Interview: Anil Gupta / Rahul Bhutiani

MD & CEO at Adani Solar

By July 2025, we would be in the market to deliver a complete 10 GW integrated capacity

January 31, 2023. By Manu Tayal

We already had a manufacturing capacity of 2 GW, another 2 GW line would be added by July 2023, and thereafter, we would add another 6 GW capacity progressively by July 2025, with our complete ecosystem not only polysilicon to module line but including all the ancillaries. By July 2025, we would be in the market to deliver a complete 10 GW integrated capacity, shared Mr. Anil Gupta, MD & CEO of Adani Solar, and Mr. Rahul Bhutiani, Head Sales & Marketing at Adani Solar, in an exclusive interview with Manu Tayal, Senior Associate Editor, Energetica India. Here're the edited excerpts:

Que: First of all, congratulations on the new role. Kindly shed some light on Adani Group's perspective and plans for the solar segment.

Ans: Anil Gupta: I have been with the Adani Group for the last 14 years and now I am looking after Adani Solar. The whole idea of putting solar into manufacturing with us is to create a business pipeline for ourselves. We have been in Adani Green Energy creating a lot of power generation projects. Since we were wanting to have a reliability of module supply for us that is where we started manufacturing. Still, now we are seeing that there is a lot of demand coming up, so we want to integrate the entire ecosystem wherein we make modules supply for our self-consumption, for the domestic market, and for export. Besides, we are also putting up a hydrogen electrolyzer plant wherein we have a lot of demand for power generation. So, to create green hydrogen this would be one of the inputs to that. So that is how we are into module manufacturing. This would be a complete ecosystem wherein we would be integrating it with cell line, ingot, wafers, poly Si, MG-Si, and all the ancillaries including our glass manufacturing, EVA, backsheet, frame, and likewise. So that is how we are thinking very big, and we want to grow with the growth of the country wherein we see this as a sector coming up and, we want to contribute to the nation.

Que: Tell us in brief about Adani Solar's module manufacturing facility in India and what are the company's plans for backward integration.

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: Adani Solar has manufacturing facilities at Mundra in Gujarat. We have been operating since 2015. Currently, we are at about 2 GW of integrated cell and module capacity, and we have just expanded, and we will be about 4 GW of capacity by June 2023. We are also realizing that there are so many supply chain constraints that we want to remove all and make it completely integrated within our own country so that we can contribute to the country's energy security dream. So, we are creating a vertically integrated supply chain for the solar modules starting from the MG-Si to Solar Modules. So, with all the steps within the process, we will have 10 GW of integrated capacity all through. Additionally in the same geography, we will have ancillary units which will contribute with the respective materials that go to module making like glass, aluminum frame, EVA backsheet, and POE, and we are even setting up our Tracker facility in the same premises. So, all this will be put together to create a fully integrated ecosystem in one location. So, you can say it is like the auto manufacturing system where when the mother auto manufacturer comes in place all the ancillary units come around it. We are trying to replicate that same model for solar manufacturing, and I would hazard a guess that we may be one of the only such manufacturing facilities in the world where we have not only the backward integration, and complete vertical integration, but also have, all the ecosystem to support this integration.

Que: What do you think, how much time will it take to make the integrated capacity facility ready?

Ans: Anil Gupta: This is all going to come progressively. Today, we already had a manufacturing capacity of 2 GW, another 2 GW line would be added by 2023 somewhere in July, and thereafter, we would add another 6 GW progressively by July 2025. This is the solar module & cell lines and the ingot, wafer, and poly Si everything must start together and by July 2025 we have announced that we would be completing our complete ecosystem ready, not only the polysilicon to module line but including all the ancillaries. So, July 2025 is what I am seeing that we should be in the market to deliver a complete 10 GW... progressively of course!

Que: How much investment has been planned for the facility?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: It will be a very significant investment. Our Chairman has recently announced that we will be investing about USD 70 billion towards the renewable energy sector manufacturing. So, this will include the 3 giga-factories i.e., one for solar, one for wind, and the other for hydrogen electrolyzers. So, USD 70 billion is a huge investment that we are making, and a significant chunk of that is towards solar manufacturing because it is going to be fully integrated right from MG-Si to solar modules. So, all the facilities we will be putting in one geographic location which is close to our Mundra Port, giving us strategic advantage, when we look at exports.

Que: In which markets you are currently exporting and what other prospective markets you are looking for?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: Currently, our exports are oriented towards primarily the USA. We have got a good pipeline. We have booked orders of about 1.5 GW for exports to the US, which will be delivered in the next 12 months. We want to develop other markets to diversify our marketing and we are looking aggressively at Europe as a market to develop. So, at some point in time, we want to have a very healthy mix of our sales pipeline, when we are at 10 GW. So that we will have captive consumption as one of the pillars of our consumption. Then, we want to have the domestic market as another key segment where we serve India and its needs so that we can help achieve the dream of energy security of our country and of course look at exports to take Indian products to maybe the developed markets and to prove to them that we are rare at cutting-edge technology and we can provide products which deliver not only today's requirements but for the next 30 years because our products now have a warranty of 30 years.

