Pune Startup Mantra: Rest Aims To Be “The Amazon” For Fuel Delivery In India
The ability to solve a problem with a profitable solution is the foundation of any startup in the world, but especially in India.
Pune entrepreneurs Chetan Walunj and his wife Aditi Bhosale-Walunj are on a mission to redefine energy distribution in India.
“Repos Energy”, their start-up, is a purely technological B2B platform that facilitates the delivery of fuel to homes via mobile filling stations compatible with AI.
Born and raised in Rajgurunagar, Walunj graduated in BE Mechanical. He met Aditi, a forensic and international relations student, in 2015. As the duo got to know each other, they decided to become partners, not only in their lives, but also in business. Until then Walunj managed a gas station opened by his father in 2006. It was a time when the Rajgurunagar-Chakan region experienced large-scale industrial activity.
Many multinational companies had come and they needed fuel (diesel) on site as a reserve for the generators.
As the gas stations were located on the highway, most companies used tankers or jerry cans to transport the diesel to their sites. This system was inefficient, to say the least. In addition, companies had to deploy workers, security personnel and a manager or supervisor to oversee this. In addition, there was no obligation to account for the amount of fuel purchased, the amount wasted or stolen.
In the premises of a company, everything was organized, but the supply of diesel was not organized.
It was then that Walunj first thought of solving this challenge facing the industry.
After completing his engineering studies in 2012-13, Walunj wanted to expand his fuel business in Pune. However, the cost of setting up the land made him think. Walunj said, “I asked my dad if it was possible to put a speedometer on a vehicle and start selling fuel on wheels? We have discussed the idea with various companies, but it has not elicited a positive response. We started to meet hotels and malls around the city of Pune. We went ahead with our plan and built 20 vehicles. As a result of this innovative thinking, we have become the third retail outlet of an Oil Marketing Company (OMC) in India. We went from 0.3 million liters to 3 million liters of fuel sales per month.
Today, “Repos Energy” facilitates home fuel delivery via AI-enabled mobile filling stations.
E-commerce for fuel
The real turning point came when Walunj met Aditi Bhosale in 2015. According to Walunj, “Aditi has always dreamed of doing something larger than life. She used to say that we are going to solve a global problem. In 2016, we took some time to think about our strategy, read a lot of books on Ratan Tata, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and tried to understand how they managed to go global.
“That year, in July, due to heavy rains, the power supply to the Senapati Bapat road area was cut off for two days. Hotels, shopping complexes and shopping centers in the area have been affected as they have had to make arrangements for additional diesel for their generators. I received frantic calls from the principals and I coordinated the trips with the drivers. The same day we got a courier through Amazon and that’s when the idea of e-commerce for fuel came into being, ”Walunj explains.
“We immediately pulled out global statistics regarding fuel (especially diesel consumption), distribution losses and other factors. We also took into account the disruption that would be caused by electric vehicles (EVs), but even as 10% of vehicles are replaced by electric vehicles – a very ambitious target – there is still a huge market for efficient diesel distribution. I convinced Aditi that this was the whole idea we were looking for, ”said Walunj.
A political gesture
Aditi says: “The WTO liked our idea, but did not respond positively as fuel e-commerce was not legal in India. Fortunately, there was a summit in Pune on biofuels which Dharmendra Pradhan, then Minister of Petroleum, attended. We were able to meet him for five minutes and present him in writing our concept of e-commerce in fuel. A few days later, he tweeted that his ministry was considering launching fuel e-commerce.
Walunj said, “After seeing the tweet, we decided to start our work. We started our office on Baner Road. We hired the first members of our team.
“In 2017, then Minister of Commerce Suresh Prabhu called a meeting of startups. All WTO officials, startup founders and other government officials were present. It was decided to conduct a “home diesel delivery” pilot test. Hindustan Petroleum carried out the pilot test in Mumbai, Bharat Petroleum in Delhi, while Indian Oil Corporation did it in Pune. Later it was decided to extend the pilot project to 51 smart cities, ”he said.
“Repos completed 32 of 36 pilots and all passed,” Walunj said. The decision to legalize home fuel delivery was announced after the 2019 general election results.
