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Business families’ next generation takes interest in solar power projects

According to reports, it’s the land of the rising sons. Many second-generation entrepreneurs from families that run businesses ranging from alcohol to education are seeing a new dawn in solar energy.

These families include those controlling the Emami Group, Ruchi Group, Mohan Breweries, Hero automobiles, Nova dairy products, Sintex water tanks, Cargo Motors and India Gate basmati producer KRBL.

Business is easy and profitable, and brings tax benefits, the stamp of being eco-friendly, as well as unlimited, free supply of the key input — sunlight. This year’s weak monsoon has made it even more attractive as sunny days in the usually cloudy period has brightened the slack season.

The Munjal family of Hero Moto-Corp has given responsibility of its renewables business to Rahul Munjal, who earned his degree in economics from University of Rochester, US.

Karan Dangayach, whose father heads water tanks maker Sintex, saw sunshine after studying marketing and sustainable enterprise at University of Michigan. He has promoted Shashwat Cleantech to develop solar projects and market solar water pump solutions.

Solar power inspires Ketan Mehta, 25, who studied at the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee and set up Ray Power Infra instead of joining his father’s Jodhpur National University.

The cost is higher for solar power than conventional sources on a per-megawatt basis, but these projects don’t rerequire huge funds since their size is usually small at between 1 MW and 50 MW, Mehta said.

“Hence, there is no entry barrier for those interested in the energy sector.” Mehta aims to commission 100 MW of solar power projects on its own and 200 MW of capacity as an engineering procurement and construction contractor in a year.

“It is refreshing to deal with this set of second-generation entrepreneurs, most of whom have had exposure to quality education in the West that has an influence on their thinking. The common theme among this set of promoters is a genuine concern for the environment plus their conviction that they can lead the change from profitability to sustainability, which is essential for the growth of their enterprise,” said Sujoy Ghosh, country head of First Solar for India, a US-based solar power equipment maker. Kameswara Rao, PwC India leader for energy utilities and mining, said limited risk and assured returns over long period make solar power attractive.

“Also, presence in renewable energy helps companies to showcase their commitment towards environment,” he said.

“Unlike conventional power projects, solar power has a very little downside due to shorter execution period.” Kuldeep Saluja, who runs the Rs 1,700-crore dairy firm that sells the Nova brand of milk products, is helping his 30-year-old son Sharad Saluja to install 10 MW of solar power project.

“No other business offers you payback period of less than six years and assured returns for 19 years,” the senior Saluja said. The family has also invested Rs 300 crore on wind projects.

National Solar Energy Federation of India chairman Pranav Mehta said renewable energy has given opportunity to a large number of new generation entrepreneurs in the power sector, which has been monopoly of the government and large industrial houses.

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