification . Pureblu has an innovative method to fix this problem . A digital library carries data of various relevant service manuals and training videos which manufacturers can upload directly of their products . Every time a complaint is created of a specific product the relevant service manual and video is sent to the technician app along with every complaint . Now the training is on the job and continuous . Based on the analytics of the technician accessing these videos and the kind of work being done satisfactorily , technicians skill can be constantly analysed and he can be certified to the correct level of his knowledge . This is inexpensive , efficient and continuous learning .
The HVACnR Industry is set to grow 8 times in the next two decades in India , companies that adopt Smart Technology for their business would stand to benefit the maximum from the growth the industry offers .
Air conditioners require regular maintenance and when they breakdown the cost of fixing the same can be expensive. an Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) is low cost method to ensure efficiency and durability of your air conditioning systems . While in an AMC its the service companies responsibility to keep the machine in good conditions to ensure there are minimal breakdowns . More the number of breakdowns the service provider would loose money in the AMC . The AMC business is more like an insurance business . Where a small premium is taken and the failure costs are covered over by a large number of air conditioning systems under the service providers maintenance contract . An AMC are of two types Ordinary and Comprehensive .
Ordinary AMC would only cover the cost of regular maintenance and there are no charges for visit whenever there is an problem with the air conditioning system . However every time there is a spare part that needs a replacement there would be a charge and the labor costs around the replacement of that part would be at a discounted price . This AMC is recommended for new machines where the unit is not frequently used ideally in residential applications .
Comprehensive AMC is more like an extended warranty and would cover all the spares as part of the AMC .In most cases the comprehensive AMC will have options to exclude some parts especially if those parts are covered under warranty by the manufacturer . This is applicable when the manufacturer gives 5/10 years warranty on the compressor . The comprehensive AMC also covers workmanship of the installer . So should there be a leak in the system this AMC would also cover the costs in recharging the refrigerant and identifying and fixing the system leak . In some cases where the equipments are installed in highly corrosive environment like sea front , industrial areas the condenser is not included or in most cases the service provider would refuse to take a comprehensive AMC .
In all kinds of AMC plastic parts are never included in the AMC . These include remotes and other parts like grills . So if a remote is broken by dropping it on the floor you would have to pay to get it replaced . In a way it only goes to explain that any part that cannot be maintained by the service provider to avoid breakdowns is not included in the AMC .
Smart AMC – The Future is Here.
An AMC can ensure good maintenance of your airconditioning system and lower energy consumption , however the biggest energy saving is in empowering the user with information that can help him decide how to use the airconditioning system efficiently . Consider a restaurant , the single largest monthly expense is electricity consumption bills . If the restaurant Manager is informed of this hourly energy consumption of the previous day he can take immediate actions . A simple analysis that his energy consumption between 12 noon to 3pm and 3pm to 6pm will get him thinking on the number of tables occupied during these time slots . In most cases the 3pm to 6pm slots have low occupancy and the restaurant could consider keeping the restaurant shut during this time . This could vary depending on the kind of the restaurant like fine dining or fast food , the manager is now empowered to take informed decisions and increase his profitability . Similar analysis can be done for various applications like Hospitals , Hotels , Malls , Commercial offices , Residences . Commercial offices consume energy into late nights when only a few of the staff decide to stay back and work late . With this daily report the admin team can decide if its worth keeping the office open after working hours or insist on the late workers to work from their homes or only a small section of the office is kept open for late working .
Smart AMC with daily updates of energy consumption is being launched by companies like Pureblu . This product is a game changer for the industry where companies only have to take an AMC for their airconditioning systems and also get daily energy consumption of their premises . Aggregators like Pureblu will eventually become national service providers and offer customers one stop airconditioning services for all their locations across India . This is a definitive gamechanger when you have the best service providers across India on the platform who are constantly monitored for their service delivery performance using technology , while the customer has live information on the status of his services and the energy consumption .
A Smart AMC is easy to activate . Once you have signed up for an AMC with Pureblu, they will install an IoT (Internet of Things) device in your metering box where the main power input is and the device will transmit live data to the Pureblu platform through your office WiFi or a GSM chip. The platform collates all these data and sends you an email the next day on the pattern of your energy consumption. Smart AMC will ensure efficient dependable air conditioning services and information on a daily basis to decide where and when to save on your electricity bills .