Meanwhile, Repos had managed to sell two purpose-built vehicles as AI-enabled mobile gas stations.
The Ratan Tata moment
Aditi says, “Chetan and I both wanted Ratan Tata to be our mentor, because we wanted to dedicate our idea to India. We had gone to his place on October 1, 2017, and we stood outside, wrote a letter, and passed it inside. We had made a business plan on a piece of paper with a pen and pencil. On the business plan, we wrote “We want to change the distribution of energy in India. Please give us 15 minutes. We returned to our room and, unexpectedly, my phone rang.
“Ratan Tata gave us time the next morning. He told us that all sectors like food, groceries, hospitals, have switched to technology, with the exception of petroleum. It was his idea that we had to manufacture the vehicles in our own factory as that was the central part of our business. He also told us that Tata Motors would help us build these vehicles and called company officials for us, ”recalls Aditi.
“We started with a 1,000 square foot plant and are now at about 0.2 million square feet. Our vision is to become a global company with all “Ratan Tata values”.
“Ratan Tata believed in us and invested an undisclosed amount from her personal account in our startup,” she says proudly.
Redefining the energy distribution system
How is Repos redefining the energy distribution system? Through the Triangle of Rest. To explain this theory, Aditi quotes famous business mogul and philanthropist, Jack Ma, “Any organization with an iron triangle strategy would be the future of the next three decades. “
By creating a Repos Triangle, the startup bridges the gap between the three important aspects of energy distribution:
• Enabling the availability of energy through a robust e-commerce platform to meet the needs of the end-user at scale
• Produce efficient tools for power distribution – These are Repos mobile fuel pumps, which are manufactured at the Repos Innovation Center. These IoT-enabled vehicles facilitate logistics. In addition to RMPP, Repos has innovated DATUM – a one-of-a-kind internal fuel management solution that facilitates remote fuel storage and distribution. These tools are built with international standards in mind for global use.
• The third solution of the Repos triangle is to ensure flexibility in payment procedures. For this, Repos offers a finserv offer via ReposPay.
Creation of fuel entrepreneurs
After the e-commerce fuel policy was announced, the immediate beneficiaries of this policy were largely the owners of existing gas stations. In order to promote startups and entrepreneurship in the oil industry, the government announced another initiative called Fuel entrepreneurs.
A typical gas station requires 4,000 square feet and about 20 employees for operational purposes. However, mobile gas station vehicles only require 4.00 square feet of area with two employees to operate them. The government came up with the concept of a fuel contractor where anyone – who does not have a physical pump – can start a gas station.
Walunj says, “Anyone can register as a startup and apply for a tender at the WTO. The applicant becomes a fuel reseller. Subsequently, by simply purchasing the vehicle with an AI-enabled mobile gas station, one can start a fuel business. We have created 600 such entrepreneurs – from Beed, Jalgaon in Maharashtra to Jorhat in Assam.
How Repos connects customers to fuel dealers?
The Repos slogan “Fueled by Yes” says it all. Aditi says: “A vehicle controller is connected to a customer’s mobile phone. Using Internet of Things (IoT) products, sensors are installed at the customer’s site to check the fuel levels in their machines. The data collected from these devices is then analyzed and smart inputs are suggested through the platform.
Walunj adds, “For a customer, the cost of an IoT device typically ranges from ??35,000 to Rs5 lakh. We are a purely technological company. We do not sell diesel. We have a data tool for diesel management. We have created a platform where there is a seller, a trader who sells the fuel. We’ve made shoppers’ lives easier by using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to study fuel consumption patterns.
Walunj and Aditi want to become a company that supplies all types of fuel with minimal human interference. Therefore, they not only focus on diesel, but also on CNG and do research on electric vehicles and batteries.
“We are also eyeing commercial or transport vehicles as well as private customers (B2C) in the next three to four years,” said the duo.
Repos’s goal is to sell 3,200 mobile fuel pumps across India by 2022. Repos has created over 500 fuel startups in just 1 year. Repos has obtained three patents in India.