Cloud For Startups: Building a sustainable cloud-based business

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March 18, 2021 3:00 AM

SUN Mobility and Karo Sambhav are among the many startups that have built their digital platforms on Microsoft Azure for their sustainability-themed business models

Chetan Maini, Co-founder & Vice Chairman, SUN MobilityChetan Maini, Co-founder & Vice Chairman, SUN Mobility

Cloud computing is an important bootstrapping mechanism for startups, and all the more true for those built around the theme of sustainability. In the arduous climb to the big billions—both in terms of revenue and customers—a foundation of solid technology architecture that can scale up to meet increased workloads and demands is essential. Bengaluru-based battery-as-a-service startup SUN Mobility is tackling reservations about recharging times and range limits of electric vehicles with the help of data, analytics and cloud computing. Applying the idea of shared economy to the battery ecosystem, it has developed a pay-as-you-go battery as a service system that is run on a digital platform built on Microsoft Azure.

“We realised how battery swapping technology could potentially turbocharge EV sales in India. To foster EV adoption among the masses, we developed the Azure-enabled ‘Pay-as-you-go’ system for battery usage which offers an extremely convenient way to recharge EVs. Using Azure IoT Hub, we were able to seamlessly connect the batteries, the stations, and customers together on an IoT platform and leverage the data in a way that helps us not only optimise the system but understand what the customers are looking for,” says SUN Mobility co-founder and vice chairman Chetan Maini.

Over 150 data points come into the system from each battery. With that amount of inbound data, it gets consumer insights such as, battery utilisation, most frequented routes, and peak hours. The platform’s AI and machine learning algorithms also helps SUN Mobility predict the potential demand for swapping batteries. It can not only optimise its existing network of battery swapping stations, but also plan the location, and feasibility of future stations. Using the platform, it has trained hundreds of EV owners to get more range out of their batteries by tweaking the way they drive, says Maini.

SUN Mobility isn’t the only one using Microsoft Azure to build up its business model. There are many startups which have developed groundbreaking solutions on Microsoft Azure, starting from the ones that the tech major engages with as part of Microsoft for Startups to the ones which have now become its ISV partners, and even unicorns. Another startup, Karo Sambhav, is aiming to create a circular economy within the e-waste management ecosystem with the help of new digital solutions. When a team collects a waste shipment from an aggregator, its members upload photographs and details into an app. This information is hosted securely on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. Every item is accounted for—in transit— through barcoding, and once back in office, image recognition using Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services help compare and validate details in the aggregator’s bill with what had been loaded on the truck. The logistics trucks are GPS-enabled so the onward journey to recyclers can be tracked. Being on a secure cloud platform, every piece of scrap can be tracked—from pickup to responsible recycling.

Pranshu Singhal, founder, Karo Sambhav, says Microsoft Azure has helped build transparency into each step of Karo Sambhav’s operations. “As Karo Sambhav is in a compliance business, it’s important to analyse both printed and handwritten documents to co-relate the consistency and data accuracy in different documents. Using Azure Computer Vision (OCR), Karo Sambhav is able to alert the end-users in real time the inaccurate data in documents. This has reduced our error rate to almost negligible,” he says.

The rise of data science and machine learning means startups are increasingly relying on these technologies to take decisions. The ever-increasing number of smartphones and mobile devices that can access the internet further fuels the surge in adoption of cloud services. All of these require young startups to have a sound cloud strategy. Through the Microsoft for Startups programme, Microsoft supports startups to not just build their solutions on Azure but also by providing $25,000-$120,000 worth of Azure credits. Microsoft Azure provides startups the cloud services, developer tools, scale, and security they need to build their solution and grow fast.

Leveraging Microsoft’s technology, Sun Mobility today has a universal EV infrastructure comprising 50 battery swapping stations spread across 14 cities. “We are looking at enhanced security, working to see if there are platform plays around fleet and energy managements, and trying to understand how to integrate financing in the future as we have data on how vehicles are driven and usage patterns,” says Maini.

Karo Sambhav has collected and sent over 13000 MTs of e-waste for responsible recycling so far, ably helped by a data backed tech platform that connects all the stakeholders into an integrated formalised e-waste management chain.

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