To clean the air Pi Green’s retrofits with filterless technology will reduce emissions at point of origin

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Pi Green, a Pune-based company Pi Green is creating technology-driven solutions for reducing particulate matter produced by diesel generators.

As a toxic grey haze covers North Indian cities every year in November, the issue of air pollution becomes more obvious. The issue of advisories and the policies take effect.

To combat the emission levels that are high in the air and the smog, the Delhi government has banned the usage of diesel generator sets that are believed to be major contributors to pollutant emissions, starting from October 15 through March 15 in Delhi-NCR in accordance with the Graded Response Action Plan.

Pi Green Innovations, a Pune-based company Pi Green Innovations is working to resolve this problem through retrofits that reduce the dangerous exhaust emissions produced by diesel gensets.

“The issue we’re trying solve is particulate matter emissions at the source and the ambient air,” says Irfan Pathan Co-founder and CEO, Pi Green Innovations.

According the company, unlike other solutions that rely on filters or water-based products, Pi Green provides a filterless solution that does not require to replace filters.

The technology, licensed across more than thirty countries like the US and China, UK, European Union, China and Singapore was the idea by Rizwan Shaikh, who is the co-founder of the business.

Beginning to get going

The story began in the year 2016 when Rizwan and Irfan were at the event held in Pune.

Rizwan who was operating an AC servicing shop, developed a device that was housed inside a wooden box which , when attached to a motorbike turned the exhaust generated by the motor into powder. Irfan was present at the event to discuss his venture to make cold coffee and was shown a video of the nascent product that he was selling to investors.

Irfan was interested and believed it was a great decision to invest. A pitch to this event, was then followed by follow-up meeting at an McDonald’s outlet fifteen days after, for a discussion of hammering out the specifics. “We created an outline of the plan for business using McDonald’s tissues,” says Irfan.

Rizwan and Irfan decided that the project needed an investment of 15 lakh to 17 lakh. Irfan invested his own money into the venture.

But it wasn’t easy and the team failed several times before coming to a solution that was effective. They came up with 40 to 45 prototypes of various levels of efficiency before they finally achieved an improvement in particulate matter of more than 90% in the vehicle’s test in the last quarter of 2018.

Shantanu Sonaikar who had a business of corporate finance consultancy at the time, provided Irfan with advice during the early days of the business and its future growth plans–as Pi Green was involved in prototyping, pilots and validation, and then formed an organization. In the following years, Shantanu joined as a co-founder in the year 2018.

Shantanu says, “With Irfan and Rizwan for two or 3 years I became engrossed in the whole concept and the concept of Pi Green and what it offered to the market.”

At this point, Irfan had already put around Rs 1.5 crore to the business. However, Pi Green was still in need of capital in order to run and to submit patent applications. With a clear evidence of their idea, the three partners took the decision to raise funds from investors.

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In the year 2019 the trio incorporated the partnership into a separate company. In the same the year Pi Green raised a capital investment of $300,000. The money came by Harshal Morde, Director of Morde Foods. By 2021, the business was able to raise more than $4.5 million in the form of a Series A round, that was led by the investment firm Opus Consulting.

What is the process of the product?

Traditional solutions require a lot of operations and are costly, according to Irfan. Pi Green, he says it has attempted to tackle these issues with its device through design modifications.

Pi Green’s “carbon cutter” technology is based on the concept that an electrostatic precipitator is a type of device. It is used extensively for thermal power plant of firms like Forbes Marshall and Thermax.

The electrostatic precipitator utilizes the power of high-voltage to charge particle that are in gas streams. These charged particles referred to as smoke in this instance are attracted by electroplated plates, leading to soot. Moreover, relatively pure air is released (70-80 percent clean).

“The main problem with electrostatic precipitators is that it requires a lot of downtime for cleaning the plates, and there are operating expenses,” says Irfan.

To combat this, Pi Green patented a self-cleaning mechanism that is designed to be cleaner through design changes.

Electrostatic precipitator units are generally very large. If it is an industrial boiler it can be as large as a three-storey structure. Pi Green has succeeded in decreasing the size of the precipitator in smaller applications in diesel Gensets.

The company’s retrofit machine is around one quarter the dimensions that Diesel generators (usually about 40′ long eight feet wide and 14 feet tall). Because it’s not filtered and therefore, the issue of changing filters every couple of months or even a few years is not a problem.

Usually the filter makes up 40 percent of the total cost of the device. If the device is filter-free the cost can be reduced.

The carbon cutter is designed specifically for requirements of diesel Gensets. It makes use of the battery in the diesel genset to draw energy to run the electrostatic process making use of just one unit power in 10 hours.

“Our product is between 20%-30 percent cheaper than the competitors. This is not just the price of the product, but it encompasses the total cost of ownership too,” says Shantanu.

Pi Green’s solution has received accolades and prizes by Smogathon in Poland in 2018. World Wildlife Federation in 2019 in 2019 and Clean Air Challenge by UNDP in 2021.

The story of growth

The company began its first contract with a customer in the year 2020. The company received its second purchase as well as its biggest order valued at around Rs 1.32 crore at the end of December, 2021. Since its inception, Pi Green has made more than 150 installations.

Presently, Pi Green has 70-80 customers, which include large OEMs ports, hospitals as well as clients from the manufacturing sector in India as well as abroad.

Pi Green says its revenue was 2.35 crore during FY2021 as it operated for just one month during the outbreak. In FY2022, the company’s revenue was 12 crore. This year the company hopes to achieve a revenue of the 100-crore mark.

The startup currently serves Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Delhi-NCR. Maharashtra. It is in competition with firms like Chakr Innovation and Novorbis Itus.

The market for diesel generators in India is projected to expand at a rate of 9.4 percent to $1.8 billion by 2030, as per an study from P&S Intelligence Market Research.

Challenges

In discussing the difficulties the company faced, Irfan says, “Everybody turned us down two or three years ago and said they thought it (the product) was not feasible and wouldn’t perform.”

Today, these companies are Pi Green’s customers , or are in talks to become Pi Green’s clients. The initial challenge was one of existence and whether or not the solution would be successful or not. Now, it’s about getting involved with the government.

“Having an effective and viable business model that is sustainable is vital,” says Shantanu.

Other possibilities

The company is currently testing a prototype for large vehicles. Its dimensions are 3 feet by 1.5 feet and is installed beneath vehicles. The startup is also developing an after-treatment system for industrial boilers, and is currently in talks with several municipal corporations about pilots for crematoriums.

It is looking at possibilities in the international market that include Poland within Europe, Southeast Asia, and in other regions of Asia.

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