VIATEC Awards 2018: Innovative Excellence (Hardware)

Interviewee: Rajkumar Padmawar, President & CEO

When – and how – was your company born?
ASAsoft Consultants Co, a proprietary company, developed the innovative and disruptive Medium to High Voltage Lightweight Insulator technology and introduced it to South Asia, resulting in the creation of ASAsoft (Canada) Inc. ASAsoft incorporated in 2013 as a privately held company that has very successfully closed its seed & angel investment round from overseas and teamed up with partner companies who have been in business since the 1800s.

With its ultra-new “Green” Lightweight Insulator products, ASAsoft plans to reproduce this previously demonstrated commercial success in the North American market with jobs and benefits accruing to British Columbia through the latest CSA and ANSI certified and approved Smartcity ready products and manufacturing geared towards Industry 4.0 best practices. Its Lightweight Insulators reduce power outages by up to 70%, reduce line maintenance costs by up to 50%, reduce solid and liquid waste up to 99% and cost less than traditional technologies.

Who are some of your clients? What projects are you working on right now, and what do they do?

ASAsoft’s Lightweight Insulators are currently approved with the Power utilities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington and California.

ASAsoft has already secured its major North American customer for Lightweight insulators in high voltage gear for North America’s largest Power Utility. This customer provided an LOI in Dec 2016 subject to developing a special Lightweight Insulator that is designed, developed, and tested at a third-party accredited facility to exceed the present standard. The product is now approved for deployment. ASAsoft achieved this milestone in a record time of 12 months and is now geared to move the product to commercial production.

These Lightweight Insulators are made from proprietary compounds that support the weight of the suspended wires and prevent the current from flowing through the utility pole to the ground and protect us from high voltage power lines.

What was a pivotal moment for your company?
When customers said these insulators are “good looking”.

There exists a natural and strong market pull for a superior insulator with a lower failure rate than the existing products. The insulators themselves are not expensive items. However, the installation and replacement of failed insulators can be extremely expensive. It costs up to 50% of the complete Infrastructure to replace insulators. Therefore, a more reliable and durable insulator will easily save utility companies hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance costs. The primary target market for ASAsoft’s products is the distribution portion of the power utilities directly, and the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that supply to them.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
ASAsoft is the only CSA and ANSI certified product manufacturer on the west coast of Canada and the United States. With regional stock in BC for fast order fulfillment, especially for emergency / storm / forest fire replacement, this lowers the cost for utilities to procure the insulators from a BC source. ASAsoft prides itself on using the best raw materials on the planet with its state-of-the-art non-ceramic lightweight composite insulators that are substantially superior and at a lower product cost than traditional ceramic & glass insulators. This leads to significant savings in transportation, storage, installation, and operating costs for the end users, as well as a reduction in greenhouse gases from manufacturing. There is still lot of research and development that needs to be done in this vertical.

Even though ASAsoft is a smaller company, it has a far superior product that is slightly more expensive in the short term. In order to penetrate this established and somewhat risk-adverse market, the best strategy is to provide overwhelming evidence of the superior performance characteristics and reliability of its products to gain the initial market acceptance. While there is some initial reluctance on the part of the industry to adopt novel products, there is also a significant motivation to decrease the cost of replacing failed insulators.

What does the future 10 years look like for your company?
Over the next 20 years, the distribution infrastructure of the North American electricity grid will require $582 billion in upgrades and maintenance according to a 2014 Harris Williams white paper. Electricity transmission and distribution spending have more than doubled in recent years, as 4% of Powerline infrastructure is at its end-of-life, and 41% is nearing its end.

There are two main market opportunities that ASAsoft plans to exploit:

  • Replacing existing infrastructure: The timing is perfect for this, as a large fraction of installed powerline insulators are aging, at the point or past the point of their scheduled service lifetime.
  • Market growth: As the population increases and consumes more power, there is a concomitant increased need for overhead power lines for electricity distribution. The market is currently growing by 5% per year.

There is lot of work ahead.

Why Victoria?
Gravitating to South West part of the planet, Canada has been very natural for ASAsoft. Victoria is an evolving hub for Research & Development and manufacturing of niche products in the mainstream markets. Victoria’s coastline being hottest in August and rainiest in October is great ground to field test our products and push boundaries.

It’s slow to attract the talent pool, but has very low employee turnover, a perfect model for companies like us who are engaged in continuous development of specific high value solutions, even though each company has to find its own way to start and grow. Work-life balance is at its best in this specific spot on the globe.

A world-renowned high voltage testing and research laboratory that is the most trusted and innovative one-stop-shop for businesses seeking expertise in engineering, standards and code testing, quality testing and failure analysis service is just an hour away, and the headquarters for smarter ways to maintain a reliable system and deliver clean, affordable electricity is right here at the doorstep.

Victoria is undeniably desirable, not to mention its beachside and floral beauty with golf courses that are playable all year round!

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