The IoT communications and data analytics startup Probus Smart Solutions has secured a $500,000 bridge funding round led by Unicorn India Ventures, the company’s founder said. The startup focuses on minimising power wastage through a communication grid connecting electricity metres in the country.
The round also saw participation from angel investors such as Anuj Khanna of Trimaster, Kiran Alla, Theia Ventures, Devdutt Shah, Kuntesh Chandaria, Urmin Group and Anmol Rastogi.
The funds raised will primarily be used for fulfilling current orders, scale-up team and operations in India and abroad, according to the startup.
Founded in 2017 by Anand Singh and Ankit Vaish, Delhi NCR-born Probus is an integrated IoT platform-based service for distribution grid monitoring and automation.
In simple terms, it helps develop smart metres to track electricity distribution and wastage.
“We were keen on connecting with investors who understood the specifics of how our solution works right from the early stage and we are glad that Anil’s team (Unicorn India Ventures) showed immediate interest and understanding of our technology offering,” said Singh while speaking to Inc42 about the investment.
The funding comes at a time when India’s transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in the power sector are “substantial,” and are very high compared to peer nations, flagged in the Economic Survey for 2020-21.
The T&D losses represent the electricity that is generated but does not reach intended customers. India’s T&D losses have been over 20% of generation, which is more than twice the world average of 6-8%.
The majority of this loss happens in the distribution grid where AT&C (aggregate, commercial and technical) losses.
This is the segment that Probus aimed to target through smart metre technologies.
How Probus Works
The startup has partnered with the Indian power infrastructure companies such as Tata Power and Adani Electricity for providing end-to-end communications and meter data analytics, to enable efficient distribution of electricity along with quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances.
Probus introduced its radio frequency (RF) metering solutions in 2021. It develops integrated hardware and software solutions for utility companies and helps digitise their distribution grid to have clear visibility of their network through Probus’ integrated end to end IoT platform.
Probus further helps reduce the operations and management costs for utilities. This ultimately reduces power costs for consumers.
The startup helps metre manufacturers and utilities to form their native communication networks by providing them with RF cards with which they manufacture smart metres.
The company is not profitable yet but claims to be growing 10x in terms of new business and expects to be profitable by FY22.
Probus earns licensing revenue from smart metre manufacturers for designing and manufacturing using its technology.
“We are trying to build an Indian communications network. In the next three-four years, we want to lead the deployment of AI in the power distribution grid and we hope to be instrumental in helping create a strong data analytics base for power management systems in India,” Singh added.
Besides Tata and Adani, it is also working with system integrators like Cisco to take its smart grid solutions to global clients. It currently works with a team of 21 people, including technicians.
Unicorn India Ventures’ (UIV) Focus On Energy Sector
This is Unicorn’s second investment in Probus. Last year, the Fund invested as the first early-stage institutional investor in the company.
Unicorn believes that Probus business model and the market opportunity they are addressing has a disruptive potential, as few other companies in the country are looking at the utility segment and offering IoT-led solutions.
It took UIV two years of research to zero in on Probus as an investee and is seeking more startups in a similar space.
“We will certainly not get into the (energy) generation stage. We do not want to get into thermal, or nuclear, or wind or solar. As a fund, we would be interested in technology that helps improve the delivery part,” Anil Joshi, managing partner, Unicorn India Ventures told Inc42, highlighting the fund’s interest in funding similar startups.
“And for those technologies, we will continue to scout for new and good opportunities and will continue to satisfy the role of an investor,” Joshi added.
Indian Startups In The Energy Efficiency Segment
Startups involved in emerging technology spaces such as clean energy and EVs, drones, blockchain, AI and machine learning, among other things, are expected to play an important role in India’s smart cities of the future.
Some of these startups include independent power producer of renewable energy ReNew Power, Gurugram-based Internet of Things (IoT) focused enterprise Zenatix, which was acquired by Hero Electronix in 2018 and Bengaluru-based smart building solution provider 75F.
In March, energy-efficiency-as-a-service startup Smart Joules raised $4.1 Mn in its Series A funding round from various investors, namely ADB Ventures, the venture arm of Asian Development Bank (ADB), Sangam Ventures, Max I. Limited, among others.
“On one hand, the Indian government is pushing for 250 Mn smart metres by 2022. With the advent of EVs and electric charging, we see that for the next 20-25 years this will be a very big and scalable problem to solve,” added Singh.
Other startups with similar technology offerings include IoT startup Ecolibrium Labs funded by JLL Technology Ventures, and smart water management startup Faclon Labs. Tata Communications also has offerings in smart metre solutions.