IoT devices installed in the premises is collecting data of the energy consumption and the equipment that is using the energy on a regular basis . Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning will use all these data and the day is not far when the Pureblu platform would give predictive analysis of failure . Imagine having an AMC for your airconditioning systems where the failure could be reduced by more than half the current averages . It could be a game changer in efficient use of air conditioning systems .
Choosing a good AMC service provider
AMC is like an insurance business , so any provider who has a large amount of machines under its AMC is the most stable provider when it comes to absorbing the costs of breakdowns in the air conditioning systems . Airconditioning is a seasonal business and the service loads go multiple times especially during the summer , the service provider that you choose should have the infrastructure and be organised in his service approach to cater to these demands . Pureblu is a software that most organised service providers use to run their services business . A Smart AMC with Pureblu ensures that you have reliable service providers who manage your airconditioning systems at various locations .
Running an enterprise was never easy and it comes with its own challenges , So when ASCENT and Mariwala Health Initiative set out to survey mental health of entrepreneurs, it sounded exciting . It’s that one opportunity for every entrepreneur to understand the common stress areas. To any entrepreneur , knowing these would help him understand his ecosystem better, and reach out for help when in need . This all seemed exciting till ASCENT asked me to share my story while launching their report . Who would want to go up on stage in front of 700 other entrepreneurs at the ASCENT Conclave . Our sob stories are very private , Its always been our vulnerable areas and a battle that we choose to fight on our own , and in private . On second thoughts , what the heck , someone’s got to bell the cat , so I took the leap of faith to share my story .
Post my sharing at the conclave , I just had to stand in one corner and all through the day . I would have people reaching out to chat with me . I have been at networking events and realise the time it takes to break the ice with a stranger . That day was different , people would walk up to me share their business card and instantly get into sharing their difficult times and how they struggled to cope with it . It only lead to a realisation that ASCENT had touched a very important nerve in the entrepreneur ecosystem . This was here to stay and would go a long way in helping every entrepreneur tide through difficult times .
Our family business Nova is over 45 years old and among the oldest air conditioning companies in India. When I joined the business 20 years ago , we sensed an opportunity and decided to scale up the business . We reached out to a very large multinational company with an offer to help them access the Indian market. They said the market wasn’t ready for their premium products . We took a chance , went by our entrepreneurial gut and sent in advance payments asking them to send in a container for test marketing . Starting from that day over the next ten years. we went on to build a large enterprise with 300 employees and, 13 offices across India . We had established a global air conditioning brand that did not exist in India . It was then that the MNC decided that they would set up a subsidiary in India and would manage the market themselves . To put it more bluntly , we were no longer required . We were stranded with large unsold stocks , debts to be repaid to our bankers and employees who we could no more afford . Our lives fell apart . This is when my Trust Group at ASCENT foundation came as a safe bouncing board , to get a perspective of the situation . Over the next few years we broke the problem down in three parts .
Part 1 – Not Going Bankrupt
I was fortunate to have family and friends who helped me with this , We bought time from everyone , the bankers and the MNC. to set our house in order in the new changed environment . We reached out to as many people as possible to clear stocks. The only focus was to cut all costs . We reached out to all employees, individually informing them of the situation and with a hope to help them find a job quickly before their services were discontinued . All Regional offices and warehouses were shut down . We reached out to every other competing company in our space to help get placements for our employees . This became the most stressful , most of them had stayed from inception and helped build the business . Some of them had been poached by the MNC who had set up the direct operations . We still needed people to clear our existing stocks , knowing that they would not continue in the organisation . Only a handful of them stayed till the very end till we completely wound up the operations . A saga that lasted almost two years , handling one day at a time .
Part 2 : Alternative Business to Survive
During those two years it was important to keep our lives and costs going , The need was to get going with a business that would start an income enough to sustain with very minimal capital requirement . A separate company with its own small working capital became the focus area to build on our Solutions business only in Mumbai our home ground . The only additional resource required was for me to get to the front line to make sure you got the next order and took care of customers directly ,ensured payments were collected and cash flow monitored on a daily basis . The cost of operations was kept to its minimal to only what was required . The Projects/ Solutions business eventually grew in five years to become our lifeline business even for our services revenue .
