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The Peak Power List 2018: Poyan Rajamand

He's reducing the region's carbon footprint, building by building.

CEO AND CO-FOUNDER

YEAR ESTABLISHED: 2012

WHAT IT DOES: Helps building owners achieve quantifiable energy savings by optimising efficiency of existing equipment.


To be cool, or not to be – that is a question that the Rajamand household often asks. “My wife likes the comfort that air-conditioning brings but I don’t think it’s necessary,” Poyan Rajamand says with a chuckle.

It is more than just a matter of personal preference. Rajamand’s energy efficiency services start-up, Barghest Building Performance (BBP), has made a name for itself by using software-based technology to reduce the energy consumption of buildings – half of which powers air -conditioning and refrigeration – simply by optimising the way cooling systems are run.

The six-year-old company helps its 20 clients such as Resorts World Sentosa, Capella Singapore, Dairy Farms and Changi Airport Group achieve combined energy savings of 30 million kwh annually, or the monetary equivalent of $3 million. It uses a third party, technology auditing company DNV GL, to quantify clients’ energy savings, of which BBP gets paid a percentage.

In 2015, BBP led Philips Lumileds into becoming the first manufacturing plant in Singapore to be awarded the Green Mark Platinum for Existing Buildings by the Building and Construction Authority. Philips Lumileds now saves 3.3 million kwh annually. “When we achieved this in Singapore, which is a competitive market for sustainable solutions, we realised we had something truly unique,” says the 42-year-old Iranian-born Swede, who is now a permanent resident.

As attractive as BBP’s sales pitch might sound, no one bought it in the beginning. The idea was that clients could achieve 20 to 30 per cent energy savings with zero upfront cost. BBP would get paid a portion of its clients’ savings only if its solution worked.

Yet, people questioned the installation process, the sustainability of the young company and potential issues if the system failed, recalls Rajamand, whose previous role as consultant at McKinsey & Co saw him work on energy and clean financing matters.

Meanwhile, the seed capital of $1 million, which Rajamand and his co-founder, Ong En-Ping, took from their personal savings, was fast depleting. Even when they finally clinched their first deal, it was over budget and delayed. “But at least it showed that what we were doing, worked,” he says. “At the start, you rely on people taking a leap of faith in you.

“Status quo is beautiful. No one will fire you for not taking a risk. But, if you try something new and it goes horribly wrong, you’ll be in trouble. That mentality slows down technology adaptation.

“I do not think it’s unfair. It’s up to us in the sustainability space to better make our case. Our solution must make economic sense. It must be operationally as good as, if not better than, whatever is in the market. We should have a better solution for people, while delivering on environmental impact.”

Investors have caught on. BBP recently raised $45 million for regional expansion. It is currently in eight territories, including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia. So far this year, it has secured $18 million worth of contracts. To further drive down energy consumption and enhance savings, it has been investing in cloud technology and data analytics for real-time insight and improved control.

Even as he drives the business forward, Rajamand has another pressing issue: relevance. His, to be exact. “The question of whether I’m an asset to my business, or a drag, always plagues me,” he says. “The business needs different sets of people to grow it, at different stages. At a certain point, it won’t be me. Keeping the business as a separate entity from myself has helped me. I believe the business is bigger than me.”

IN 60 SECONDS

At home, my wife and I leave our mobile phones in the kitchen so we are physically and mentally present when we are with our two children.

When shopping for appliances, I look at energy consumption labels. Even though the impact is small, it’s my duty to do so.

Being an entrepreneur forces you to do things you’re not fond of but that need to be done. Legal contracts are my definition of hell.

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