Que: Which market would you prefer i.e., domestic, or overseas on considering policies?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: The Government has been very supportive! Not only it has given policies that encourage local manufacturing but also created policies that encourage local demand for locally manufactured products. So, the domestic market is a very important market for us. We are focused on ensuring that we give enough products and the right product mix for the domestic market. Exports become one of the pillars for us in terms of the sales pipeline and like I said the USA is currently the preferred market, but we are also looking at Europe and we believe it will evolve and become one relevant market for us in the coming future.

Que: How much percentage of your production do you utilize for Adani itself and how much do you sell in the market?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: As on date all the projects have their own completion deadlines, and these projects are long gestation projects, so there are projects which take one or two years to complete. So, depending on the requirement of each project we assign capacities to our captive consumption and balance capacities we make it available to the domestic and export markets. Once we reached the 10 GW integrated capacity, our ideal combination of different market segments would be about 50 percent captive consumption, 25 percent domestic demand, and 25 percent export. So, it will become a very healthy mix of markets and demand that we create.

Que: Do you also face price pressure?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: There will always be pricing issues and it is rightly so... every customer has a right to seek the best price. We really do not want to get into a price war. We have always segregated ourselves from that and we believe that building a brand and sustaining it and offering the best product and customer service deserves better pricing, and we continue to demand that and receive it also. So, we consciously stayed away from price war and built out on our strengths i.e., good product quality, good customer service, and offering a brand that has the sustenance to be around for 30 years during which the warranty is valid. So that is our USP and that is what we play on. We may be slightly premium but that’s what I think a brand should get and should demand.

Que: Price pressure in the Indian market or the US market, which is more?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: Interesting question! see it's not about pricing all the time. Most customers believe that they want to work with a brand that gives them comfort and confidence that they will deliver on what they commit. So in the last few years when we have had supply chain constraints and we had a lot of disruption in the supply chain, where lot of brands have not been able to meet up their commitments which has made larger customers very wary of working with brands where they don’t get the confidence of delivery, the confidence of meeting their commitments, so as long as you are able to give that confidence to the customer... I think pricing pressure is secondary then. People are more interested in working with brands where they feel confident that whatever is being said or promised will be delivered will be honored. That's what Adani as a brand can offer the world at large that... whatever we tell you today, whatever we sign up for, we will ensure that we will meet that commitment and we will deliver on it and that's what allows us to be kind of immune from the pricing pressures and the price negotiations to a large extend.

Que: As the US Fed has been increasing interest rates, which has also impacted the Indian Rupee, what kind of impact does it have on your business and how do you deal with it?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: From a solar manufacturer's standpoint, dollar rate impact is primarily for domestic sales as I need to import some of the raw materials because as on date I am not fully integrated, so I have to import a lot of raw materials from outside the country and for that, I have to make payments in dollars but I have to sell in Indian rupee because it is a domestic demand so there is where we have a gap and we realize that it's very difficult to hedge this risk of dollar movement. So, some of it we absorb... some of it we pass on to the end customers. But in exports, we have a natural hedge because here we are importing and exporting in dollars... So, with a decent export pipeline we are able to manage this dollar fluctuation very effectively and reduce the impact on the domestic market.

Que: Why do many domestic manufacturers prefer exports as compared to dealing in the domestic market?

Ans: Rahul Bhutiani: It's a matter of natural hedge, you are importing products and raw materials you pay in dollars... when you export you will get dollars so you have the ability to balance out that dollar-Indian Rupee rate gap. If you sell in the domestic market you will earn in Indian Rupees but you will have to pay in dollars so there will be a hedge that you will need to create. But in the case of export and import, there is a natural hedge that whatever you are importing, more than that you are exporting so that's why some players have consciously moved only to export. We believe that’s not the right approach or right strategy because the domestic market is as important to continue to serve not only as a business segment but also as a nationalist approach where we want to ensure that our country is benefitted from whatever local manufacturing that we are creating. So to ensure we meet and align ourselves with the dream of our Prime Minister as he said that our country needs to be energy secure and to reach a certain level of zero carbon emissions this is required and our belief is that as a group that is aligned to the national interest, we will continue to support the domestic market and simultaneously as a business priority we will also look at some exports to ensure that we are able to balance out these fluctuations.

Que: How do you see the Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative going on in renewables? and how it has changed the country's perspective?

Ans: Anil Gupta: As long as we were earlier depending upon the requirement of the modules and other requirements for the solar industry, we were all dependent on China to get all our material and now we have seen a lot of restrictions... we have seen a lot of back outs from China suppliers... and since we are also into generation... we have seen a lot of our projects are stalled for last few months where we are unable to make any progress. So, someday or the other must start manufacturing within our country if we have to meet the expectations of the Government and this country sooner or later has to have its own manufacturing facilities. It is good that this Government is supporting the manufacturing facilities in the country. Our idea is that just like we are making the manufacturing setup... there are so many other players who are also setting up manufacturing facilities and the demand would start getting met from within the country and that would boost this sector and that is what is required at this point in time to have energy security and I think this it is going to be a very big step wherein the manufacturing setup is coming in the country and it would be a secured pipeline for this industry.

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