SonneAire developed the most ecofriendly and energy split unit air conditioning system in the world. The founder and CEO of the company, Azrina M. Yusof came up with the idea sparked by her father’s research when one day he came back home and talked about his researched which was about solar air conditioning about 6 years ago, in 2012. Her father was a physicist (retired) at Solar Energy Research Institute in UKM. “And so somehow, the idea got really stuck to me and I got excited by it. One thing after another, I opened up a company and I decided to do this solar air conditioning,” Azrina said during the interview.
Since her background is mostly software engineering, she also decided to educate herself by registering in GBI coordinator course because she had no background in air conditioning or solar. “My father gave me a hardcover 500-page book on these topics. There was a lot of learning to do and I was so excited and everything, I even went to the bank and talk about the idea to ask for funding but the person didn’t think it would work, so it brought me down to earth and tamed my idealism a bit.”
She went to China visiting some green air conditioning factories and the most memorable was the presence of a statue with the caption ‘Preserve Life’ and how the industrial areas where the factories are in tune with the environment, something that she wanted to do and continue to do.
“It can be industrialized but it can be also good for the environment.” She added.
They developed their first product, the solar hybrid air conditioning which she then applied for a grant to help fund the research into a commercialized product. She was then selected to attend join a training group, a coaching and mentoring group, focusing more on managing and growing the business.
Around that time, they then developed another product which is an air conditioning without the solar panels using a thermal concept that can cut up to 50% of the power used, which is a massive save for consumers. The product was able to reach a bigger market since its more affordable clean technology hybrid air cond.
“It’s not just about building things, there’s a philosophy behind it that’s actually driving the company. The main philosophy is to be gentle to the environment, to the people and animals. Trying to solve the problem of global warming from a bigger perspective, because air conditioning represents about 60% of your bills. And to reduce half of that is really good not just for you as a customer and user but to the environment too. There’ll be less carbon footprint and also CFC gas.” She highlighted.
When asked how do they cope with the green technology industry which is very important but at the same time quite costly, is still good for the environment and yet with the people lacking on exposure about the importance of it? She pointed out how in reality, talking about the environment doesn’t catch people’s attention so they had to change their approach by asking the question, “What hurts people the most?” In addressing the question, they used the approach of saving and lessening consumer’s expenditure. They toned down all the talk about the environment and green energy and focused on how using their products becomes a way to decrease the power consumption daily which in turn decrease their expenditure.
“Companies involving green tech cope with lack of investment and funding. Stick to your path, I believe that if you think that this is the right path for you and this is what you believe in, eventually if there’s 10 funders who could be out there, there could be one who is interested in the green technology and they might have the same philosophy as you. It might be uncommon but they’re there.” Azrina added as we’re speaking, In July they were featured in the German media which made a German investor interested in the company, not because of the profits but because of the philosophy and what drives them forward.
Elaborating more on the research and development process, she said it started out like a typical innovation story, they did some innovations in front of her partner’s front yard which housed an old solar, they met the right people, a person who had a huge solar panel suitable for tweaking and developing the air conditioning and their angel investor helped by providing not only funds, but manpower to help with the research and development.
Their target audience and market is anybody who’s looking into energy saving, people who use air conditioning for long hours like 24-hours restaurants, shops, convenience stores, equipment rooms such as server rooms.
Her motivation that kept her going is “excitement and passion, especially when you’re really into it. Knowing that you’re contributing, and seeing an idea turned into a reality”
In 2018, they have some major things already planned, “We’re planning for growth. Other than expansion of sales, expansion of production, creating new products which is commercializing product which we’ve researched and developed last year.”
Before the interview ended, she wanted to say that there are two things when people talk about green technology, especially when people used the word sustainable.
“Speaking about sustainable, one must think of a sustainable business, running a business in a way that’s sustainable in 10 years because you’re looking into something valuable like staff lives and people’s lives. Sustainable doesn’t have to only refer to green or eco-friendly things.
Secondly, Sustainable product, once you’ve developed a product, does it use materials that are recycled, eco-friendly materials?”
Azrina expressed how she’s always afraid to say that they use cooking oil in the air conditioning due to the backlash but she also said how” cooking oil is very good degradable later so it doesn’t hurt the environment around.”
“During Innovation and design of a certain product, one must consider the usage of the product and the footprints it leaves”