Having found a perfect niche for himself at Voith Hydro, where he has been spearheading the company’s sizzling expansion into Southeast Asia and Africa in recent years, Ravinder Kalra believes he is in the right place at the right time. He has worked in the hydropower sector for the past 13 years and facilitated the commissioning of over 50 projects. Before that, he enjoyed a distinguished career as a marine engineer with the Indian Navy for 21 years, during which time he won two commendations from the chief of naval staff and the Director General Quality Assurance Organisation.
After a fulfilling time in the navy, full of camaraderie, professionalism, discipline and fun, Kalra decided to leave the navy and move to the hydropower sector. His first job was with a multinational hydro company in Faridabad. Later, he joined Voith Hydro, and was intrigued by the company’s astonishing longevity – 150 years old, never any change of name, owned continuously by the same family that is now into the fifth generation, and run by professionals.
Kalra looks after a total of 350 personnel working on large and small-hydro plants. Given the difficult milieu of many of the countries where they work, the company takes pains to ensure that their working conditions and commute are safe.
Kalra strongly believes that the development of pumped storage plants is an inescapable requirement given the development of solar and wind energy in India. Pumped storage plants are the natural batteries of the world that can store a few GW of energy from the grid during the day when solar is running to full capacity and pump the energy back to the grid during the evening peak hours.
He is eagerly waiting for the government’s new hydro policy. He says the categorisation of all hydropower as renewable (projects of more than 25 MW capacity) will go a long way in reducing the cost of hydropower. Simplification of the various clearances required for hydropower plants would also be welcome. “The way I see it, we need to tackle energy poverty in the same way as we tackle poverty – with focus and determination,” he says.
Every day for Kalra begins with a long commute because home is in Faridabad, where he lives with his family, including his parents, with whom he spends some time every evening. Kalra’s energy levels are high and he likes to keep his body in good condition. Wherever he goes in the world, he packs his trainers and swimming gear. His solution for stress is simple: “Go for a run.”