She yearned to be a pilot, but Nidhi Gupta chased the sun instead, and co-founded the Rs.8 billion Rays Power Experts
Hailing from a middle-class family in Jaipur, 28-year-old Nidhi Gupta always wanted to be pilot, and after her 12th grade, was preparing for a commercial pilot course but the 2008 crisis that hit the aviation industry undid her plans. Instead, Gupta completed her B. Tech from Rajasthan Technical University and opted to join her elder brother, an engineer from IIT Roorkee who had set out on his dream of becoming an entrepreneur by setting up Rays Power Experts, a solar consultancy and liaisoning firm, in Delhi.
By mid-2012, the company had forayed into becoming a turnkey EPC specialist. But instead of being content with a cushy office job, Gupta was keen to get her hands dirty by getting into operations. She went to a village in Rajasthan to set up a 250 KW plant for the company’s first client, the Delhi-based Laxmi Publications. That decision proved to be a turning point, as it not only kindled her interest in the renewable business but also instilled in her an entrepreneurial zeal to overcome all odds.
Gupta and her team soon started executing bigger solar plants. The company has pioneered the concept of solar parks in the districts of Kolayat and Gajner. The Kolayat park is spread across 130 acres and has a total capacity of 50 MW. More than 23 developers from Rajasthan and Gujarat have invested in the park. In 2013, Rays Power set up another solar park at Gajner of around 300 acres, one of the largest in India.
By 2014, the company was clocking a turnover of around Rs.2.5 billion, but a slowdown in the subsequent two years because of the policy change and general business sentiment saw the company facing a liquidity crunch. “We were down to a couple of lakhs as even though the business had been growing, since I was also looking into accounts, I had not looked at the fact that receivables kept climbing,” says Gupta.
Overcoming the business challenges, Rays Power managed to clock an impressive growth — ending FY18 with Rs.8 billion in revenue. Total installations have crossed 500 MW, with 450 MW ground-mounted solar and the rest comprising rooftop installations.
While Rajasthan continues to drive revenues (constituting 80%), Rays is scaling up in new markets such as UP, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh and West Bengal, which currently account for 20% of their turnover. Some of its marquee clients outside of Rajasthan include Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (7 MW rooftop), New Delhi Municipal Corporation (4 MW) project. The company’s biggest installation till date is a 175 MW plant for Africa-based Rising Sun, which had bagged an order from NTPC.
The company currently has 150 solar clients (ground mounted), who have forged long-term O&M contracts spanning between 10 and 25 years. In the days to come, the company, with a staff strength of 130, sees huge opportunity in Haryana and UP.