Solar gadget market yet to pick up in India

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The future generation of gadgets will mostly comprise those powered by the solar energy. Depleting non-renewable energy resources, rising electricity bill and increasing awareness about green energy sources, have prompted people to adopt technologies to harness the abundantly available solar energy. It is clean, reliable and safe and if used skillfully, can reduce our dependency on conventional form of energy and save money as well as environment.

By Himanshu Yadav

Saturday, April 17, 2010: Today, there is a wide range of solar devices available in the market including solar mobile phones, solar chargers, solar shaver, solar candles, solar lamps, solar headphones, solar exhaust fans, solar heating devices, solar energy saver etc.

Demand of solar products in India

Unlike developed nations like USA, China, Germany, Spain and Australia, where people are aware about the benefits of using solar energy and have significant market for solar powered gadgets, in India the situation is different. While the industry feels that there is immense potential for these gadgets in India, certain hurdles prevent the rise in their demand.

Environmental awareness is a prime factor fueling the demand of solar gadgets, however, in India this awareness is not as high as it should be. As 70 per cent of India lives in villages with very poor or no electricity supply, availability of 300 sunny days in a year can be a boon for rural India. As Rahul Soni, director, Radha Solar, puts it, “Solar products can cater to both rural and urban areas but rural areas can draw more benefits by using them. They can charge their gadgets through natural charger, that is sun, rather than depend on power supply.”

According to Soni, who is in solar business for the last 10 years, the demand for solar gadgets has increased in the past two to three years and the solar market has gained some momentum. “During the last quarter we have noticed a 25 to 30 per cent rise in sales. However, this demand has mostly come from small scale industries and villages.”  But Yogi Tripathi, proprietor, Solar Store, feels that although the market potential for solar products is huge, availability of coal generated electricity at

Rs 2.80/Kwh is the biggest hindrance for selling solar generated electricity that costs Rs 15/Kwh. It implies that when it comes to spending money, people prefer to save rather than care for the environment.  Presently, the retail demand for solar gadgets is in the small product range like solar torch, solar radio and solar mobile chargers. These cover 99 per cent of the demand for solar products, of which 60-70 per cent comes from the urban market because usually rural markets lack funds for advertisements and the purchasing power of the people is also low. Besides, people avoid spending as much as Rs 1 lakh on solar products. So far as the urban market is concerned, using solar energy has not become fashionable enough so as to make people spend Rs 1 lakh as a style quotient, shares Tripathi.

None manufactured in India

Like any other electronics manufacturing sector, manufacturers of solar products also depend on countries like China and Taiwan for imports. The products are cheap as well as meet the user requirements. As Tripathi shares, “Unfortunately, India specialises in services or labour oriented jobs. As manufacturing requires huge capital, it is tough to start manufacturing in India considering high capital cost of around 18-24 per cent per annum and end number of taxes and permissions required to set up a manufacturing unit, marketing and providing after sales service.”

China or Taiwan, on the other hand, are hubs of manufacturing. Even torch and radio manufacturing that used to happen in India has seized in recent years. Indian manufacturers find it tough to survive against the heavy inflow of cheap and mass manufactured products from these countries. “Also, India till date has no silicon refining plant, which is the basic material used for manufacturing solar panels, glass, silver ribbon and other components. Hence, we end up importing these components,” adds Tripathi. However, Atul Nahar, director, Aura Emergency, feels that the Indian solar products have longer life span and high reliability, which may give domestic solar manufacturers a competitive edge in future when our dependence on imports is over.

Latest market trends

The Indian solar gadget market is still in a nascent stage and not in a position to bring out innovative products every now and then. Solar gadgets may not be as sleek or stylish as other tech gadgets and in terms of price appear bit costly at the initial stage.

Says Tripathi, “Solar is still an evolving market in India. People hardly plan or purchase any solar product. But in a country as big and as diverse as India, anything can be sold provided one reaches the right customers.”

Mostly, these gadgets are sold in retail shops, but there are very few dedicated stores like Aditya Solar or Solar Store for selling solar powered products. According to Soni, awareness about solar products in India can be attributed to factors like lack of marketing initiatives, less visibility, and high cost of products. These factors are also blocking their wide acceptance. The market is not yet developed that shopkeepers or retailers can survive only on solar product sales. Hence, most people engaged in solar business have to look for other business avenues as well.

Praveen Kumar Sood, managing director, Regnant Energy Solutions, shares, “We started with solar geyser, but today China has solar geyser in every home, but we don’t. In a city like Delhi, one cannot find a store which only sells solar appliances or help users to choose the applications best suited for their needs. In order to penetrate and achieve a market share, we need to understand the problem areas first and then devise strategies and develop a team work to get equally competitive in this space like our neighbouring nation.”

Tripathi adds, “Price is the most dominating factor for selling anything in India. Prices of solar energy products need to be brought down. Purchasing power in India needs to be increased and subsidies on coal, LPG and petroleum need to be done away with if the market for solar products have to flourish.”

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine


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