Three years post this incident, we have revived our business , our debts cleared all our ex-employees well placed within the industry and we were profitable again . I now set my mind on how do we get going again with scaling up . Having been through this downside , this wasn’t as easy as I thought. For now ,everyone who cared for me had only one piece of advice , you have done well and be happy with what you have and there’s no need to go the big scaling up path again . I have always held the belief that there are two kinds of entrepreneurs, those who are self- employed, and those who are in business . The self employed are those who build successful and profitable companies , become employees to their own companies and get into their comfort zones . The ones that do business fix one problem after another and get paid for it , and in the process create large enterprises and wealth . It did not take me long to understand where my calling was and I set out to identify the next problem to solve in the domain that I understood so well . I went back to everything that the air conditioning industry did to manage the business and listed down all the inefficiencies and thought through a plan on how to do it better and at a lower cost . That lead to me starting my new tech venture Pureblu with my co founder Manish Jain . Pureblu is a Software as a Service (SaaS) for air conditioning dealers to run their services business efficiently and at a very low cost , thereby increasing their profits . For our SaaS users , Pureblu becomes a lead generation platform , using IoT devices (Internet of Things ) offering Smart AMC and Cooling as a Service (CaaS) to its customers . At Pureblu which is gradually , scaling up we are asking , if air conditioning is not a luxury and is a necessity because it increases productivity and takes care of health , then why is it that only 8% of the population of a tropical country like India can afford to have air conditioning ? . Pureblu aims to make air conditioning accessible to over 45% of Indians .
Preventive services for air-conditioning equipment primarily mean that you clean the coils of the air-conditioners . The clear benefit for the same is energy efficiency . The power consumption of your air-conditioner goes down when the coils are kept clean . Lets understand how this works. The preventive services are done in various ways based on the specific requirement of the machines .
This preventive service is done on a regular basis to remove the dust from the indoor and outdoor unit . The dry blower is used on the coils which blows the dust out of the coils . This improves the heat exchange and post service reduces the electricitry consumption . However this service does not remove the hard dirt that may continue to remain stuck in the fins of the coil .
Wet Service using a Jacket
The wet service is done when the machines are extremely dirty with hard solidifed dirt , the jacket around the unit ensures that the machines does not have to be removed and the servicing can be carried out without dirtying the space around the machine .This is an ideal way to clean the machines and ensure that the air conditioner remains clean and the energy consumption does not increase .
Brought Down Service
Often the machines are installed in a place where the coils are extremely dirty and cannot be serviced at site . This is when the machines has to be uninstalled transported to a service center and the the coils are seperated from the machine and jet spray is used to clean the coils. post the clean up the units are assembled back again and the machine is reinstalled .
Inefficiency in Preventive Service
There is no way to understand when a machine needs servicing and every company plans a preventive service based on a time duration like once in every quarter . This is inefficient as sometimes the machines needs preventive service more than once a quarter and some of them don’t need service even once in a quarter . This leads to unnecessary opening of machines that do not require servicing and waste of energy because machines that require frequent servicing cannot be done until the scheduled date .
Manufacturers Proposition to Solve this issue
Most manufacturers are building a self cleaning feature which is robotic device in front of the indoor coil , it takes the water from the drain and sprays it back on the indoor unit filter to remove the dirt . However this system fails to remove the hard dirt within the fins of the air-conditioning coils . In India the dusty and humid environment always creates hard dirt on the indoor and outdoor units of air-conditioners and that creates energy inefficiency in air-conditioners .
How to solve this issue in the future
In the future IoT devices in the air-conditioners could sense the rise in electricity consumption and the airflow at the coil . If the airflow is decreasing at the indoor unit and the the energy consumption is increasing rapidly from the manufacturers prescribed rating or the certified BEE energy label, then the device could send out a preventive service signal to a platform like Pureblu that self generates a trouble ticket and allocates a technician to have the preventive service done . This will ensure max energy efficiency and optimum utilisation of the technical manpower , Its not too long before this will become a reality .