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Viz-A-Viz with Rajneesh Khattar, Group Director | UBM India

Q. REI Expo is scheduled next month. What can we expect in the 11th edition of India’s biggest Renewable trade exhibition?

Rajneesh Khattar

Rajneesh Khattar, Group Director | UBM India

This is the most premium exhibition that the Industry is looking forward to. We feel ourselves already accountable to the industry to give them a best shot. Especially, looking at 11th REI, in terms of international players, this edition is going to witness the highest scale, in terms of look, feel and number on the floor. Over all exhibitors has gone up beyond 700 and as per trend and as per preregistered visitors, we do not foresee anything less than 32,000 of visitors coming over three days. And for the first time, we have scaled almost 20,000sq.m of net display area in terms of exhibition and lot many stake holders have come on board who were driving their own session at our show, for example, the MNRE-EU of PV rooftop section, they are doing couple of sessions at our show, the Solar Thermal Federation is doing sessions at our show besides Bloomberg, IndoGerman energy.

We are hosting a master class by Enphase Energy from the USA. There is even a skilled competition happening on the floor. Now all these in terms of the package are grandest offer alongside, there are so many activities happening on the floor. I think the scale is going to be one of its own leagues. In terms of our giving back to the Industry then surely this is the largest, the biggest platform India has ever yield.

Q. What according to you is the role of domestic manufacturing in realizing India’s solar dream of 100GW by 2022?

Domestic manufacturing, be it through large corporates or SME segments, they are basically is the back bone of Indian economy. They who are driving the local manufacturing like the India’s telecom sector, India’s automobile sector or wind sector. It is not to deny India’s solar sector has a lot to learn from wind sector. Because, today wherever wind has reached, we are talking about 35GW of wind today, one of the key parameter in success in what we have achieved in wind domain is primarily because of the value chain we have able to set up across the particular sector.

So, it means that domestic manufacturing has a huge role to play, because, not only from employment generation point of view, it brings a sense of capacitance among each other. Rather than giving free hand or free fall coming from overseas, especially China, which by default have many advantages why they are able to produce so cheap. So that way the role of domestic manufacturing to me is most important because ultimately when we talk about any solar plant, efficiency of modules and say about 25 years of warranty, we can probably fall back more confidently on our own domestic manufacturers than the material which comes from overseas.

Q. Can Anti-Dumping duty on imported solar equipment and a massive target of 100GW go hand in hand?

There has to be very systematic approach to it. By levying anti-dumping duties to make domestic manufacturing more competitive is probably the way government has seen it. But I think there are other means also to improve the competitiveness of Indian manufacturer. And levying anti-dumping duties just to ensure that the foreign goods are made more expensive is not a solution. There are many other ways; we have enough intellects and engineering skills to make these simple products like modules and accessories that go into solar. It is by default we are at little disadvantage level when we compare to the products from China.

There the cost of raising finance is cheap, cost of land is cheap, Federal government, and the Province government comes in front to support. The subsidy regime that persists in China is not in India today. So now levying anti-dumping duty is the only way government thinks is to bring things on level. However, I personally have different opinion to that as there should be encouragement within the domestic sector rather than blocking and putting anti-dumping so that the one which is being imported automatically turnout to be expensive. There are mathematical formula to ensure that we gain strategic advantage over them, but more than mathematical formula I think the real life should be that how can we support domestic manufacturing and give them facility and a road map, so that Indian the manufacturers have a complete well set ecosystem in India. It’s just we have to identify the potential and propel with a strong proposition.

Q. Is REI helping Indian manufacturers to learn new technologies from the International counterparts?

Definitely! The whole gamut and the bottomline of REI is to create a holistic ecosystem. From the first edition to till-date, there is a constant focus to create balance between domestic and international players. The moment they are more skewed in either direction, it creates an imbalance on the floor. This year, there are big international names logging a percentage of almost 48-49% of international participation which means the floor is absolutely balanced in terms of numbers. Also, we have strong presence of Japanese players, in fact there is a huge pavilion for them wherein companies like Mitsubishi, Sharp, Panasonic and Kyocera will stature and to add one also get to witness all the lead companies from Germany and China. According to survey, out of 10 top major inverter companies 8 are present at REI.

