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BigBasket Modular Cold Racks.

In this pilot, India’s largest online grocer, BigBasket, piloted its own plug-and-play modular cold rack system using widely-available phase change material (PCM) inserts. The pilot aimed to compartmentalize a large walk-in cold room for multiple uses by desired temperature range and demand – tackling one of the biggest design issues that make cold rooms so inefficient and costly to run.

Locations

A BigBasket ‘dark store’ in the Indian capital New Delhi, where workers sort, pack, and dispatch high-frequency orders.

Results

  • BigBasket’s modular cold racks reduced electricity consumption by 14 percent. These savings are likely to increase because the modular racks can be controlled dynamically, in response to demand, whereas a conventional cold room must function continuously.
  • The system maintained desired temperatures for up to six hours – reducing the need for backup fossil-fuel generators during grid power outages, a frequent problem in parts of India.
  • The plug-and-play solution was easy to install, demount, and transport to new sites, and uses standardized factory-fabricated products. This proved valuable for business expansion as previously relocation of cold rooms resulted in a 30-40 percent loss in value. 
  • BigBasket plans to scale up the use of modular cold racks to meat chilling applications across its operations.

Lessons Learned

  • India has a large climatic variance, and extreme summer temperatures up to +45 Deg C generally coincide with maximum consumer demand for temperature-controlled products. Product and component design must therefore account for various climatic zones and the associated temperature/humidity conditions.
  • Challenges, such as freezing of PCMs, were encountered during the pilot phase and were addressed by adding automatic defrosting and magnetic locking. 

Testimonials
 

“Supported by the IFC TechEmerge Program, this unique modular cold rack innovation improved our energy efficiency and cut operational costs by 16 percent. We plan to scale this solution across our pan-India operations.”

Ganapathi Subramanyam, Head of Innovation at BigBasket