Debashis Basu
Time to Go Neutral

The Market is not headed down but has lost the will to go up              

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Towards Energy Saving
India’s need for power is huge and so is the demand for various products and small equipment used by power generation and distribution companies or others serving the power sector. Genus Power is an interesting story thriving in that niche segment – manufacturing and distributing electronic energy meters, power distribution management projects, hybrid microcircuits, inverters, batteries, home UPS and online UPS. Its customers are spread across telecom, industry, defence and the power sector. The key strength of Genus is the value addition it brings while making these products. In many of its products, there is a strong element of software, allowing it to provide additional features and, hence, are charged at a higher price. For instance, it has launched a smart streetlight management system which has an IT-enabled automatic online monitoring system with data analysis software. This system is far superior to the traditional manually-controlled system; it not only measures the electricity consumed but also controls the on/off timings with seasonal variations using the internal real-time clock of the meter and high-efficiency low-power-consuming latching relays.

The meter has also been integrated with GPRS modem so users can communicate and get information about loads, tampering and consumption patterns. The switching time can also be changed, by using GSM/GPRS communication modules, eliminating a major source of revenue loss to electricity boards due to improper switching of the streetlights. Another feature is that it can precisely calculate the time of switching lights on and off based on the exact sunrise/sunset timings on each day for the next 100 years at precise longitudes and latitudes. This feature, which maximises electricity savings, is based on astronomical algorithms.

Genus’s software design and application also integrates electric meters with data-monitoring software leading to a reduction of losses on transmission and distribution, which is of great value to power distribution companies. During the year, it developed a wireless automated meter solution in collaboration with Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd. The programme involves installing wireless power meters at the premises of its industrial consumers that will drastically bring down meter-reading costs as well as power theft; the process of manual meter reading would be eventually redundant. Another innovation has been a keypad-based pre-paid electricity meter which is better than the conventional plug-in type card-based pre-paid meters. These meters ensure advance revenue collection for utilities. The current government policies promote this concept, which means a large potential market in coming years. The product is getting international acceptance too and has been approved by Brazilian utilities. Another product innovation is a modem with a built-in isolated power supply used for data transfer for home automation, intelligent buildings, automatic meter-reading, remote display, fire and security alarm systems, etc.

On the power infrastructure services side, Genus offers turnkey solutions in areas like sub-station commissioning, transmission and distribution (getting preliminary design approved, procurement of accessories such as conductors, insulators and hardware accessories, construction, setting up transmission towers, civil work, laying of cables, installation of transformers). Genus hopes that if a part of the target of rural electrification under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana is met, it will mean large orders for years. This scheme targets to set up at least a 33/11KV substation, village electrification infrastructure with at least one distribution transformer in a village or hamlet, and standalone grids with generation, where grid supply is not feasible.

The demand for Genus’s products and services and its continuous innovation shows in its financial results. It ended 2007-08 with a 32% rise in turnover and 52% rise in operating profit. At the current price of Rs462.20, the market-cap is 9.52 times the operating profit and 1.53 times its operating revenues for 2007-08. A 20%-25% annual growth looks reasonable and, from that perspective, the stock is undervalued.

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7 Tips for Saving Energy
Increasingly, large parts of Germany (one-third, according to some reports), much of Scandinavia and rapidly growing areas in California will not be impacted by the rise in fuel prices. Countries like France and Japan are also rapidly doing away with dependency on petroleum products for power and transport. We are nowhere with actual implementation of alternatives. While foreign petroleum companies are rapidly changing into multi-energy entities, our oil companies still look at increased sales as their only barometers of growth. And so, if you are sensible, you come to one not-so-startling conclusion: steady fuel prices, in rupee terms, are simply not sustainable, and all of us need to get ready for massive increases, at some time or the other, in prices of everything – diesel, petrol, gas or kerosene. Even electricity at home. And everything else that depends on any form of power. So what do you need to start doing right away to keep costs down, as buying power also heads down simultaneously? Here are a few simple tips.

1. Buy a small battery-operated scooter, either to add to the existing petrol-operated two-wheeler or as a replacement. It costs around Rs22,000-Rs25,000 and, if you ride about 1,500km per month, you will easily recover the capital cost within 11-14 months. The recovery of capital cost is even faster – if you run a business of any sort, which requires home-delivery of small parcels or similar work, including office run-around. It doesn’t need registration and can be taken home for charging at residential electricity rates.

2. Line the ceiling of your car, the sun-facing windows, the roof of rooms where air-conditioners are used, with thermocol. At about Rs6-Rs10 per sheet, this is the most effective way of reducing power bills for cooling in summer, and heating in winters. These are available not just in white, but also translucent shades, for better natural light inside.

3. Consider taking the train, especially for routes that involve using toll roads and crossing state borders. Booking tickets over the Internet or using mobile phones is amazingly easy now – even up to a few hours before the train’s departure and en route reservations are managed with precision, which removes tension.

4. See how you can replace cooking gas with microwave as much as possible. I run a full kitchen in our company’s transit flats in Pune and Bangaluru without cooking gas and, barring rotis, we can cook almost everything including the most complicated of Indian recipes in a microwave oven with minimal cooking oil. The cost:benefits are almost 1:5, and the health benefits are immeasurable. No dealing with thieving gas agencies, either.

5. Walk about every now and then and switch off all stand-by power switches on things like televisions, ovens, microwaves, radios, stereos, etc. Just switching the television off at night, from the wall socket, will save you over Rs80 a month on your power bills. Your building society may not permit you to use the roof for solar solutions as yet, but you can certainly start by switching things off.

6. A decent solar-powered lamp, using LED bulbs, will cost you around Rs2,000, and will work on one day’s charge through three nights with light bright enough to study under. This means a monthly saving of about Rs150 per light. Assume you have three lights that need to be on through the night (staircase, bathroom and outside) and that’s a straight Rs400 saved per month. The replacement battery is nowadays the same as the one in your mobile phone, costs less than Rs150 and needs to be replaced after two-three years.

7. Keep air-filters clean in whichever utility it is fitted to; that can save around a third of costs. Cars, two-wheelers, air-conditioners, fridges – everything that draws air has a filter, which needs to be cleaned. In addition, keep tyre pressure to a couple of pounds more than suggested and see fuel economy go up, especially if you are in city-based, stop-go kind of fuel-sucking driving situation. Inflation is headed up and is no longer a number on a TV screen. It is a bigger hole in your bank balance as well as monthly spends. Saving and investing is one thing; managing expenses is another. Most of the solutions are already there. Reach for them.

[Veeresh Malik is founder/director of Pacific Shipping (1985) and Infonox Software (1999), and is very worried about rising costs impacting not just him, but his employees too.]

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