When consultants become entrepreneurs in solar power sector

Several professionals with a background in consulting have moved to solar power sector. Some have turned entrepreneurs


Lightsource Renewable Energy’s India head Rupesh Agarwal. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Lightsource Renewable Energy’s India head Rupesh Agarwal. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: The opportunity to build sustainable energy solutions and the ambitious plans of the centre lured Rupesh Agarwal into the solar energy sector, after he had spent more than 17 years in management consulting.

Agarwal, India head of UK-based Lightsource Renewable Energy, one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic energy generators, was earlier instrumental in setting up and leading renewable energy practice at consulting firms EY and BDO.

Like Agarwal, several professionals with a background in consulting have moved to solar power producers. Some have turned entrepreneurs.

Sachin Jain was with consulting firm KPMG in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an increase in the target for installed solar capacity to 100GW by 2022 from 20GW.

“I wanted to contribute to the solar mission and be a part of the on-ground action, which I was not able to do in my consulting role,” said Jain, currently the co-founder & CEO Oriano Solar.

Former consultants who have made the move say those from a consulting background have wide exposure and can be more valuable than experienced business leaders from other industries, saving training time on learning nuances of the sector.

“Consulting roles, irrespective of the vertical gives one crucial skill to be a leader… it teaches you that everything has the scope of improvement,” said Vivek Subramanian, co-founder of Rooftop solar power solutions provider Fourth Partner Energy.

Subramanian was consulting with Accenture for six years, following that with a stint as an investor at Avigo Capital. Rajat Sud, founder and executive director at Lumeni Consulting, has been with firms such as PwC and Korn Ferry. “The idea is to get consultants to not just create strategy but own and execute it too,” said Sud who has also worked at industry giants such as NTPC Ltd, National Power (now Engie) and Siemens.

During the initial years, solar power firms focus on raising capital and project financing. As the firms mature, the focus shifts towards creating efficiency, cost optimization and plant efficiency, which is the stage where the consultants are usually absorbed.

“The demand for talent with consulting background is more common in the mature solar power firms, compared to the start-ups. The talent flow is mostly into strategic roles where consultants are expected to help companies scale up,” said Ashwin Saboo, partner at global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles’ Industrial Practice.

Bidding for solar power plants requires sophisticated skills at financial modelling for revenues and efficiencies—and these are available at consulting firms, said Kumar Sasank, who leads industrial practice in India at Egon Zehnder, a global executive search firm. The C-suite level tracks the trend of the larger private sector power/utility sector, he added.

“There is a temporary spike in salaries of heads of projects and development, but that should level out as the supply of talent levels out,” said Sasank.

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