So all those 8 companies including SMA, ABB, Fronious, Schneider, Sungrow, Huawei, and leading inverter brands are present at the show. The whole objective of getting these international brands is that it gives Indian manufacturers much more levy to interact with them, learn from them, do business patch up, get a knowledge transfer, know-how etc. It creates a good mix of technologies between international and Indian players. International players get excited seeing large number of Indian players because for them they are their market whereas for Indian manufactures it is a foreign technology which the indigenous companies comply. It also inculcates an opportunity for technological congregation, know-how transfer, be their Indian arm for marketing product etc. I believe to bring International and National players under one roof because engaging just Indian companies will not be fruitful, as we know each other and bring no scope of improvement or new engagement. In that way I think our show has definitely contributed and will continue to contribute to the knowledge landscape of Indian Renewable Industry.

Q. Kindly elaborate how this 11th edition of REI will be beneficial for the visitors and what new can they expect from this year’s show?

I think, this year there is every bit to learn from REI. Because, as I said in terms of size it has grown exponentially and this is the largest offering till date we are going to gift it to the Industry. When it comes to visitors, last time they came they could access 600 exhibitors on board. This time the number has shot up to 750 exhibitors that mean whatever contract they were able to generate out of 600 the probability and magnitude of contract this year is going to be far more because the size of the show has become like a universe of renewables. Similarly, we are creating lot of sessions which we have kept open to visitors to attain.

For example, the knowledge workshop, we are doing this skilling competition which is not happening inside four walls rather it is staging on the open-floor of the exhibition. We have created master class by Enphase from the USA – where speakers coming from overseas will be talking on micro-inverter technologies and are open to the visitors and it is all free of cost. So these kind of additional value add-ons are coming the way of the visitors. Lot of new players like the POSCO from South Korea who have never been in the floor of any of the Indian shows will be a new kid in the block. Also, lot of Tracker companies will be in the trade show, it will be a new delight for visitors this year in terms of sheer size and increase in the magnitude of value add-on activities. There are also dedicated erudite and engaging sessions for delegates. Sessions conducted by PV Magazine, Bloomberg, Indo- German and there is a special session by the state of Rajasthan named “Advantage Rajasthan”.

These are all on invitation basis; so speakers and delegates this year going to earn much more knowledge as compared to last year. This year the scope and number of parallel sessions is far more than our earlier editions. Like 10th edition of REI occupied 3 (three) conference halls, this year it will be 4 (four). The exhibition floor has multiplied 25% besides the additional activities, which indulges no extra free and is a step to bring-in practice of a technology based ecosystem at large.

Q. In different forums you have always asserted that the Government has brought an overall optimism for the renewable industry. Can you share anecdotal preferences to support it?

This is all an upshot of profound optimism. When it comes to realizing the solar dreams, India, today is the most talked about country. I remember during my initial years in 2010-11, when we use to meet International stakeholder when India just launched JNSM which was 20GW by 2022. That time everyone use to disbelief it as they used to ask that do you think it’s a realistic number with India struggling with only few megawatts. Is it possible to achieve 20GW? There was a bit of mysterious disbelief, but today when we go overseas and the moment, we introduce ourselves that we are from India, one can see the paradigm shifting the perception. It is like, India is the only country today spoken between stakeholders, investors.

Whether the investors, manufactures or even the traders are looking into the size of Indian economy and a steep escalation from 20GW to 100GW under the new government of BJP they feel that India can even over shoot this number, may not by 2022, but sooner or later. At one point 20GW was matter of concern and matter of disbelief, today 100GW seems to be achievable and doable. I think there cannot be better accreditation or specification or manifestation of optimism which this new government has brought on the table. In terms of rave be in any part of world, the moment you introduce that you are from India, eople start talking about the government, the decisive actions which the country is undergoing and also about the tariffs. Every time the new tariffs are normal benchmark that is kind of opening the space for everyone.

