Rays Expert is one of India’s leading private solar Park developers and one of the largest solar EPC and development companies from concept to commissioning. The company offers services across every level of solar power project development. It also deals in residential rooftop segment and till date has executed over 2500 rooftop solar projects. Rays Expert was founded in 2011 and pioneered the concept of solar Parks under the leadership of Mr Rahul Gupta, MD &CEO, Rays Experts. The Smart Energy Editorial Team interacts with Mr Gupta for insights into his company, his inspiring entrepreneurial journey and his future plans. Edited excerpt from the interaction.
Q. Mr Gupta, we have witnessed the amazing and inspiring Journey you had with Rays Experts, achieving milestones, reaching new heights and taking the company to zero debt, how did you manage to do it all? What were the key lessons you learned that you would like to share with other entrepreneurs?
One thing that you have to realize as an entrepreneur is that we are here to grow and that is the fundamental of any business. In our case, the fundamental was settled upon by the fact that our business was profitable and we had the trust of our customers, who despite our situation had trust in us and kept giving us the businesses that we wanted, supporting it with the cash flows at the right point of time.
So the first important lesson that I think we learned in this journey was that business by nature has to be profitable otherwise there is no sense of putting up that type of effort and that type of capital into the business if we are just looking to deteriorate it. Secondly, we need to have a complete intent to do it with ethics, integrity and intent to give the money back from the sources where this money was taken, thirdly and most importantly, we need to be working with only one aspect that the sub trap has to be kept written-off.
When these three things are in place then we come up with a turnaround plan, we come up with strategies to actually involve the entire team and ultimately by God’s grace and with support from the family we come up and resolve the issues that we are into. That’s what all happened with us also across the entire cycle of the last five years.
The most important part of this entire journey is your team which needs to be with you. A lot of time what happens when the bad times happen is either the team leaves you or you leave the team and that’s where you double the problem. In those times the most important thing is that you need to speak to your guys, take them into confidence, fix up an exit plan for everyone and give them the confidence that we are afloat for the times to come.
Q. What was the key trigger that made you start your journey with solar and what made you realize that solar parks are going to be the next big opportunity?
While studying at IIT I had decided that I want to do something of my own. The next thing that I always loved to do was keep reading about new things that are coming up in the industry. In pursuit of finding something unique, I came across an article on solar energy. I got hooked up to the concept and uniqueness of the idea to generate energy using solar. I was fortunate enough to get support from the Department of Alternate Energy Sources at IIT and I started my entrepreneurial journey as a Consultant in solar field. While working as a Consultant I realised that solar energy is modular in nature, that even a single module can generate electricity and that anyone can setup a solar plant. This lead us to taking solar to the masses and that solar parks is an ideal model wherein we can get mass participation and people from any business can come and invest into the solar, that’s how we entered into the business of solar park.
Q.Can you share with our readers, your experience of building the world’s largest solar Park? What are its key features and differentiators?
Rays Experts is into the business of Solar Parks for the last 10 years, to quantify we have done around 900 MW of projects in our Solar Park for almost 250 customers. Finally, we realized that the value Edition in our business model is 70% of this solar Park infrastructure creation and 30% is the execution that we do. So how about making an Ultra Mega Solar Park? Honestly speaking it was a very big risk, so far only the government has taken such a big Ultra Mega Parks, no private company had done it on its own, so there were multiple questions. But, I wanted to give it a try, the reason being, faced with so many challenges in all these businesses, I had realized one thing until we don’t try we don’t know the results. With that intent, we started working on Ultra Mega Solar Parks. We started applying for the approvals, it took a lot of investment of ours. We were ready to take the risk with the intent that nothing is the end of the road.
My idea is that through this Solar Park, we want to conceptualize that our entire country is connected through a very robust network of the grid. The idea is that we should be producing power at one point in the country and using it anywhere in the country. With that intent we made the solar Park connect directly to the central transmission utility. Secondly, we wanted to give a ready-to-move, very highly certain place of investment for Solar Plant Developers and for investors and this is what I think is the biggest reason why we can make it a success.
One of the biggest differences that it creates from the industry is that other solar parks are either connected to the state grid or are smaller in capacity versus a large Solar Park of 2000 MW connected directly to the central grid. Highly cost-optimized model. Plus at this size economy of skills worked out to be excellent.
It’s not only solar that we have focused upon. Having realized that we are good at creating infrastructure, now our target is to produce around-the-Clock power on a renewable basis and with that intent we are now looking for multiple other sources of power, expanding outside solar too, but the principle of the entire business model is to provide round-the-clock Renewable Power being developed for the individual, by the individual in their capacities.
