Fulbright US-India Series: Pallavi Bishnoi | Principal Energy Investment Specialist, Invest India

In this episode, I will be speaking with Pallavi Bishnoi, who is the Principal Investment Specialist for Renewable Energy at Invest India, and helped guide ReNew Power’s 2 GW solar manufacturing investment efforts. In this conversation, we discuss the work of Invest India, how the investment process generally plays out, what incentives that states are offering to attract manufacturing investment, and the general investment climate in India's energy space. I hope you enjoy this conversation!

Topics Covered:
1. Introduction of role at Invest India
2. How Invest India facilitates investment
3. Process for investing in a solar manufacturing plant in India
4. State-level incentives offered for solar manufacturing
5. Investment interest in India's clean energy manufacturing space


00:06 Karan Takhar
Hello everyone. This is Karan Takhar. Welcome to the Zenergy podcast. Over the past decade, India has done an impressive job of integrating renewable energy into its energy mix. For this Fulbright podcast series, I sought to investigate the enabling factors and potential of India's global leadership in renewable energy, with the focus on solar. This Fulbright series is broken down into Four Seasons. In this season, through conversations with leaders who have been instrumental in developing the Indian renewable energy sector, we will highlight how India has managed to integrate 35 Giga Watts of solar in just a span of 10 years. We will also explore what these leaders believe the key challenge is to be as this sector further develops. In this conversation, we will be speaking with Pallavi Bishnoi, who leads the energy investing team at Invest India. Where we explore the potential for investment in clean energy manufacturing in India and talk about what the process looks like to set up a solar manufacturing plant. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Pallavi Bishnoi.
Thank you, Pallavi. I really appreciate you. Taking the time, I want to ask you just to briefly introduce yourself so that people who will listen to this interview can get some understanding of what you do and your involvement in the renewable energy sector in India. Yeah, Could you provide a brief introduction?

01:56 Pallavi Bishnoi
Thank you for interviewing me, Karan. I am very excited to talk about the sector and just a little bit about myself before we begin. I am Pallavi Bishnoi. I am a senior Assistant Vice President in West India. I also lead the energy sector in West India. Which includes both renewable energy as well as conventional power so and I have been working in this sector at in Western here for the past over four years now to talk a little bit about in West India with the national investment promotion and Facilitation Agency within the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India essentially with the one-stop shop for all investors facilitation that is required in the country, we work extremely closely with the Ministry of New and Renewable energy as well to target, pitch, promote and facilitate investors in the renewable energy sector. However, I would like to clarify that this interview is going to be based on my personal views and my personal experience of having worked in the sector since a while now.

03:00 Karan Takhar
So as the head of like the investment team for the energy sector, can you talk about some of the projects we worked on in terms of facilitating more investment in the renewable energy sector in India?

03:12 Pallavi Bishnoi
It's mine.

03:13 Karan Takhar
Do you give some specifics into exactly what your role Is and what invest India's role is in this space in terms of helping to facilitate investments?

03:23 Pallavi Bishnoi
Sure. Let me talk about what in West India's role is, and then we can move on to how we implemented it in the energy sector.

03:30 Karan Takhar
Thank you.

03:32 Pallavi Bishnoi
West India works with investors even before they start thinking about investing in India. What I mean by this is we start pitching and targeting the right opportunity to the investors to consider India as a potential investment opportunity now. Once the investor starts thinking about India, starts thinking about a few countries, including India, our job becomes. Uh, uh, steps goes a step further where we talked to them about how India would be a better opportunity for them. These are we are the destinations within India. We give them market entry advisory and market expansion advisory. We give them details on the policies, regulations, where they can invest, what are the right locations, which are the right sites for them, connect them to the central government, and the state government, and even once they've set up or have already entered the Indian market, we help them with issue redressal, policy advocacy or taking their inputs to making sure that their operations are continued smoothly in the country so how we like to say it is that we provide comprehensive services throughout the entire investment lifecycle. Now within the energy sector, of course, there are two aspects that were extremely critical. When I started working in the sector, which is 4 years ago, we were heavily focused on investor targeting and promotion and policy advocacy. So renewable energy sector is fairly new in the country. When I say fairly new, it's not as traditional as thermal power. It's not as traditional as, say, a road project or a railway project, and so for us, it became important to talk about how our Prime Minister, our government, was looking at renewable to be the dependent source of energy for the country, which posed an immense investment opportunity for investors looking to invest in this sector.

05:34 Karan Takhar
And see.