I call it a revolution, when solar prices and bids are the cheapest in the world. And also the power generation cost in India from solar is probably the cheapest in the world and that gives the country like India which is rich in sunshine give enough reason for international players to look at India, because sides has suddenly opened up. I think the potential seems to be unlocked, now it’s up to the Industry to pick it up and I think government coming handy with rationalization of policies and anti-dumping duties etc. So I believe if it is all put together India is definitely on track.

Q. What according to you can government do to boost domestic manufacturing?

I think for these question government people are the right people to answer. Government is trying their best, but it’s always something could have been done better. Ultimately, the aim is that the Indian manufactures should find space for themselves. We don’t want to open up Indian market for Chinese manufactures.

Today, we are ending up being a consumer market. You name any big project which is popping Vikram Solar or Waaree or companies like Tata – module pricing into the calculation. All these Rs 2.44 in Bhadla or even before that Rs 2.97 and before that we were at Rs 3.33 tariff, all those prices which are taken-up by the bidding companies have not opted Indian panel manufacturing price. These are all taken on the module price proposition from Jinko, Trina because ultimately they have to go down so much on the pricing and the components has to be adjusted accordingly. So definitely we don’t want to become consumer market for Chinese products, but we need to create our own system. We are not against competition but then we need to create things on level.

We need to encourage R&D, divulge best practices to be followed. Rather than the anti-dumping duties which are basically the mathematical tools to ensure that the landing price of the foreign equipment or product comes at par with Indian manufacturing. We need to nurture, develop and mature the competitiveness of Indian manufacturing. Government has strong advisers and they are putting every aspect of Indian solar industry with a decisive dialogue.

Q. If you can share your experience from 2016 REI and what new initiatives you are bringing to the 2017 show?

REI – 2016 was definitely very affirmative and encouraging. Thanks to the Industry and their appreciation to the show. That was our marquee 10th edition and we also left no stone unturned to ensure that it was most pleasant experience for exhibitors, visitors, speakers, delegates, attendees and every participant who come to the show, so we tried to put our best foot forward. The kind of encouragement and response was so extolling that it gave us a kick on what better we can do and ensure REI doesn’t become a template.

The team of REI understands and mulls deeply to make the show interesting. The very idea of creating these incremental forums at the show is strive to render something new. Like the topic or technology of micro inverters; we believe it as the future of Indian renewable sector and attendees will see an all-round dialogue for the very first time. For the very first time, REI- 2017 has also introduced a pavilion on energy storage. It’s a small pavilion of 150-200sq.mtrs, but for us it’s an inception of energy storage into our show buffet just for our attendees. We brought energy storage as we believe it is a further extension of renewables in this country.

The next big buzz is going to be energy storage and we’re trying to bring it in a much more better place with a kind of creating separate pavilion under the umbrella of REI. We are looking to push energy storage from our next edition onwards. We have lot of topics beside micro-inverters, as we are also talking on subjects and sectors India has never touched upon like the micro grids, smart girds; block chain technology – a virtual power plant. So, at large the conference has evolved over the time. We never had any sub-session on our previous editions talking off block chain and virtual currency, Bitcoin. We foresee these are futuristic topics which we want to bring on floor today so the industry keeps captivating. Our intention is to continuously innovate the platform and bring new offering which keeps propelling the industry.

Q. Being the organizer of the biggest Renewable energy trade show and conference, how do you see the Indian market of renewables growing?

I am a perennial optimistic person and I think the story of Indian renewable energy story has rev up. India has actually become a poster child for global landscape on renewable energy Industry. When it comes to optimism, I think the government is also leaving no stone unturned. Compared to few years ago, renewables in India today has come like strong news all over. The number of forums which are coming up, every big corporates they are trying to get their hands on the clean energy sector. The funds which are in fluxing today from international bodies like clean energy funds. Softbank is a strong example as it never entered into renewable state in India as much as they are investing today. Our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi is himself a pro-renewable as during his tenure as CM in Gujarat the state has achieved and has become power surplus. The vision is actually driven from PMO; so it’s the right vision, right policy makers, right intellect and engineering knowledge in India. To all this as I have been saying this has taken a shape of a revolution. So I think nobody can now stop the RE goals of this country.

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