A former Wall Street banker is building India’s largest clean energy company, ReNew Power
By the time he finished high school in the 1980s, Sumant Sinha thought he knew what he wanted to do in life.
Like his father Yashwant Sinha, then a bureaucrat yet to move into politics and serve as India’s finance minister—twice—Sumant was set on joining the Indian Administrative Service.
He had even won a seat to study economics at St Stephen’s College, Delhi University, an institution with a record of turning out civil servants by the dozens. The dream was there for the taking. But the timing didn’t work.
A strike at Delhi University in 1983 forced affiliated colleges to open later than usual. So, Sinha looked at his other option, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, also the alma mater of his brother Jayant Sinha (currently India’s junior aviation minister).
“I thought that IIT started, might as well just go and see what the place is like,” Sinha said rather matter-of-factly in an interview last week. “And then I liked it so much that I just ended up staying there.”
That decision to study civil engineering instead of economics set in motion a professional life that would traverse businesses and continents over the next three decades. Eventually, Sinha landed on an entrepreneur’s saddle in the heart of one of the world’s hottest renewable energy markets.
Sinha, 52, is the chairman and CEO of ReNew Power, a Goldman Sachs-backed clean energy startup that he founded in 2011. In the last six years, Sinha has driven ReNew Power at breakneck speed, going from zero to 2,300 megawatt (MW) of commissioned capacity—more than Kenya’s total power generation capacity back in 2015—to become India’s largest independent renewable energy producer.
The success of ReNew Power has been partly built on the bedrock of Sinha’s long experience in the financial sector, allowing the company to raise some $850 million since it started off. At the same time, those large sums of money have been smartly utilised to diversify ReNew Power, which initially only focused on wind power, into solar power. At last count, in February 2017, the company was valued at $2 billion.
And now, amid boom time in India’s renewable energy sector, as prices crash and government support rises, Sinha is plotting to grow ReNew Power into a 10,000 MW clean energy behemoth. The plan includes fighting for new projects in India, scouting at home and abroad for potential acquisitions, and an initial public offering (IPO), ranging anywhere upwards of $400 million, in the next year or so.