Flipping the Switch on LED Lighting
Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech. Master’s in economic and public financial policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. More than a decade as the chief economist for the Kansas Department of Labor.
By any standard, Inayat Noormohmad is a very bright guy—one who has found his way into an industry with a very bright future.
As the CEO of SARIN Energy Solutions in Overland Park, Inayat and his team provide energy-efficient LED lighting and HVAC systems to hotels, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, warehouses and other clients. They’ve served everyone from Mars Inc. to the neighborhood
“I had no idea that I was going to get into this business,” Inayat said.
But once he saw the size of the opportunity, his training as an engineer and an economist kicked in.
“The engineers always think of better ways of doing something,” he said. “And then economists are always looking at trends … You try to understand where things are going.”
By adopting LED, a typical SARIN Energy client spends 65 percent less on lighting, or up to 80 percent in some cases. For large commercial
clients with round-the-clock operations, the savings are substantial.
And that’s led to strong demand for the company’s solution. In recent years, the company has recorded annual revenue growth of about 50 percent.
According to Zion Market Research, the global market for LED lighting was worth $26.09 billion last year—and should more than double in the next five years.
SARIN’s pitch—the ability to quickly reduce the price of an unavoidable ongoing expense—is catching on with more and more business owners.
“OK, you have certain fixed operating costs,” Inayat said. “One of those things is utilities. How can we help you reduce your utility costs, so that your bottom line improves almost immediately, from Day One?”
‘We Control the Quality of the Product’
Inayat loved his job with the State of Kansas. In his time there, he said, he could count the number of bad days on a single hand.
But he was searching for a new challenge. His father, who owns several gas stations, had been nudging Inayat to take a look at a technology that was gaining in popularity: LED lighting.
LED—which stands for light-emitting diode—has several advantages over traditional incandescent bulbs. For starters, this kind of lighting uses less electricity and lasts longer. The basic technology has been around for decades, but LED has become a general-use product only in the last several years.
Inayat researched the technology for eight months before deciding to take the plunge. He started SARIN Energy Solutions in his garage. His first project was at a gas station partly owned by his dad.
Inayat found many of his first clients by knocking on doors—most of them in Missouri, where Kansas City Power & Light, Ameren and other utilities were giving rebates to customers who adopted LED lighting.
KCP&L, for example, has offered rebates worth up to $500,000 per year to businesses that complete approved energy-efficiency projects. Small businesses can qualify for a separate program dedicated to lighting—the utility will help cover up to 70 percent of those upgrades’ cost.
“The incentives were a good way of starting the conversation,” Inayat said.
Even so, SARIN had to educate customers about the benefits of LED—like the fact that colors tend to look better under LED, which is important for retailers who want to present their wares in the best possible light. And LEDs don’t have the mercury that you find inside fluorescent tubes.
Within six months of its launch, SARIN had moved out of Inayat’s garage and into rented space. It has continued growing and just relocated to its third headquarters.
More growth could be on the way: The company is launching a new “dollar a month” program. Customers pay as little as $1 per month per fixture or lamp, and SARIN will take care of essentially everything related to lighting.
“We change it out to a much more environmentally friendly and much, much more efficient LED tube light,” Inayat said.
“And that is all the customer has to pay for that fixture or lamp—$1 per month. And that includes the service, that includes that new product, and all the while that they’re paying a dollar a month, if anything goes out, we just go and change it for free.”
About 50 percent of what it sells are devices that Inayat himself designed and that are patent pending. They’re manufactured in China, and he has an employee based there to help oversee production.
While LED lighting is SARIN Energy’s most popular offering, the company also sells energy-efficient HVAC systems.
That’s a powerful combination, Inayat said. LED tends to generate far less heat than other types of lighting, which reduces the need for (and cost of) air conditioning.
And finally, SARIN Energy provides consulting services on rebates and incentives for energy-efficiency upgrades. The company will research state and federal incentives that clients could qualify for and then prepares the necessary paperwork.
“We do the application,” Inayat said. “We do all the submittal … The customer has to do nothing. It’s all on us.”
‘It’s a Long-Term Relationship’
SARIN is actually an acronym. Each letter stands for family members who played a crucial role in starting the company, Inayat said. He and his daughter, Izzah, are represented by the letter I.
The R is for Rajab, his father, and Rozina, Inayat’s wife, who handles the finances and consults on larger strategic decisions.
“She is my confidant in every major decision,” Inayat said. “Whether it’s bringing on a new vendor client or bringing in a new employee or any other thing, we talk.”
Like when he got the idea for the dollar-a-month program—at 2 in the morning—he immediately asked for her insight.
While he’s proud of SARIN’s positive impact, he’s also clear about why it’s personally important: The company provides him a way to make a better life for him, Rozina and their daughter.
“It’s not so altruistic, right?” Inayat said. “I’m in a business. It’s not an NGO (nongovernmental organization) that I have here. So yes, we make a difference environmentally and on the bottom line of our clients. But at the same time that’s allowing me to make money for me, my family and my employees.”
He takes his relationship with his team seriously. The company employs 12 full-time people, not counting others who work on a contract basis. The company might have been able to grow faster, but Inayat didn’t want to add staff unless he was 100 percent sure the business could
“Because when we take on an employee, it’s a long-term relationship,” he said. “We take on the responsibility of not that person, but that family, and we don’t take it very lightly.
“So that’s why we’re being a little bit conservative in how we grow because we don’t hire people so that we can make them disposable and say, ‘Sorry, I don’t need you today, goodbye!’ We don’t do that.”
‘You Just Have to Persevere’
Right now, most of SARIN Energy Solutions’ clients are based in Kansas and Missouri. But the team has done work in other states for local clients with locations as far away as Florida and California.
To grow the business, Inayat is building formal partnerships with lighting companies in other parts of the country, including Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Austin and Arkansas.
Instead of SARIN Energy hiring staff in those cities and opening physical locations, existing businesses there will sell and install SARIN’s products. “We become their manufacturer suppliers,” Inayat said.
“You just have to persevere and keep doing what you’re doing, because you believe in what you’re doing,” Inayat said. “I cannot emphasize enough of how we want to work with our clients to save money.”
Unlike other businesses, he’s selling a product where he can clearly demonstrate to customers—usually in dollars and cents—the utility and value they’re getting from SARIN Energy Solutions.
“We are very fortunate to be in an industry which is a win-win industry,” he said. “The customer wins, and so do we.”
ENTREPRENEUR // Inayat Noormohmad
COMPANY INFORMATION // SARIN Energy Solutions | 9209 Quivira Overland Park, KS 66215 | 1-855-997-2746 | www.sarinenergy.com
TYPE OF BUSINESS // Energy-efficient lighting and HVAC
YEAR FOUNDED // 2012
EMPLOYEES // 12
KEYS TO SUCCESS // “The customer wins, and so do we.”