A few years ago, Sumant Sinha found himself in the right place at the right time: Suzlon Energy (right place) and favourable government wind energy policy (right time). Sinha was also, perhaps, the right man because he had the smarts to capitalise on this happy timing. That’s how Renew Power was founded—as an independent power producer (IPP) in India with a focus on generating electricity from wind.
An IPP is not a public utility, and operates facilities to generate electricity for sale to a utility or end user. India has not yet thrown up a wind power utility firm of any scale—Renew Power is in contention. It was founded in 2010 and has an installed capacity of 370 MW (wind farm). It has framework agreements with Suzlon Energy and Gamesa to buy wind turbines.
Goldman Sachs is a majority stakeholder. It put in $250 million in 2011, and in June 2013 another $135 million. This made it the largest private equity investment in India’s renewable energy sector.
The man behind it
Before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, Sinha was the COO and CFO of Suzlon Energy, India’s largest and the world’s fifth-largest wind turbine manufacturer. In his two years at the company, Sinha played a key role in crisis management. Post the financial downturn of 2008, Suzlon found itself in the middle of an existential crisis—huge debts, tough operating environment and quality problems. Sinha, the son of BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, was instrumental in setting the company’s finances in order. He helped refinance its outstanding debt worth $3 billion, raised extra funds of about $800 million and restructured convertible bonds worth $500 million.
His experience is also diverse. Before joining Suzlon, Sinha set up Aditya Birla Group’s retail venture, Aditya Birla Retail, as its founder CEO. From 2002 to 2007, Sinha was the group’s CFO. His educational pedigree is sound as well: IIT-Delhi, IIM-Calcutta, and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Despite success in the corporate sector, he had a persistent desire to start something on his own. “And I got a lot of confidence by working with Mr [Kumar Managalam] Birla and Mr Tulsi Tanti. I understood how businesses are done, built, and so on. That’s one. Second is the opportunity itself and your own expertise in it. At Suzlon I got an understanding of the renewable energy industry and also saw the market changing from an accelerated depreciation market to a more IPP-based market,” he says.
Correction: The article has been updated. Sumant Sinha was the CFO and COO at Suzlon and not CEO as stated earlier.