Q. Rays Experts envisions enabling every individual to own a solar power plant, how do you plan to make this happen?
The vision that we have is that every individual can own a solar plant in its capacity. Even if you are a small residence owner, put up a solar plant on your rooftop you are producing the power as much as you are consuming. An industry too can produce solar on its rooftop or under Open Access anywhere in the other part of the country outside of its premises, producing power as much as it is consuming. With solar, you can make this happen very easily and that’s the basic fundamental between our mission, that every individual should own a solar plant in its capacity, be it a small person or be it a businessman or be it a large corporate this principle applies to everyone.
Q. Could you share your views on the current status of the solar industry in India what according to you can be the big policy push that can take the sector to the next level?
The last year has been very tough for the solar industry. The prices of raw materials, solar panels, steel everything has increased. Because of this, the new installations are getting reduced for some time. During COVID people stopped investing in solar and that’s the sad part of the business. If you look at the brighter side, down the line after three years from now, the way the government is pushing local manufacturing we’ll see excellent results of this. We will see a much more stable market. Ultimately solar even today after increased prices is more cost-effective than compared to other sources of power. The Industries would go for solar for sure, they need to wait for some time until the industry is calibrated until the market prices are realized until the consolidation happens. The manufacturing push will give a lot of clarity on the supplies, the suppliers, and the prices you would be able to forecast yourself very well. I’m very optimistic about the current scenario which is going on in our Solar industry.
Coming to the big policy push, the biggest challenge in our country is that power is a state subject and the consumers are dependent on the DISCOMs for supply of the power. I think slowly and slowly we’re moving towards a regime where the market is getting liquid, the government is increasing Industries to purchase power from the exchanges, from bilateral power agreements, green open access policy that the government has released added to that they’ve increased the trading on the energy exchanges. All this will result in a lot of liquidity in the power market which would ultimately result in demand for the new solar plants coming up and that is the biggest policy push that I feel we are witnessing right now.
I would like to add one thing that we are in a phase of transition, the next one year is very crucial for our industry. If this transition phase goes smoothly then there’s nothing stopping the Indian renewable energy Market. it’s a big Market it’s a big opportunity.
Q.We are seeing a lot of push from the government on energy storage how do you look at the need for energy storage in India? What are the key challenges faced in the adoption of solar with storage and the way forward?
Energy storage is the need of the hour. If you have energy storage then we can use this excess solar power produced and discharge the batteries in the evening hours. The only problem right now is that the battery storage is very expensive. Until the government push them the prices will be higher. The government is promoting a big time on energy storage devices. It is coming up with a dedicated tender with energy storage, giving incentives etc. According to me, energy storage systems are not the ultimate solution to the crisis that we are facing in the evening hours. To reduce our dependence on thermal sources, energy storage to some extent can play a part but definitely, they are also highly dependent on natural resources which are not abundantly available and they end up resulting in somewhere affecting nature. Everyone realizes this fact and that’s the reason why there is a limited push for energy storage systems and nobody considers them to be a future.
Then, what would be the future? Options are working out on green hydrogen, pump storage solutions and many other ways which actually can help us get reliable power from nature in the evening hours. If we can invest something in the storage solutions, promote them and be ready to purchase slightly expensive power in the evening hours I feel down the line in future we’ll have a very smart solution which is renewable based giving us power in the time when we need it. The challenge currently is that we are not ready to get the power prices increased. We have to mentally be prepared that our prices will increase slightly but that will help us get much better sources of power down the line in future.
Q. Rays Expert today is the fastest growing company and is ranked amongst the top five companies, to what do you attribute your success to?
Everything that we are here today, I dedicate to the infinite support and the pillar of strengths that I’ve got from my parents, my family, my sister and from my team members, ex-team members, my engineers at the site who have worked hard to make us reach this level. My operations and execution team have worked hard to make sure that the projects are executed well within time. Our sales teams have worked hard to make sure that the cash flows are made possible even in the hardest times and ultimately my family standing with me to make sure that they are there together with me in the journey. Everyone who has contributed here in this journey I dedicate this success to them.
Q. Where do you see race expert in the next Future five years and how do you see it contributing to the growth of solar industry in India?
We are looking at a solar installation base of almost 300 GW in the next seven years from now, which means that annually we need to be installing at least 30 GW to 40 GW of solar every year. At Rays Experts, we plan to add 5 GW of solar capacity in our Solar Parks every year. If we can do that we feel we are contributing a small portion to the overall portfolio. Along with that we will be making a substantial investment into the future growth aspects of the solar policy in the country.