How this entrepreneur from Jaipur is helping to install solar power plants across the countryJubin Mehta
Nandit Bindal, 27, was born and brought up in Jaipur. An MBA from ICFAI Hyderabad, starting up has always been on the cards for him. “I was very clear, from my student days, that I wanted to be in the field of business, and start something of my own,” he says. But what business? And how was he going to go about starting it? These were some of the questions he didn't have answers to back then. While doing his MBA, he spent a lot of time thinking it over. “I observed many businesses in e-commerce, the KPO space and renewable energy,” he recollects. He worked on a business plan aimed at extending e-commerce to the last-mile consumer with help of rural kiosks, and a business plan for common admission forms for entrances to various colleges. He also keenly followed the solar space in India, and noted how each and every major business house was considering investing in it.
In spite of having all these ideas, being a student, he didn’t have the financial resources to start or experiment with them. “I also had an hefty education loan that needed to be paid off. I got placed in a job by my college, with CRISIL, as an equity research analyst. This gave me some time to do some serious thinking on how I could begin,” he adds. CRISIL turned out to be a wonderful launchpad, with its pleasant work culture and happy employees. All in all, it was also a great learning ground. A year into it, Nandit realized that solar project advising was something that he could do straight away, without much investment. His broader goal with advising was to gather more knowledge of the sector, which he knew could help him identifying his correct place in the solar sector’s value chain.
The itch, and good relations with major developers, allowed Nandit to make a shift to the execution side of things. Thus, SunTap was born. “My first major break came on a 25 MW project in Gujarat,” he says. He received this contract more on the basis of the project owner’s trust in him, based on their earlier interactions regarding consulting assignments (which never materialized). The experience taught Nandit early on that losing orders sometimes is okay, far better than over-committing and losing relationships and goodwill.
Started in 2012, SunTap aims to be a leading MW-scale solar plant contracting company. “Today, we are the largest rammed solar foundation contracting company in India,” says Nandit. The MW-scale solar plants which SunTap plays are spread across a very large area. For instance, a 100 MW solar plant would need 500-550 acres of land area, and for about 70,000-90,000 foundations to be built in a span of just 4-5 months. Earlier, solar EPC companies used concrete, and were thus struggling to achieve the strict timelines set by government. SunTap looked at a solution for this. They saw how the job was being done in Europe and the US. “These places used advanced machines, which eliminated the use of concrete all together. It was a fast process, and economical as well. We initiated the same process in India, imported these machines, trained manpower, and started offering them to other companies on a contractual basis,” says Nandit about their operations. SunTap is also into turnkey construction of industrial roof tops, and MW scale solar projects.
Nandit also had help along the way. TIF Energy, a Spanish company, was in India for a project they were executing for an American client here. Nandit met with TIF Energy. They shared the same enthusiasm for the Indian market, and decided to come together as SunTap TIF. “The model is simple. They bring technical know-how, a part of investment, experience, and the profile to bag bigger orders. We bring the business, a part of investment, local liaison, and on-ground execution. We share the benefits on the business we do,” says Nandit. The SunTap TIF team is about 35 people strong. This includes permanent employees, as well as associate workers, who work only when there is a project. The company operates pan India, and has worked across states like Rajasthan, West Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh.
“We built all the foundations for the 2.14 MW Indra Gandhi International Airport solar project, which was a prestigious order. Then, we did the majority of the foundation work for the 100 MW Acme solar project in Rajasthan, (one of the largest single location solar plants in India, spread over 500 acres),” says Nandit about their marquee clients. Companies like Moserbaer, Punjlloyd, and Ajanta Pharma, among many others, have used the services of SunTap TIF.
The company has been growing fast, but the industry holds some inherent challenges. For instance, it is a highly seasonal business. “The pace of business that we do is not steady across the year; it fluctuates a lot. When there is work you have too much, and there are some months when things are slow,” shares Nandit. But for this young entrepreneur from Jaipur, intentions for the future are clear, “We aim to retain our leadership position in the solar business, as far as contracting for foundations is concerned. We want to get deeper into the solar sector, with turnkey services for solar roof tops, and ground mounted solar projects.”
Website: SunTap TIF energy