“The journey is the reward, and if one is giving 100% in their work, success will be achieved; it is just a matter of time.” – This is Gaurav Sood’s advice for young and passionate entrepreneurs.
Gaurav Sood is the CEO of Sprng Energy. This company offers a state-of-the-art renewable energy platform to impact the Indian clean energy sector positively. Sprng is mainly focused on utility-scale solar and wind assets. They are considered one of the top 10 renewable IPPs in the country, with an operational capacity of 2.1GWp. They look forward to adding about 1GW capacity every year and plan to become one of the top 3 players in India by 2030.
In this interview with Business Upside, Gaurav Sood discusses his entrepreneurship journey with Sprng Energy. He also shares his motivation, job role, company’s plan, challenges he faced, business strategies, recruitments, satisfying moments, advice for rising entrepreneurs, etc.
Edited Excerpt of the Interview
Business Upside [BU]: What was your motivation for this company during the initial days?
Gaurav Sood [GS]: The motivation for starting Sprng Energy from scratch was to create a state-of-the-art utility-scale renewable energy platform that would create a meaningful impact in the clean energy sector in the country. To achieve that, one needed to have a shareholder who understood the renewable market well and had the availability of committed equity. Also, having an entrepreneurial team you could trust and getting a good seed asset to kick off the exciting journey. All these things came together to build a sustainable business positively impacting the environment and communities where we set up the assets.
[BU]: What is the vital part of your job role?
[GS]: Good governance, shareholder, and team management are vital in my role. I also need to ensure an efficient, ethical & result-oriented culture in the organization where individuals come together to deliver results. Being a leader in the cleantech space, I have a crucial role in calling for greater accountability for stakeholders. I believe this would lead to continual development and expansion of the RE sector and expedite the transition to cleaner sources.
[BU]: What do you look for in your co-workers?
[GS]: My colleagues and the entire Sprng family have been my biggest strength and key to our successful journey. Personally, for me, the following traits do matter integrity, a high sense of ownership, an entrepreneurial mindset, and learning agility.
[BU]: What has been the most challenging phase during this span of being a CEO in this company?
[GS]: There is no doubt that the 2 years of this pandemic have been a bane for all humanity. As a CEO, this was a very challenging phase since electricity generation is an essential service, resulting in many of our team members working on project sites for the construction and operations of our assets during the pandemic, putting them and their family’s life at risk. We also lost a dear colleague which was very difficult for me and everyone at Sprng.
[BU]: As a renewable energy source in the future, what is your future projection for this company?
[GS]: Renewable energy is currently the country’s most competitive form of energy and contributes to around 28% of India’s installed electricity capacity. The Indian Government has spelled out a clear vision to achieve a renewable share of at least 50% in the installed generation capacity by the decade’s end.
Sprng Energy is glad that it has been able to contribute effectively towards building this capacity and is amongst the top 10 renewable IPPs of the country with an operational capacity of 2.1GWp and another 0.9GWp under construction and development.
Sprng has focused primarily on utility-scale solar and wind assets. Going forward, we intend to actively participate in the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) segment such that we can help companies in their decarbonising journey. With the grid having a decent intermittent renewable as part of the energy mix, we would be looking at more hybrid and RTC tenders coupled with appropriate storage solutions. Also, we look to participate in the merchant market as power trading increases on the exchanges. If we look towards the future, we will look to venture into newer initiatives such as Green Hydrogen and Ammonia, Offshore Wind, etc.
We would add about 1GW capacity every year and plan to be amongst the top 3 players in the country by the end of this decade!
[BU]: What is the headroom in this industry if someone new wants to start the same?
[GS]: No matter what the industry is, there always has existed, is existing, and will continue to exist a headroom for new players. For instance, a few years back, PSUs never entered the renewable segment as bidders but have changed now.
For renewable IPP businesses, the availability of significant capital is essential as it is very capital-intensive. Also, land and resource are the other vital aspects to ensure the most competitive LCOE for which pipeline development is significant. This space is very competitive, and the returns have been reduced as more strategic and patient capital entered this sector. But if a company keeps on evolving with the market and has the basic ingredients in place, it can always make a dent in the market.
[BU]: What were the biggest roadblocks or challenges you had when you first started in the profession, and how did you overcome them?
[GS]: I initially got introduced to the renewable sector sometime in 2008 when I was working at Bharat Forge, and the Company decided to explore various renewable businesses as a strategic area for expansion. Even though I was a Chemical Engineer with an MBA in Marketing & Finance, I decided to upskill myself in renewable technology skills and do a Masters’s in Renewable Technology along with my job. This helped me develop a better understanding of the technologies and nitty-gritty of the sector and further strengthened my interest in this sector. Later, I went on to do my Doctorate in Renewable Energy Policy domain to develop a deeper understanding of policy formulation principles for sustainable growth of the sector.
While I began my journey in the Wind Turbine manufacturing space, I soon moved into solar IPP space, which opened in 2010. The significant challenges faced then were land acquisition. I recall getting involved with my team to finalize the required land parcel, the legal, due diligence, and its associated learning. The next challenge was to develop a supply chain and contractors for setting-up quality solar projects. Another challenge was securing non-recourse financing for these projects, which we could secure by structuring innovative payment terms with equipment suppliers. However, I was fortunate to have a great team by my side to ride over all these challenges.
[BU]: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
[GS]: Over the last decade, there have been multiple satisfying moments during my exciting journey of building two renewable platforms from scratch in India.
But if I must point out, the most satisfying and gratifying moments have been delivered through our CSR initiatives. #SprngCares is a motto that imbibes and inculcated in all our developments across the country, and all the Sprng employees act as ambassadors of these initiatives. I genuinely believe we have created considerable impact through these initiatives.
For instance, in our first project at Sprng in Rewa, MP, we made need identification in the community (project area spanning about five villages), which brought out the fact that women had limited employment opportunities. Accordingly, Sprng undertook skill development programs for them by formulating self-help groups from about 100 households. They were given training in Tailoring & Stitching and Beautician courses. Post completion of training, participants started their enterprises and took market orders. A total of 45 women continued stitching work from their houses, and eight women started their beauty parlours from their respective houses. This was amongst the most satisfying moments to see the impact we could create at a community level through our CSR initiatives. We have carried out many capacity-building programs, health camps, education, sanitation infrastructure development, etc., to uplift and support the communities and create a positive difference.
[BU]: How did you plan to provide better results in a crisis?
[GS]: In our business, the value gets derived if projects are delivered on time and within cost. Developing projects in India involving land, right of way, etc., entails various crises, particularly during construction. The key is quick decision-making in resolving any crisis as and when it comes. One must take commercial calls and move quickly to address the issue. So, I moved forward with this approach, and eventually, one might need to improvise, evolve, and decide on the go depending on your situation.
[BU]: Describe the SWOT analysis you did before starting as a company’s CEO.
- A shareholder who understands the sector very well and has a good track record
- Committed capital available for building large-scale renewable platform
- Identified team members available to build a team from scratch
- The strong political aspect will lead to market expansion
- Starting from scratch
- Both solar and wind play
- Both the Indian market and South-East Asia market
- Building a 2GW scale renewable platform
- Competitive market
[BU]: If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting, what would it be?
My advice for any professional would be to deep dive into any work one is given, as I believe there will always be learning of some sort from anything that is assigned to you. This ability will help one continuously add value to oneself and make one stand out and succeed in the long run. I always say, “The Journey is the Reward,” and if one gives 100% in their work, success will be achieved, it is just a matter of time.
- Company URL: https://sprngenergy.com/
- My LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gauravsood1/
- My Designation: CEO, Sprng Energy