After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.
The first step of setting up a plant is the most arduous for any power company. It requires intense engineering expertise which is often in short supply—and also proves expensive to acquire and retain. The simpler option is to outsource the heavy-lifting: Enter Power Mech Projects, a Hyderabad-based company, which spotted this opportunity back in 1999.
Having overcome the hurdles of bank financing and talent, it has now become one of the few players to achieve scale in this business. With a consistent growth of about 15 percent annually, Power Mech boasts a list of marquee private players—Tata Power, Adani Power and Jindal Power to name a few—as well as public sector power producers such as NTPC.
2013 has been one of Power Mech’s busiest years: It built, tested and commissioned projects for a cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW across India. It also erected 65 boilers and 80 turbines during the period. And, in the process, it crossed Rs 1,000 crore in revenues for the first time.
The man behind it
Entering this industry is not for the weak-hearted. S Kishore Babu, however, was confident when he took the call to set up Power Mech. After all, he had spent the first 14 years of his career in an engineering company, Indwell Construction, where, at the age of 28, he was part of a team that helped set up power plants. He rose up the company’s ranks to additional managing director and, later, to joint MD. That was when Babu decided to branch out on his own.
As he saw it, he was the driving force behind the company’s success and had, over the years, built strong associations with NTPC and BHEL, a power plant equipment manufacturing and engineering PSU. “Why not do it for myself I thought,” says Babu, now 49. Within a year of his quitting Indwell, he had tapped into his extensive network and founded Power Mech.
Babu’s personal touch and execution skills have resulted in his company gaining contracts from several large power producers in India. His colleagues describe him as someone who is relationship-oriented. “Once he sees someone, he does not forget the face,” says an employee at Power Mech.
The company had a modest start in 1999 with a maintenance job at Tata Power’s plant at Trombay in Mumbai. “They knew me, and that is how I got the job,” says Babu.
In its first year, Power Mech generated revenues of Rs 5 crore; this helped him get the bank guarantees necessary to start offering construction services that included erecting boilers, turbines and other machinery. A year later, BHEL also registered Power Mech as a contractor and the company began to get a steady stream of projects.