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Suzlon goes local with Chinese CEO

CEO He Yaozu tells HT he wants to co-develop entire wind farms in China, not just sell turbines.

business Updated: Nov 23, 2010 10:40 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times

The new China CEO of Pune-based Suzlon Energy has dipped his fingers in sambar-rice and travelled to India before the age of cellular roaming when he carried six cell phones.

“No Darjeeling tea? They must change that,’’ said He Yaozu as green tea arrived. The mantra most repeated in conversation with HT is ‘localise.’

Foreign companies struggle against the wind in China --- the world’s largest wind market --- complaining that the industry is skewed in favour of domestic and state-owned companies. But he disagrees. “I don’t agree that China is not a level playing field. China is a highly competitive market,’’ he said.

It’s a complete change of view from his predecessor Paulo Fernando Soares who told HT in February that it’s ‘unbelievable, unusual and unnatural’ that global wind power players are not winning major central government contracts.

Suzlon is the world’s third-largest wind turbine maker with five years invested in China. The appointment of a Beijing-based Chinese CEO with an insider’s understanding of the renewable energy industry and the Indian and Chinese mindset is a strategic decision to improve competitiveness in the world’s most challenging energy market.

He is the first Chinese CEO of a major international wind turbine maker in China. “I like a dare,’’ he said. “If it’s easy everybody would be doing it.’’

India is the fifth largest wind market, surpassed by China in 2008. China aims to increase the share of renewables to 15 per cent of energy generation by 2020, but sizeable wind power capacity is still not connected to the grid.

Suzlon is developing a massive wind farm in Gujarat and now plans to sell entire projects in China instead of only turbines. “We are looking into co-financing and co-developing wind farms to sell a whole project,’’ He said. Suzlon has worked this model in India and Australia, helping investors find and secure land and approvals, install equipment, connect it to the grid, and maintain and co-finance the farm.

In China, the market for wind farms is way bigger. In 2009, India added 1,271 MW installed wind power capacity while China added 13,000 MW. In 2009, Suzlon China was executing contracts to deliver over 1GW wind energy.

The CEO says he works for ‘at least half the world’s population.’ He describes sampling sambar-rice for Rs 2 on a banana leaf during an earlier stint as his Indian ‘indoctrination’. “Indians and Chinese are very smart,’’ he said. “They are good negotiators and drive a hard bargain.’’

Sharing Asian values helps Indians and Chinese work as a corporate team, but overall bilateral investments still face barriers. “It’s a matter of trust and aligning goals in the right direction,’’ he said. Suzlon recently invited a Chinese vice-minister's delegation to the Pune plant. It was the officials’ first visit to India.

First Published: Nov 23, 2010 10:37 IST