Greentree celebrated turning 10 a few months back. 2019 will thus be  its 11th year of operations. We decided to interview the founders Anurag Bajpai and Dhruv Jain

Q : We celebrated GreenTree's 10 years of operations in Janurary 2019. What thoughts and feelings come to mind?

Honestly it doesn’t feel that long. Intellectually we understand that  it has been 10 years but emotionally there has never been a dull phase,  so we still feel quite excited to come to office everyday and work on  our business.

We feel grateful for all the opportunities and challenges we went  through. We started GreenTree with no prior experience in running a  business. In fact we did not even have any experience of working at the  strategy level in any capacity at all. So every challenge and setback  was a learning opportunity and we try to take things in that spirit even  today.

We're especially looking forward to the next few years as we are  planning to strategically become even more efficient while diversifying  and scaling up our operations. This should be an exciting time for the  whole team at GreenTree and we also look forward to having some really  great folks join our team in this phase.

Q  : What made you begin GreenTree? It was such a niche business so what  were your initial thoughts about how GreenTree would grow?

Anurag : I always knew I’d end up running my own  business sooner or later, even at college. However at that time I wasn’t  sure which area I wanted to work in long term. As I’m sure you know,  I’m an architect by training, yet I also knew that establishing a name  for yourself as an architect would be a long and difficult challenge.  Coincidentally I ended up working with ECO3 in the energy efficiency  policy area. That combined with my understanding of the buildings and  architecture side of things allowed me to identify the niche opportunity  available in the overlap of the two fields.

At the time there were barely a handful of companies working in the  buildings and energy efficiency niche. We began GreenTree with a plan to  initially build softwares and tools serving this niche. We even  succeeded in building and launching EcoBench and EcoNirman. However we  quickly realised that there wasn’t much awareness about the field in  India at mid-management levels. So there wasn’t a great demand for  tools, but there had begun to be demand for people who understood what  designing an energy efficient building involved. So we pivoted a bit and  moved to providing these solutions instead.

We had a hunch that since the market was so nascent, there was bound  to be good scope for growth. However we also understood that we had to  be in it for the long haul and it wasn’t going to be a ‘get rich quick’  or ‘quick growth’ niche. Those hunches have largely proven to be correct  and we are now looking at how to diversify into other related markets.

Q : What are some of the challenges GreenTree faced? Any personal war stories?

The initial few years were really tough for us as business owners. At  the time there was hardly any support ecosystem available for newbie  entrepreneurs. A fledgling business doesn’t just need money, it requires  the founders to learn and know everything from identifying  opportunities, to client relationships, to sales, hiring the right  people, legal and financial aspects etc. We had no trusted network in  place at the time and had to figure out everything with trial and error.  Today I’d advise my younger self (or anyone wanting to start a business  without a lot of relevant experience) to focus on learning all the  various things that go into running a business quite apart from the core  competency. I don’t believe that one person or the founder team needs  to be good at everything, but they do need to have some idea about most  things. And they need to have a trusted network of mentors and experts  they can lean on for specific issues. This is invaluable.

Additionally our specific industry has a very long project lifecycle.  So a project can even take upto 10 years for completion. So the cash  flow situation becomes especially sensitive and needs constant  monitoring.

Q : You mention that green energy is at the core of your business. What is your take on the future of this, especially in India?

The future is certainly bright. The conversations around climate  change at the world level have underlined the importance of switching  the world economy towards greener and environmentally responsible  alternatives. Yet, India is still a developing nation. There are huge  areas, like building, manufacturing, infrastructure, science &  technology, agriculture etc  that need a great amount of work for us to  be able to match the standards set by many of the first world countries.  This means we are a country that is very hungry for energy. This not  only makes developing green, renewable sources of energy important, it  also makes increasing the energy utilisation efficiency something we can  not afford to ignore.

