A little known start-up is striving to change the very dimension of refueling in India.

Story by Deven Lad


The definition of fuel in Oxford dictionary as material that is used to produce heat or power is quite explanatory. It clearly hints at the importance of fuel and how the world would come to a standstill in its absence. The endeavour of a little-known startup called Repos Energy to deliver fuel at the doorstep of those who need it to run their machines — CVs, tractors, etc., assumes importance in this context. On May 01, 2020, the company kicked off an initiative to deliver diesel fuel to the doorstep of farmers in Pune district for their farm equipment. In five talukas of Pune district, Repos Energy’s four mobile petrol pumps (bowsers) dispensed diesel to over 10,000 farmers in a brief span of 18 days. It pressed into service truck (on Tata Ultra 1014 chassis) bowsers to support the farmers during the lockdown, and against the backdrop of the fast approaching sowing season.

If the Tata Ultra 1014-based bowsers were found suitable because of their ability to manoeuvre past narrow village lanes and roads connecting the villages across Pune district, the company — Repos Energy, is ensuring that its strategy ensures a win-win for it as well as its customers. Supporting customers during the lockdown, and in response to their inability to reach the fuel pump with their machines or vehicles, Repos Energy, according to Ayush Prasad, Pune Zilla Parishad CEO, offered an attractive yet valuable solution to the farmers in his district. He described the business proposition of Repos Energy as the one that best fit their requirements. Addressing the fuel consumption needs of 100 villages and amounting to roughly 6000 litres per day, the exercise of delivering fuel at the doorstep of farmers by Repos Energy has brought to the fore a new business model that is flexible and with an ability to adapt as well as evolve. If the Pune Zilla Parishad took the initiative to connect Repos Energy with the Gram Panchayats in its district, the ability of the same model being replicated across India would lead to a near complete overhaul of the way fuel has been dispensed until now.


Backed by a robust IoT system, the Repos Energy business model, like many radio cab operators, makes good use of an app. Established by Aditi and Chetan Walunj in 2017, the company, leveraging its fleet of four mobile fuel dispensers by picking up diesel from certified pumps in the region that they operate and deliver the same to the doorsteps of users, was invited by the Government of India in March 2018 for a pilot project of doorstep delivery of fuels. Enjoying the support of Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Repos Energy has expanded to 350 mobile petrol pumps on ownership basis and partnership basis model in 30 cities across India. Of the opinion that the success of their business model is the need for fuel by small- and medium-size commercial industries, Chetan mentioned, “While participating in my family’s petrol pump business for five years, I realised that there was a huge gap in the supply chain and fuel distribution. A research we undertook, revealed that around 76 per cent of the fuel was consumed by commercial vehicle and equipment users.” “We also found that these users often found it tiresome to bring their equipment or vehicles to the petrol pump time and again,” he added.

Helping the users of commercial vehicles and equipment like tractors, other farm and construction equipment, to overcome the risky practice of sending barrels to the petrol pump laden on a truck or on a tractor trolley, Repos Energy structured a model that would use new technologies to their advantage. The decision to choose the Tata Ultra 1014 chassis was based on the findings of the research, which called for the need to travel over narrow village roads as part of the last mile travel. Terming the business proposition as a mobile retail fuel pump on wheels, Chetan said that their inspiration to build the bowsers was born out of the use to refuel aircrafts at airports. A visit to the company’s facility at Chakan, Pune, and it is not surprising to see a fleet of Repos bowsers that look not very different from those found at airports. These are a replica of aircraft refuellers, quipped Chetan. He informed that the company has rolled out 60 new mobile petrol bowsers recently. “We are keen to hike their number to 1000,” he said. The rising number of fuel bowsers could involve a fine-tuning of a franchise model of operation. It would include regional franchises operating a fleet of fuel bowsers much like Repose is doing with a capacity of anywhere between 1000 litres and 6000 litres. Chetan refused to divulge any details and instead mentioned that their growth plan is well-chalked out and on track.


Offering better consumption monitoring services and real-time notifications on a smart mobile application, Repos Energy is operating in accordance with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO). It is adhering to the safety and other standards prescribed by the organisation. The IoT part involving Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices employed in the bowsers are programmed to enable an authorized person only to dispense fuel. When he is doing so, notifications are sent to the relevant authorities. The bowsers are also equipped with GPS, brake interlocking and remote throttles. Having a Smart Fuel Dispenser (SFD) unit onboard (with a monitoring setup) that prevents unsafe on-site storage, the bowsers also allow, courtesy sensors, to live track as well as monitor the amount of fuel dispensed. Better control is thus achieved over the operation.

Receiving close to 250 orders a day, Repos Energy delivers on an average 50,000 to 60,000 litres of diesel a day. Currently working with two business models — Company Owned and Company Operated (CoCo), and Dealer Owned and Company Operated (DoCo), Repose Energy is working in close cooperation with public sector OMCs like Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum. It is doing so where the dealer takes 60 per cent of the margin in a CoCo model. In the DoCo model, the dealer gets 80 per cent of the margin and Repos gets 20 per cent of the margin. Three key elements of the operation offered by the company include the bowser, the licence to operate it and an app. Tying up with over 150 partners (and dealers) in India who serve around 300 fixed customers, the gross margin on diesel stands at roughly Rs 2.20 per litre, according to Chetan. This is divided between the dealer and Repos Energy, he informed. He revealed further that some auto manufacturing companies in the Pune region are among their major clients.

 

Experiencing a rise in demand of up to 15000 litres a day from 10000 litres a day during the lockdown in the Pune region, Repos Energy has seen demand emerge from diverse sectors like Healthcare. The company, said Chetan, delivered fuel to 12 major hospitals in Pune. Quipped Aditi, that their company continues to supply diesel in the range of 500 litres to 2000 litres to hospitals. These include hospitals like Aditya Birla Hospital, Jehangir Hospital, National Information Centre, and Sahyadri. The diesel supplied by Repos Energy is used to power their back-up gensets. Also supplying fuel to waste management depots of civic bodies, entities under essential services, some verticals of Pune Municipal Corporation, National Information Centre (NIC), and even some residential societies (order above 50 litres), the company has come to witness its annual turnover rise to Rupees-three crore from Rs.70,000 in the first year of operation. It now has 150 partners in 30 cities.
Making its presence felt in various Indian cities and regions, Repose Energy is currently working with a team of 150 people. It is aiming at a sale of 16 crore litres of diesel a day in the next five years. Looking at new opportunities and new sectors for growth as well as an ability to address their fuel needs, the company is re-inventing itself as it grows. It is driving at good speed with the goal of dispensing no less than 65 per cent of diesel in the country per day through its mobile dispensation business model.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

     

*