05:35 Pallavi Bishnoi
Now, that was a story four years ago. Another aspect four years ago was policy advocacy because the sector was new IT was important for us to hold stakeholder consultations, stakeholder meetings, and understand what the industry thought of as global best practices in the sector, so they could be incorporated in the policies or the incentives that the central or the state governments were offering or are now offering four years into it, I think we have moved significantly into investor facilitation as well all of the companies that we pitched to, you know of course started looking at India, started investing in India, setting up power plants here, manufacturing units here and so we are role very organically moved into a lot of investor facilitation and investment facilitation, the aspect of policy advocacy continues even today because it's a sector that's continuously being revised in terms of the kind, the kind of incentives and policies we want to offer to investors and then we have also moved into issued addressers are making sure the companies who've already set up our have a way to represent their issues within the central or state government departments and ministries and we are making sure that their operations are continuing smoothly and that we're continuously evolving ourselves to become better globally as well.

06:59 Karan Takhar
OK. That makes a lot of sense, and in terms of so I know so, I've also been working at renewing power over the summer as part of my Fulbright Research experience, and of course, a big deal within the organization has been renewed.

07:12 Pallavi Bishnoi

07:18 Karan Takhar
Moving towards investing in A2 GW solar manufacturing plant, which I know is still under away and won't get into the details of this particular case, but I'm just curious as to how the whole process unfolds like more generally in terms of, say a company wants to invest in a solar manufacturing plant in India, what are the steps like the specific steps which invest India takes that then allows that business to make an informed decision and then proceed to execute on this investment. Could you like walk us through maybe like one particular?

07:54 Pallavi Bishnoi
Uhm, so first, I'm just going to take a step back and talk about why companies are looking at solar manufacture. Uhm, so, as you know, Solar II is a solar country. Our solar potential is over 740 Giga Watts. Now while a lot of companies started setting up solar plants where they were producing energy from, solar energy there was, and there is still a very small ecosystem for manufacturing of solar cells, modules, etc., in the country, and so once solar power generation was being ramped up, our government realized that we should also push for a larger manufacturing ecosystem to be set up in the country, of course, the government had to work out various methods to do this. There was a lot of trial and error understanding whether there should be a policy. Whether it should be pushed through tenders, and so ultimately, our government started releasing manufacturing-linked tenders. What this meant is that when a power producer bids to set up a solar plant in India. Uh, they have to procure a certain amount of the cells modules from India and made in India and so once these large-scale manufacturing tender manufacturing link tenders started getting released, a lot of companies that were traditionally only in power production also started looking in ways of how they could ramp up their manufacturing capabilities in the country, either by tying up with manufacturers that could set up in India or you know, seeing if they themselves can set up manufacturing capabilities in the country and so this way, a lot of power producers or manufacturers are now looking at setting up solar manufacturing in the country of course, as the news now talks about, we're consistently talking to industry stakeholders and seeing if the central government can also offer more incentives of, you know, policy support to such manufacturing projects now with the any company that comes to us to set up a manufacturing facility in the country, first we talk to them about what their business model is going to be, how they're looking to enter the Indian market, what are the policy and regulation considerations that they need and so we provide them information Well, the market, the policy environment, we provide them information about what are the potential states locations options do they necessarily need land near a port Have they considered what amount needs to be exported, How much needs to be imported, are they looking for a zone that allows them to import and export freely what are, what is the policy advisory we can give to them in terms of our engagement with States and what, what are the kind of incentives that they're looking to offer, etcetera a second of course, is location assessment site analysis finding the right location for the investor wherein we talked to the various state governments that they have shortlisted. Speak to them about the right piece of land that could suit what the investor is looking for Parallelly, we also start talking to the state governments about what are the applicable incentives for the investor Now, if it is a very large-scale project, state governments are open to negotiating and releasing a customized package for the investor, especially if the investor is generating a lot of employment in the state, and so we help, we help the state comments in the investor to negotiate such a customized incentive package see the kind of financial impact it's having on the investors project because we form the bridge between the government and the investor and so while it is important for us to represent the investor's voice in the system. It's also important for us to understand why an investor is asking for a certain incentive and is it possible for the state government to offer such an incentive. Let me give you an example. This is a very crude example, but it'll put forward my point if an investor is putting in $1,000,000 into a state, but as an incentive package, it is asking for $5 million over, say, three years. Then that's something we need to understand why is the investor asking for $5 million when they're only putting in $1,000,000. So when we talk about, you know, building a customized package for the investor, it is a package that both the state government as well as the investor have to be happy with, and it should be a mutually beneficial package, right? Uhm, the investor, is a profit-making company, but the state governments are also not. Uh, You know, if, if I may use the term, they are not going to do charity right for the investor. They need to assess what the investor is providing to the state. How is it adding value economically? Is it generating direct jobs in the state, and so all of these factors need to be put into place? Of course, once the package is finalized, the state government, the state shortlisted the land side is shortlisted. We help them with all approvals and licenses that may be needed to set up their factory in that state.

13:23 Karan Takhar
Amazing. