J.P. Chalasani is very enthusiastic about work and the power sector. He joined Suzlon in 2016, bringing to the organisation all the depth and range of his experience, project management skills and people management expertise. What keeps him excited is that the power sector is never without challenges. “Even after more than three decades, I still see lots of challenges – and opportunities – and that’s what keeps me going. I always tell this story at forums…. When I joined the industry as an NTPC trainee, the power secretary told us that the industry faced three challenges: low PLFs, high T&D losses and discom ill-health. In different ways, we are still talking about them,” he says.
The fact that he left the conventional power industry where he had worked all his life to take up renewable energy at Suzlon demonstrates that he is undaunted by challenges. It would have been so easy, after being head of Reliance Power, at the pinnacle of his career, to have remained in that sector. But he had heard of Pune-based Suzlon and had great respect for its founder, Tulsi Tanti, long before he joined.
When he joined Suzlon, it was passing through a turbulent phase. He liked the idea of turning it around, despite knowing the scale of the challenge and the effort that would be required, given that both wind and solar were new to him. In his first year, the company did 1,769 MW, the highest ever by Suzlon in a single year. But from early 2017 to the present has been more difficult. The policy shift to auctions at the beginning of 2017 unleashed more turbulence. The challenge was to stay afloat and not drown in debt. The whole of last year was spent slashing costs and managing cash flows so that, at the end of the financial year, there was no default on debt. The company managed this and still retained market leadership. Now the order book is looking good though margins will be under pressure.
Chalasani talks with pride of how the company operates more than 17,000 MW across 18 countries. Of this, over 11,000 MW is in India. Gradually, the company plans to become more ambitious internationally.
Chalasani describes himself as an introverted person, who prefers to be at home than socialise. His wife Rajani, their daughter Manasa and son Aditya form a tight unit. Chalasani expresses regret that Rajani, when they got married, gave up her job as a lecturer to become a homemaker. What salves his conscience, he says, is that she took up painting and holds exhibitions of her work.