The government attempts to balance the needs to develop the country  while also encouraging innovations and technologies that help with  energy production and a better utilisation of produced energy. This is  where our work fits in. Helping to develop energy efficient buildings is  not just something in demand, it is very meaningful work.

Q : What are the biggest strengths of your co-founder?

Anurag : Common entrepreneurial wisdom says that  picking a co-founder is the most important decision in your business. I  can certainly attest to the impact a co-founder has. Dhruv and I used to  be colleagues at Siemens a few years before we started GreenTree. There  was a certain synergy and comradery that we noticed at the time as  well. At the time I was thinking of starting GreenTree, Dhruv had joined  IIMA. We decided we’d make a good team since our skill sets were  largely complementary. Today, Dhruv focuses on the business development,  finance and legal aspects of the business while I focus on the  technical and operational areas. After all these years there is a high  level of trust and we know to take each other’s strengths and weak areas  into account.

Dhruv : I would agree with Anurag. We were good  friends, we had largely complementary skill sets & most importantly  we had faith in each other’s capabilities. For me, those were good  enough reasons for us to start up together. I think the biggest strength  that my co-founder brings is his never-say-die attitude. This is  something I have have observed in him always and try to inculcate in  myself as well. 10 years is a long time and the organization has been  through lots of ups & downs in these 10 years. Historical data says  that 70% of the startups fail within 5 years of starting up. We have had  our own share of troubles all these years but we were fortunate to have  survived those testing times and a lot of credit goes to the  perseverance and self belief that Anurag brings into the whole team..

Q : What is you favourite part of the job? What excites you the most?

Anurag : Let me answer this question somewhat  indirectly by talking about the phases of a project. Every project has a  starting phase, an implementation phase, and a finishing phase. I’ve  realised that this corresponds well to a person’s areas of strength. A  few people are great at taking the barest outline of an idea and  conceptualising and beginning a viable project from it. Others are great  at taking a sufficiently started project and filling in the details and  the processes and doing the actual implementation work involved. And  some people are great at finishing the project, which involves tying up  all loose ends, validation and smooth handoff etc.

With this background, I’d say that I find the starting of all  projects to be hugely exciting, yet I find a great satisfaction in  finishing a project successfully.

Q : What inspired you to have the work ethic that you do?  Who is your business role model?

Anurag : I find the way famous people create their  legacies to be fascinating and inspiring. I believe that every  entrepreneurial journey has something to teach us if we stay in the  learner’s mindset. Yet the people I find truly inspiring are not just  concerned about their business, but are also exceptional human beings  who make a huge positive impact to society. The businesses they create  also stand for something better than a simple commitment to good  revenues.

On a personal note, my father has probably been the biggest influence  on me as far as my philosophy towards work and business goes. He isn’t  much for talking but his values come across very well in his work life.  If I had to sum up his business philosophy, it’d be

  • Develop strong relationships. Help people whenever you can, even if  it’s not especially convenient. Every business runs on the strength of  relationships.
  • Be careful with money. It’s not something to be squandered away.
  • Work hard. Be genuine. Run an ethical, honest business.
  • Institute checks, balances and oversight on all processes.
  • Choose sustainable, stable growth.

Q : Share some goals you will be focusing on for the short, medium and long term at GreenTree?

We have identified a few strategic objectives we want to concentrate on for the next few years. The most important of these are

  • Building up our capacity so we can tackle our projects with even greater confidence, expertise and efficiency.
  • Identifying and following up opportunities to scale up operations
  • Diversifying business offerings and areas of operations. The aim to  build multiple sustainable business streams while simultaneously  reducing the market risk by each stream due to factors outside our  control.

Q : Message to the team.

We are always very grateful to have the support of a very talented  and driven team. Employees are the biggest intangible strength of any  business. While there is still a long way to go, we’d like to take this  opportunity to acknowledge their efforts and reiterate our commitment to  nurture and reward the best qualities in each of our team members. We  have full confidence that our team will be able to step up to any fresh  challenges we face and help us make our vision for GreenTree a reality.