CATEGORY: GREENTECH & SUSTAINABILITY
Abhishek Humbad carries a picture in his wallet. It’s a class photo, he says, that reminds him of what he was. The picture is not that of his graduating class at BITS-Pilani, where he studied electronics and electrical engineering; nor is it of his batch from IIM-Bangalore, where he sharpened his entrepreneurial skills. It is from Class XII, a time when he was a shy introvert who was driven by the idea that he’d do well if he studied well.
He wasn’t far off the mark. Humbad’s student life has, in many ways, shaped his career and life so far: As a fourth-year engineering student at Pilani, he founded and registered his company NextGen PMS.
The idea for this business came from the triple bottom line concept which encourages corporations to think not merely in terms of profits, but also the two other Ps—the planet and people. NextGen was formed on the premise that it would help companies measure the non-profit aspects of their operations—for example, their carbon footprint, energy consumption and sustainability efforts. Once measured, these parameters could be improved with various interventions.
Twenty-one at the time, Humbad was uncertain about many things but he was sure of this: He didn’t want to work for anyone. But then, at a business plan competition, he met a student from NIT Jaipur, Richa Bajpai, who had similar ideas. The two have been together since, leading NextGen as co-founders on its impressive entrepreneurial journey.
What started as a small venture incubated at BITS-Pilani is now among India’s fastest growing companies in the cleantech and sustainability space. NextGen operates in six countries with top corporates as clients. The 50-member team is drawn from the best universities across the globe.
NextGen’s first client was Intel India; the chip-maker was keen on measuring its carbon impact. Business grew as Humbad and his team started expanding to other areas: They even worked on water with Jalgaon-based drip irrigation manufacturer Jain Irrigation. “We built capacity slowly to help companies design their sustainability strategies and renewable energy policies,” says Humbad.
But consultancy by itself has a limited scope for revenue generation. In this context, NextGen’s first breakthrough came while working with Bangalore-based IT client, consulting firm Mindtree. Both soon realised that the effort could be a lot more effective if they had a tool. Mindtree soon moved from being a client to a partner and helped design a carbon management tool which, today, is being used by NextGen customers across sectors and geographies. The software product, called P3, has built-in modules and the capability to help clients measure most of their non-financial parameters.
The second, more recent, step-jump for NextGen’s fortunes was the government’s new CSR policy (finalised late last year). The Companies Law mandates all Indian corporations earning over Rs 5 crore profit to invest 2 percent of their profit before tax in CSR activity. “This has opened up a big market. Roughly 18,000 companies fall under this bracket,” says Humbad.
For Humbad and NextGen, this is a huge opportunity. He has reached out to nearly 1,000 companies, and started operations in London, Dubai and Colombo. He is working with the ministry of corporate affairs to develop a database of implementation agencies and NGOs, which help execute the activities on the ground. Business is good. Revenues in 2013-14 are expected to be about $1 million (Rs 6 crore), but Humbad claims the pipeline is robust and they will rapidly scale up to $8 million (Rs 48 crore) in the next fiscal.
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(This story appears in the 21 February, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)