Manikkan SangameswaranExecutive Director & CEO of Radiance Renewables
Mr S. Manikkan is the Executive Director and CEO of Radiance Renewables Private. Ltd (“Radiance”). Manikkan has 25 years of extensive experience in infrastructure and execution of large transactions both for private, public and Government sector. Prior to joining Radiance, Manikkan was the Founder & Director of Origin Renewables Pvt. Ltd. (“Origin”). Radiance acquired Origin in March 2020.
Prior to founding Origin, Manikkan was the President- Infrastructure of ICICI Venture and co-headed the Infrastructure fund, focused on investment opportunities in energy, transport and renewable sectors. Manikkan also had a brief stint with Babcock & Brown India Private Limited as Managing Director (Head of Infrastructure). He has over two decades of experience in financial services across companies such as ICICI Venture, ABN AMRO, UBS Securities (India), SBC Warburg.
Manikkan was awarded most powerful solar business leader in Indian PV market by Solar Quarter in 2021.
ORGANIZATION STRATEGY/ KEY CHALLENGES
1. What is the mandate given to you by the Board?
‘Radiance’ was created as a distributed renewable energy platform to focus on commercial, industrial and residential customers. The mandate given by the board was to create a capacity of 1.5 GW in 4 years.
We develop, own and operate distributed renewable energy generation through rooftop, behind the meter, and ground mount assets to supply green energy to C&I customers.
Radiance was created in 2018 and commenced significant operations in 2019. Over the last three years, we have scaled up the business and demonstrated an impeccable track record in designing, building, owning and operating multi-megawatt projects to supply power to large Indian commercial and industrial companies. We are now well positioned to be a leader in the growing C&I market as we have access to significant capital from pedigreed stakeholders with focus on customer management, efficient project development and technology driven asset management.
2. How much of that has been achieved?
We have a well-defined vision and plan to achieve the target. In a short period, we have scaled up our capacity and will have operational capacity of ~450 MW by June 2022 serving more than 60 plus customers across diverse industries such as Iron and Steel, manufacturing, metals and mining, chemicals, textiles, automotive etc.
Our key differentiator is our ability to take developmental risks by building solar parks in advance of power purchase agreements being signed. This demonstrates Radiance’s commitment to invest upfront and shorten delivery turnaround time resulting in faster momentum of customer acquisition.
We have repeat customers that demonstrates customers trust in us as we aim to be the one-stop-shop for all their renewable energy needs.
We are on track to reach 1 GW of operating assets by March 2023. Further, over the next 3 years, the company targets to build a diverse portfolio of more than 2 GWs of renewable energy assets through an ambitious strategy of greenfield development and value accretive acquisitions.
While we scale up our business we remain committed to maintain highest standards of quality, safety, transparency, and reliability. Our business has been built on foundations of strong governance and best in class HSE and ESG policies. We have adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals of (a) climate action (b) affordable and clean energy, and (c) clean water and sanitation.
Our aim is to build a trusted brand and be the sustainable preferred “Energy Partner” for our customers by offering “Renewable Energy as a Service”.
DOMAIN SECTOR (TO CAPTURE CURRENT SECTORAL TRENDS DEVELOPMENTS CHALLENGES)
3. What are the key challenges your organization is facing? Both immediate and long term. And what steps you are taking to overcome?
When the covid induced lockdown was declared, we were a team was of six, and we scaled up our business during the pandemic. This had its unique set of challenges in terms of not being able to meet clients/customers in person, supply chain-related issues, talent hiring related issues, and we had to learn and act swiftly to overcome the uncertainty and address the needs of our organization, team, customers and suppliers.
Aligning all the stakeholders to create an ecosystem that functions seamlessly was a critical goal that we achieved. We utilized the pandemic period in building systems, processes and structure to achieve business scale and growth.
Remote working and virtual setup posed an altogether unforeseen set of challenges for the organization. However, we were quickly able to adapt and convert the same into an opportunity by having a clear vision to grow the business.
