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Karnataka Open Access Opportunity Would Be Our Main Focus This Year: Gajanan Nabhar, CEO, CleanMax Solar

Gajanan Nabhar, CEO, CleanMax Solar said that next year is going to be significant for the company in terms of international growth

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Raising two rounds of heavy funding from top global investors in a span of 6 months, CleanMax solar has its focus intact in putting the money to right use and get maximum returns for the investors.

The Mumbai-based company is a pioneer in the ‘opex model’ in India, where the company puts up solar plants- rooftop or otherwise-at its own cost, and sells the power directly to customers. The company raised $15 million in equity capital from World Bank arm International Finance Corp. (IFC) this month and a $100 million in July from New York based private equity firm, Warburg Pincus.

Speaking with BW Businessworld, Gajanan Nabhar, CEO, CleanMax Solar elaborates on the company’s future plans and targets, amongst the challenges. Edited excerpts:

What is the course of action and focus of the company, post the deal?

The deal was being discussed for quite some time and finally got concluded. IFC and CleanMax are fairly congruent on what we need to do, our growth plans, approach. We are rolling out all of that and staying on course. Our focus has always been rooftop that we are pursuing currently. This year there is a unique opportunity in Karnataka of open access which is available for the next 10 years without any banking, wheeling charges or cross subsidy surcharge. This is our major focus and we are investing in the same accordingly.

Next year we will scan the other markets like Haryana which could open up for open access. Next year would also be much more significant in terms of international growth for us. We are always tracking technological advancements in not just storage but also the current generation.

What is the current status of the company in overseas market? How much revenue are you targeting from the same?

Middle East is a large market. We have created a foothold and got some PPA signed. Second, we would be targeting South East Asian market. Over next 2-3 years, we want to have 30 per cent of our revenues coming from international business.

Your company entered into a tie-up with the Japanese major, Hitachi through which you sought to sell solar-derived electricity to Japanese companies in India. Do you plan to replicate this model to target other foreign companies in India?

Our business is of customer relationship. Rooftop solar is important, but at the same time it is not urgent. To get that urgency in place, you need to sell the concept to the top management of any company. This is where Hitachi comes into picture. So, we could look at more such opportunities as and when they come. We have seen good traction in that area in terms of getting the doors opened and putting forward the plans to the companies.

Could you share some target numbers for 2018?

Looking at a bigger picture, in three years we want to be in the bracket of 2000 plus crores or I would rather say, at least, reach 1 GW (Gigawatt) of assets. In terms of market share, we are at 25 per cent of a very fragmented market, which is a great news. We want to retain our top position and sustain our Power Purchase agreements’ economics.

Being one of the significant players in rooftop solar, is low cost financing the major focus area for companies to sustain growth in the sector?

The most important is the customer confidence. Doing capex is a challenging proposition for many companies but we do that for them and provide them a win win PPA model which takes care of their concerns and protects our investments interests as well.

Second is the speed of execution. There is a reverse cycle happening in this industry. You first sign the PPA and then look for funding which delays the process. Today our repeat customer win is almost 90 per cent.

What is you take on net metering progress in the country?

This is a state subject and net metering is happening either very rapidly in some states or not happening at all in others. It’s a mix bag. Net metering is very important for achieving the 40 GW target for rooftop by 2022. Having said that, the progress is taking place, but at a moderate pace.

Finally, what is your stance on anti-dumping duty on solar panels? Do you think protectionist measure is the right way to go about?

We obviously feel that anti-dumping should not be considered for variety of other reasons apart from just the cost. I don’t think there is enough capacity. The capacity that exist in India is only last stage manufacturing. We do not have any cells or wafer capacity. The policies for manufacturing are not strong enough yet. Anti-dumping could hit the customers as the increased cost would be passed on to them.


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