One of the early pioneers of the power of renewables in India was Tulsi Tanti who founded Suzlon, a name that immediately brings to mind wind turbines and the massive potential in the clean energy sector.
Tanti passed away at the age of 64 due to a cardiac arrest on October 1.
He was the poster boy of India’s wind energy boom and his ascent was driven by acquisitions at a rapid clip. The ambition to be the market leader in the wind energy space culminated in Suzlon capturing 50 per cent of the market in India. The hunger for more resulted in his undoing also.
Such was the rise of the man in just a decade that his name was featured in the Forbes List of 40 Richest Indians in 2005.
The company was listed on the bourses on October 19, 2005, at a premium of 35% taking him into the coveted league of billionaires. He had a 70% shareholding in the company at that time and the market valuation was Rs 13,850 crore.
The buzz generated by Suzlon was so intriguing that many a investors jumped on the bandwagon including Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
The debt-binge continued to finance his ambitions to expand rapidly. The company acquired two global giants Hanson and REpower. In 2008, the company hit a valuation of Rs 65,474 crore with Tanti’s stake worth Rs 43,547 crore.
However, things started turning for the worse as the global financial crisis took the wind out of the sails of the sector. The complaints of faulty turbines only compounded the problems.
“We are dealing with a very difficult external environment, where the wind industry has gone through a reasonably significant external correction. From a growth rate of about 30% over the past several years, we are now moving to a situation where there will be a flat growth in the industry,” said Sumant Sinha, former chief operating officer of Suzlon and current chairman and MD of ReNew Power in June 2009.
Suzlon was rescued by generous bankers and investors from time to time but its debt, which swelled to nearly Rs 18,000 crore, became a big challenge to service as Tanti continued to be ambitious about his company’s comeback.
Even an investment from Sun Pharmaceutical‘s Dilip Shanghvi, who came as a white knight for Suzlon, couldn’t really help. Tanti also sold Senvion (earlier REpower) but that was not enough to salvage the rapid fall.
Tanti was optimistic about the power of renewables in changing lives. Even though, his personal stake in Suzlon had dwindled over the years with majority of the company’s being pledged, he remained invested in the hopes of revival of the company.
He was awarded the ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the UN and ‘Hero of the Environment’ by TIME magazine.
Tanti will be remembered as someone who was at the vanguard of the renewable energy boom and whose ambition to put India firmly on the clean energy map of the world will be remembered till eternity.