As we continue to scale up in our journey and introduce new products and technologies, we will continue to deal with the challenge of growing our team to include diverse skillsets.
We built our core team rapidly, defined the organization’s core processes, and ensured that those functions worked effectively. We used effective communication and continuous review to track our actions with our goals to stay on the path.
Effective leadership, teamwork and collaboration were the key success factors in to scaling our business while growing our team strength to 70+ with senior leaders in the team fully empowered to take faster decisions in their functional areas. We partnered with the best in class technical, financial and regulatory players having PAN India presence. Our partners helped us tremendously to resolve various local and travel-related challenges to meet the deadlines of projects.
The Commercial & Industrial (C&I) market segment is facing the twin challenges of demanding Round the Clock (RTC) power and regulatory uncertainty. Frequent changes in taxes and regulations throws the market into a disarray and slows the sector growth. Policies and their interpretation of regulations needs to be streamlined across states in India and should be on prospective basis.
4. How have the Pandemic/technology/globalization/economy affected your sector?
There is an increase push towards green energy transition for companies globally with sustainability and ESG being the foremost board agenda for companies. This provides a large opportunity for developers like Radiance to offer solutions and partner with customers in their green transition journey. The COVID 19 pandemic only accentuated the need for transition but caused delay in project execution timelines.
For Radiance, our operational projects were not impacted by the pandemic due to favourable net metering and grid banking arrangements. Further, none of our customers took any prolonged shut down during the period, and as a result, there was no negative impact on our power sales and business cashflows.
However, under-development project timelines got impacted by being pushed out by a quarter due to restrictions on the inter-district movement of goods/ services and stretched approval timelines from government authorities.
The industry has been facing few headwinds such as the global price increase for commodities like steel, copper, and aluminium, local Goods and Service Tax (GST) rates on modules and inverters have now increased from 5% to 12%. Even the freight costs and module prices increased due to the ongoing power crisis in China and shipping constraints due to the pandemic.
Basic Customs Duty on imported solar cells (25%) and imported modules (40%)effective from 1st April 2022 will increase the cost by ~25 % to 30 % on solar PV modules; with a consequent increase in consumers’ power tariffs.
We are looking to improve competitiveness through larger scale projects, use of wind solar hybrid technologies with energy storage systems.
5. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw the balance between home grown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?
Radiance is a young organization, and we have built this on four pillars of vibrancy, reliability, sustainability and eco-enabling. We are dedicated to upholding our core values, ethics, and beliefs rooted in sustainability and good governance.
The Radiance family has grown to 70+ full-time employees, with our core leadership team firmly in place.
We have an experienced management team with significant sector expertise and strong execution skills. The team has demonstrated its ability to develop projects in a time and cost-efficient manner with a sharp focus on technology led asset management.
Our initial talent pool was developed via employee referrals and talent acquisition with the help of HR partners. Lateral hiring was also done at multiple levels and will continue to be done to fill core positions that cannot be home grown.
Our hiring has been diverse across age, gender and experience, and we firmly believe in gender diversity in the organization while we implement gender action plan.
We have hired smart and competent people, and we nurture and upskill their talent by focused training and career development programs to help them grow in the organization and achieve their career goals. We have also subscribed to Linkedin Learning and have given access to all employees to upskill themselves by taking courses of their choice.
We believe in being an employee-friendly company and have introduced hybrid work culture for employees to achieve a good work-life balance. We had set up vaccination drives for all employees, including contractual and on-site. We are created an excellent working environment for our employees and we invest in our people which will allow us to attract top talent. All this makes our company an excellent place to work and attract top talent. We also allocate funds annually for community level CSR activities.
6. How does your organization identify and develop future leaders?
We have clearly defined KPIs and accountability at all levels. Our HR department has rolled out a specific and carefully designed training plan and career advancement program. We invest significantly in training our employees. Performance of employees is reviewed periodically, and right stewardship is provided every time.
For employees who have performed well, we guide them to take up more responsibility within the organization. We believe in having a transparent, entrepreneurial, and open work culture and everyone has the right to express their views openly.
