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VCs and PEs would love to invest in companies that are unique in what they provide; but it is very difficult to identify such companies, and more so in the Indian cleantech sector. This post provides some inputs on what some of these interesting niches could be.

It will be a good idea to let go of the renewable energy fixation and think of cleantech as something that comprises a whole lot more value additions, products, services and hence, opportunities. Let’s look at this list (credit: Green Life Magazine Vol 1, Aug-Sep 2010 – from Viridian Foundation), where cleantech includes many green things far outside of renewable energy:

Agriculture

  • Biofuel cultivation (e.g. Jatropha)
  • New products for organic farming, including bio-fertiliser, plant growth promoters, bio – pesticides  and soil fertility enhancers
  • Plants required for herbal remedies
  • Enhancing direct market access by connecting farm to supermarket

Transport

  • Battery and hybrid automobiles
  • CNG and LPG – run vehicles like cars, buses, taxis and autos
  • Cycles, electric bikes, scooters
  • Rent-a-vehicle services
  • Car pooling services

Design

  • Recycling e.g. plastic bags into fashion accessories
  • Domestic composting
  • Portable offices, security cabins, storage areas and toilets made from discarded marine containers
  • Biomaterial-based disposable dishes/cups

Fashion

  • Natural fibres
  • Organic Cotton
  • Natural dyes
  • Recyclable fibres e.g. polyester
  • Upcycling, e.g. handbags made of used leather
  • New materials like fish-skin leather

Food

  • Organic food, including fruits, vegetables and dairy and bakery, green tea etc.
  • Healthy food/supplements (e.g. Quaker Oats, cholesterol lowering atta, low sugar, low fat)

Habitat

  • ‘LEED’ and ‘GRIHA’ buildings
  • Intelligent lighting systems
  • Natural ventilation systems
  • Sustainable carpets e.g. post-industrial waste yarn or glue-free installable interface carpets
  • Water-soluble paints
  • Water harvesting, waste-water recycling

Paper

  • Renewable pulp source (e.g. initiative by ITC)
  • Sugarcane bagasse (e.g. Tamil Nadu paper)
  • Waste-paper-recycling

Tourism

  • Ecotels (ITC comes to mind again)
  • Eco Tourism

White Goods and Appliances

  • CFL/LED lighting
  • Power efficient/power saving appliances and devices
  • Waterless heat-exchange coolers
  • Electronic lighting control systems

Wood and Timber

  • Re-use
  • Growing non edible plants and trees on marginal landsCertified wood products
  • Coir Composites

Work-places

  • Green appliances
  • Tele-conferencing (e.g. Cisco)
  • E-waste recycling
  • Re-use/Re-cycle
  • Power saving devices
  • Daylight harvesting

Personal products, Grooming and Nutraceuticals

  • Natural cosmetics (e.g. Biotique, Shehnaz, Unilever etc.)
  • Herbal remedies (e.g. Himalayas, Dabar etc.)
  • Polymer sensor-based systems for testing water, milk, soil, and for healthcare applications

Don’t you think this is a neat list in which there are many items most of us simply would not have thought about?

I appreciate that some of the ideas and opportunities presented above might not fit the criteria set by the PE/ VC, but many of these are areas where growth can be expected to be considerable without the need for government incentives