Tussle and Triumph in conversation with Kaustoov Gopal Goswami founder of Firolite Ltd, who has been working in renewable energy domain for almost over 5 years. Kaustoov co-founded Firolite along with Pankaj Chetia, who looks after business development and Girin who manages design and Technical aspects of FiroLite and has over 20 years of expertise in renewable energy domain
How did you get the idea of Firolite?
Everything started when I and Pankaj went on a trip to Longleng district of Nagaland just before the monsoon season of 2017. It’s a remote district of Nagaland surrounded by lush green hills and numerous waterfalls. Reaching Longleng through the lone broken road is a challenge not for the faint-hearted.We reached a small village call Sakshi under complete darkness.
Eventually, we came to know that the region is cut-off from the grid for months. We were shocked but they are used to it. Initially, we thought of offering a solar-powered system for lighting to them but due to low sunshine hours and the terrain solar is not a feasible option for them.
Then we look for a solution by using resources these local people have and we noticed that every household has a fire pit used for cooking with firewood and that was our eureka moment: How about converting Energy from Fire to Electricity. And thus a few months later FiroLite was born.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
In India alone, a quarter of a billion population still does not have access to electricity and interestingly 2/3 of the rural population still use firewood as the main source of energy for cooking. If you combine these two things together then with FiroLite with an investment of Rs. 2499/- every un-electrified household can now generate their own electricity and have a life after sunset. There are people who use to walk for miles just to recharge their mobile phones. We strongly believe that FiroLite can power a few LEDs but with that people will be empowered.
What is the uniqueness of your Startup?
We are providing every household a unique opportunity to generate electricity while cooking and if required store the same for future use. It can save thousands of litres of kerosene a year and can save millions.
How did you build your core team?
Girin Basumatary has been known us for almost 3 years now. After coming back from Longleng, I and Pankaj approached him for improving our initial design and concepts and within moments he was on board and took full responsibility for design and technical aspect of the Company. Thus we could build the core team at FiroLite. Now we have on-boarded two more friends namely Hemanga Das and Subhasish Phukan to the team
How did you finance your startup costs
We bootstrapped initially but now we are looking for seed capital so that we can ramp-up our capacities.
What is the revenue model?
We want to build a sustainable profitable social company. Therefore, our main objective is to empower rural population who still don’t have access or have very limited access to Electricity.
Our revenue model is simple. We will work with NGOs and Self Help Groups(SHGs) who can start a micro unit wherein we will produce FiroLite and then they will sell it to the local markets. This way we will have more penetration with minimum investment. As of now, we are in discussion with two NGOs working in the fringe areas of Manas National Park.
Another model that we are planning is to sell these units online to campers as FiroLite can be a very useful product for them. They can use FiroLite as portable power generator during camping.
Moreover, we are planning to discuss with microfinance companies for leveraging their channels for sales which will be mutually beneficial for both of us.
Who are your target consumers?
Our Target customers are segregated in three parts
1. Rural Population who don’t have access to Electricity.
2. Campers or outdoor enthusiasts.
3. Urban, Semi-urban food kiosk who need to pay per day for their electricity wherein their LGP stove keep burning all the time during business hours. So they can be energy independent with FiroLite.
How did you get your first customer?
We got our customers through exhibition and demonstration at their places/villages. But now we are planning a proper door to door camping in un-electrified areas throughout Assam.
What is the big picture of your startup?
As I said earlier it’s about 250million people in India whose life can be changed with FiroLite and moreover, it doesn’t create any extra pollution as it uses the waste energy from any Fire source and convert it to Electricity. The situation is even worst in countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh. In subsaharan Africa alone 600million people are living off the grid. With this device even if we can reach 10% of them it will be a big change in their lives and living standards.
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
We have received an SMS in the month of November from a girl studying in Guwahati thanking us because her parents could wish her on her birthday after a long time. Her parents were among the few families where we have given FiroLite for our field testing experiment. But that day we were overwhelmed with emotions. And I believe that is one of the biggest achievements for us to date.
Moreover, we are in the SmartFifty Top 400list and waiting for our finals, the event organized by IIM Calcutta Innovation Park in association with DST Govt of India. We are also assured of Incubation support from IIM Shillong and IPR support from ASTEC, Guwahati.”
What is your advice to upcoming startup founders?
Starting up is a never-ending journey. Every day one can learn and improve and that keeps a start-up going. It’s not easy for anyone to Startup in North East but slowly things are changing. The ecosystem is getting developed. So if someone has an idea one must work on it as soon as possible because even if you are not discussing with anyone someday or the other someone else will have the same idea and implement it before you. It’s NOT about the IDEA, it’s How You Implement IT.
Registered address/communication address
C/O Purbanchal Enterprise, Beltola Bazaar Road, Beltola, Guwahati-28