John Hoffmire: I remember when I first met you during your time as a fellow of the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP). You were so passionate about energy conservation and had recently cofounded SustLabs. Is SustLabs an energy saving or a data analytics company?
Kaushik: At the moment, we are primarily a consumer IoT company. We license the tech-stack to the global OEMs, telcos, utilities and others. We are able to talk about appliance level consumption without deploying additional sensors inside homes.
The larger story is about consumer-big-data analytics related to energy consumption. As we unlock the wealth of information that electricity supply carries, we are attempting to democratize this space by giving everyone more information.
Savings is a by-product when we front end the consumer IoT play. It was through ad-hoc arrangements we made during the COVID-19 lockdown that we are now in over 70 cities in India. Interestingly, users see our product, Ohm Assistant, as ‘FitBit’ for homes.
John: If you will, tell me more about how ‘FitBit’ for homes and SustLabs came about?
Kaushik: The ‘FitBit’ for homes was coined by one of the users in a society meeting where there were multiple existing users and potential customers.
During the lockdown, our licensee partners were not as agile and we decided to take our brand, Ohm Assistant, to the market. It is an internal client that consumes SustLabs’ SaaS offerings.
SustLabs was born out of a passive need that was evident in the market. The discovery happened while delivering energy efficiency projects for Sustainable Reference in commercial and industrial spaces. The possibility of creating impact at scale became evident while working with industry leaders at the World Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD). It was through them that I first understood the corporate innovation challenges of global OEMs around these issues.
SustLabs is designed to solve both these problems (scale and energy efficiency). To improve energy efficiency, the meter had to be end-user facing and not utility facing. Utilities can be one of the beneficiaries. And we had to deliver it via global companies to create genuine impact at scale.
John: Two years after launching SustLabs you came to Oxford for three months as a Chevening Scholar in the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP). What kind of impact did that program have on your career and/or the success of SustLabs?
Kaushik: The project gathered pace only after the fellowship program. We now have two advisors and three investors from the 2018 CRISP batch. Needless to say, there are many heads and helping hands from that program who are constantly assisting us at every stage.
My involvement with CRISP also triggered a chain of events that led to our firm being selected for Oracle Global Startup Ecosystem (2018), for CISCO-CIIE IoT Accelerator (2019), and for Google Launchpad (2020).
With all of this support, SustLabs has been able to partner and license out the tech-stack to multiple global meter manufacturers and utilities. Through this process, we have seen the user base growing beyond Mumbai since the autumn of 2020.
We have also saved 17.5% electricity on average – that is both an excellent return on investment and terrific in terms of energy conservation and emission avoidance. In fact, we featured in Mission Innovation 4 (created by the EU) amongst 100 top solution providers with potential high impact on CO2e emissions avoidance. Furthermore, our work related to this was presented by the 1.5C Compatible Solutions Framework at Mission Innovation’s ministerial meeting in Vancouver in May.
John: It’s been a pleasure to hear about the great work you are doing and to catch up. I wish you continued success in all of your endeavors.
Kaushik: It is my pleasure to be sharing this with you. I would sincerely like to thank Richard Briant, yourself, your families, St Cross College and the entire team for the opportunity to be part of CRISP. You were all instrumental in creating this launchpad for SustLabs. The program happened at the right time for me and I am grateful to have been able to participate.
Kaushik Bose is a co-founder and the CEO of SustLabs (an electricity big-data analytics company) and an alum of the Chevening Research, Science and Innovation Leadership Fellowship (CRISP) program at Oxford (2018)
Interviewer: Dr. John Hoffmire holds the Carmen Porco Chair in Sustainable Business at the Center on Business and Poverty, and is a Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Mutual and Co-owned Business
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