(July 19, 2023) It was in the spring break of 2022 that the then 16-year-old Uday Bhatia embarked on a school project. His destination was the village of Bichpuri in Uttar Pradesh, where he aimed to mentor 30 students on financial literacy and ways to earn a sustainable livelihood. Little did he know that this endeavour would profoundly impact the lives of the village residents. It all began when his students turned up without homework the following day. When inquired, he learned about the frequent power outages plaguing the area, lasting between 6 to 8 hours each day, making it impossible for the students to finish their assignments. “The only alternative they had was kerosene lamps, which I found was harmful due to the release of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. Additionally, they posed risks of respiratory problems and eye irritation,” Uday tells Global Indian. Motivated by the discovery, Uday delved into research and found that an inverter costs ₹10,000, the amount equivalent to the average income of many households in the village. This pushed him to find a low-cost solution, which he did with an emergency inverter bulb capable of providing 10 hours of power backup. The ground-breaking invention, that has illuminated 5000 households till now in five states, earned him the Diana Award 2023.
A low-cost solution for power outages
Initially, he had no sense of direction but only a strong will to find a low-cost solution for people of Bichpuri. This led him to comb through reams of information and explore varied options like solar panels and hydropower before zeroing in on power storage system – a technology he describes simple yet complex. “I started using a lithium-ion rechargeable cell. How the bulb works is that when it’s connected to a power source, the energy gets stored in the cell. During a power outage, the stored energy from the cell powers the bulb, ensuring it continues to glow,” reveals Uday, who reached the solution after working on seven-eight prototypes.
However, one problem still loomed large – the limited backup time of three hours. That’s when he tapped into his expertise in computer science to devise a solution. Leveraging his skills, he developed a pulse width modulation technique in conjunction with dynamic lumen technology. By implementing this approach, he found a way to extend the backup duration. “The algorithm enables one to adjust the bulb’s brightness according to their requirement. The lower the brightness, the longer the backup. For instance, if someone desires a brightness level of 9 watts, they could adjust the bulb’s settings from 12 watts to 9 watts, thereby granting them the freedom to control the brightness and the backup duration,” says Uday who is happy that his technology caters to people across all demographics.
“For a longer backup, we decrease the brightness of the bulb. The algorithm helps the user have an optimum level of brightness based on his needs. If someone needs a 9-watt brightness, they can move it from 12 watts to 9 watts, thus giving them the freedom to control the brightness and the backup,” adds Uday who is happy that his technology caters to people across all demographics. “In Uttar Pradesh, people are using it at a lower brightness, while in the Himalayas, since a new hydropower plant has come up, people are using it at a higher brightness.”
The beginning of Uday Electric
It was after 24 prototypes that Uday arrived at the 10-hour backup. However, the journey over the past year has been nothing short of captivating for Uday. It all began with his humble experiments conducted on his terrace, eventually culminating in the establishment of Uday Electric in June 2022. The brand name was chosen as a blend of Uday’s luminous technology and a personal touch, inspired by the meaning of his name, which signifies the rising of the sun. “I thought people in the villages would easily connect with it.”
The dire situation in Bichpuri served as a catalyst for Uday’s journey into sustainable energy solutions, leading to the birth of Uday Electric. Their tagline, “Bijli gul fir bhi ujaala full,” encapsulates their mission. The initial six months were dedicated to intensive research and development, and later they organised their first donation drive in Kabadi Bazar in Dehradun, followed by another collaboration with the Aasra Foundation.
Uday was only 16 when he started Uday Electric, and for the most part has been the sole army behind the work, apart from an outsourcing company that helps with manufacturing. But now he plans to get an in-house team into place and start full-fledged manufacturing.
Creating brand value
Being a teenager, age did play a spoiler, however, the entrepreneur recognises the significance of brand value as a crucial stepping stone for any business. “In order to gain trust, we would offer one-year warranty for our bulbs, surpassing the standard six-month warranty provided by others. Though we were a loss-reading company initially, we distributed free bulbs to retailers for testing purposes.” His resilience proved instrumental in navigating the challenges, ultimately illuminating 5000 households across Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Rajasthan, Haryana and Kerala. As a novice, he pursued three strategies – cold calling retailers in different markets to gauge demand, advertising on platforms like India Mart and conducting on-location surveys in places like Manesar industrial area and Kabadi Bazaar in Dehradun.
Uday firmly justifies the price of ₹250 for his bulbs, emphasising that he is not in direct competition with other bulbs on the market but rather with expensive power storage systems. “You either buy an inverter which costs a lot in comparison to the price of the bulb.” At the onset, he bootstrapped the business, starting with an initial investment of ₹17,000 from which he produced the first 100 bulbs. “Initially, we started with the profit-making incentive and later used the sales reserves to do donation drives, since we wanted to check the consumer response first.”
Making an impact
In a short span, Uday Electric has made a significant and positive impact on the lives of individuals in rural India. His vision as a value creator is to ensure that every household in rural areas has access to sufficient lighting. “And in places where electricity is yet to reach, I want to illuminate them with the help of renewable energy,” he says, adding, “Uday Electric is not just a bulb but I see ourselves getting into renewable energy soon.”
Uday recently received the prestigious Diana Award 2023, and while he is grateful for the recognition, he believes that the true validation for his work lies in the number of households he has illuminated. Since third grade, he was keen to run a business, as he was inspired by his dad and uncle, both entrepreneurs. “Uday Electric is my second venture, my first venture was an edtech marketplace for finding a tutor called FindOurTutor.com that I started during the pandemic,” says the teenager who wants to do a double major in economics and computer science.
Uday loves to gym, run and swim in his free time, and is keen to take Uday Electric to new heights in the near future. He advises youngsters “to put your best foot forward and never give up. That’s how you make a successful business.”
- Follow Uday Bhatia on LinkedIn