Tulsi Tanti is the Chairman and Managing Director of Suzlon Energy- India’s first home-grown wind technology company. He is one of the ten richest men in India. Where is the Company today?The company has over 13,000 people of 32 nationalities and operations across 6 continents and 32 countries with sophisticated R&D capabilities in Denmark, Germany, India and The Netherlands. It’s the market leader in India, and has a market share in wind turbine manufacturing which makes it the 5th largest manufacturer in the world.Suzlon is currently concentrating on global expansion drive. It recently acquired Hansen Transmissions, a Belgian maker of wind-turbine gearboxes. Suzlon is also building a rotor-blade factory in Minnesota and has invested $60m in a factory in Tianjin, China.
What’s his ambition?
Tulsi Tanti has set forth a goal for Suzlon of not just being a successful wind energy company, but also being a socially responsible enterprise, with sustainable development at the core of the business. His commitment to social and ecological development, and his vocal advocacy of climate change mitigation has been honoured numerous awards including ‘Champion of the Earth 2009’ by the United Nations Environment Program, ‘Hero of the Environment’ by TIME Magazine and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2006’ by Ernst & Young, among several others.
How did Tulsi Tanti get here?
A commerce graduate and a diploma holder in mechanical engineering, Tulsi Tanti originally hails from Gujarat and is presently based in Pune, Maharashtra. The seeds of Suzlon were sown by Tanti’s venture into the textile industry. Faced with soaring power costs and the infrequent availability of power, he looked to wind energy as an alternative. In 1990, Tulsi Tanti invested in two Vestas wind turbines and realised wind power’s huge potential. That developed into a wind farm project with a capacity of just 3 MW and a staff of 20 people, he set forth to acquire the basic technology and varied expertise to set up and grow.
In 2001, His Excellency, Shri M.M. Jacob, Governor of Meghalaya, India, conferred The Institute of Economic Studies Excellence Award for excellence in Productivity, Quality Innovation & Management, on Suzlon Energy Ltd. In 2005 Tanti was awarded the Solar Energy Society of India (SESI)’s Renewable Energy Pioneer Award.
The Global economic crisis
Tulsi Tanti was interviewed recently about the recent down-turn. He said that for him it’s now no longer a question of survival. “I am not concerned about this or the next quarter. Today, 70 per cent of my focus is on building the organisation for the long-term opportunity,”.
Ever since September 2008, when the financial crisis struck, Tanti had faced an uphill struggle to even stay afloat. There was a product recall crisis, an over-leveraged balance sheet, a challenging acquisition of German wind energy major REpower Systems, a reduction in demand for wind turbines, and some senior executive exits from the company. As always, the challenge of a good business man is not when things are going good, but when the going gets tough.
Till then, Tanti had come to be regarded as one of the pin-ups of India’s business success story. Suzlon became the fastest growing wind energy company in the world, selling wind turbines to nearly 25 countries, across the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia.
During this 36-month period, Tanti has hunkered down, questioned every key business assumption, virtually torn down every element of his strategy and rebuilt a whole new business, according to Indian business analysts. Tanti went back to the drawing board. After the boom years, he realised it was time to consolidate operations. The crisis provided the perfect opportunity. “If I am in a growth situation, then I cannot consolidate my organisation, and for the past decade we had just been growing. So, now I had the chance to build the organisation for the next 10 years. Because a lot of change is needed, like product, organisational structure, management bandwidth and resource planning,” says Tanti.
In a recent interview he was asked “How do you think the order book will grow in India? Is there good intake of orders?” His reply reflects a bullish attitude to the future:
“A lot of global financial investors are interested in investing in Indian wind assets. Goldman Sachs already stated its plans. There are four other large international funds, which are in discussions with us to invest in the sector, and hence are likely to become our customers. Instead of putting money in equity, these funds are going for hard-core assets, which will give them annuity income for the next 20 years. They are looking at Rupee assets and they have a currency advantage, and power price will only go up. It’s a good idea to put money in the renewable power sector, than in the stock markets.”
Tanti has had a meteoric rise to prominence, but will he be able to steer his Company out of its debts and into profitability once more? It’s early days yet, but his re-structuring looks to be paying off- In November, Suzlon’s second quarter results provided the first signs of a company on the mend. 2012 will be a key year for Suzlon and Tanti!