SHORT/MEDIUM TERM OUTLOOK & STEPS TAKEN
7. Every crisis is a learning opportunity, what lessons have you picked up from Covid?
Creating a business during the pandemic is a very different experience of doing business. All the meetings with team members, potential customers, or partners were happening online. Even the sales cycle timelines in some cases had shortened as everything was now done virtually.
Due to the travel restrictions, we leveraged a lot on our operational partners. Most of them had local presence in major states, which helped quickly resolve issues at local site level. Our operational partners are the best in class, and we have built a strong partnership with India’s quality EPC / procurement players, regulatory & legal advisors and the lending community.
We have also focused on digitizing our processes and having proper SOPs and documentation in place. This helps to have robust and seamless business continuity plans to ensure we are ready to face unprecedented situations.
8. In a world full of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity (VUCA), innovation has become one of the most important factors to transform a crisis into an opportunity. How do you promote Innovation?
Radiance firmly believes that our future success is dependent on innovation and we do our best in leveraging technology. New technology has a huge impact on markets and market dynamics.
We have adopted Industry 4.0 by leveraging digital for competitiveness through implementation of a fully automated end to end ERP solution and have built an advanced analytics tool to improve plant performance through active asset management. In addition, we ensure strong governance and compliance through automated tools. We are currently running pilot projects at our sites for robotic cleaning using opex & capex models. We are evaluating different technologies in battery storage and a foray into hydrogen technology.
9. How do you define and practice leadership?
High growth start-ups can rapidly build scale only through effective leadership. Leadership is contextual and depends on the type of situation and the stage of evolution of the organization. A good leader takes the whole team together to achieve a common goal with passion and energy, has clearly spelt out long term goals, take strategic decisions, articulates and communicates the strategy effectively to the team, motivates and inspires the team by leading through example and takes calculated risks and implements strategy with swift decision.
10. We see many Indian leaders on the global stage. How can more Indian leaders become Global Leaders?
A global leader is experienced in dealing with and effectively handling the glaring differences of diverse backgrounds and cultures and still working cohesively towards the company’s goal. For Indians to be global leaders, exposure to working in global platforms/companies is paramount in the formative years of their careers. Hence, he / she would be adept at handling such complexity with ease. I believe in the coming years, we will witness an acceleration of the rise of Indians as global leaders.
11. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you learned from and/or that got you where you are today?
Leaders today in most organizations have witnessed significant uncertainty in the past couple of decades. The Lehman collapse was a turning point in the careers for a lot of people including me.
- The unexpected credit market meltdown saw the dismantling of my previous organization – Babcock & Brown. This experience taught me how to deal with a crisis and that the character of leaders are built and demonstrated on how they respond to crisis.
- The second turning point in my career was when I quit ICICI Venture to become an entrepreneur to develop distributed renewable solar generation projects on BOOT basis for the C&I customers. This involved backing my conviction with significant personal capital/ retirement savings and building a business in a lean manner. The ability to convince customers to trust you when all you have is your credentials and market reputation was an amazing learning. This taught me how to build a business frugally to generate best returns for the stakeholders while taking calibrated risks.
- Lastly, the covid pandemic was a turning point, as I was completely surprised at the way we at Radiance including the customers, vendor partners and the lending community all adapted so easily and seamlessly with the use of technology. We learnt the value of speed and time for a start-up and brought velocity in our actions to build a team and deliver to our customers despite covid related challenges. The pandemic also taught all of us to rethink risk differently in a VUCA world.
12. What message would you like to share with young professionals?
I would like young professionals to be more patient and diligent in working with an eye for detail and not only be focused on short terms gains but have a long-term thinking and outlook. I believe that it is very important to choose the correct organization and workplace in the formative years of one’s career where one get the right mentorship, opportunity to learn technical and soft skills and groom themselves better for the future. Finally, I would encourage youngsters to focus on their goals, take risks, spend time in upgrading their skills, have a learning mindset with clarity on both near term and long-term goals without getting distracted by the noise along the way.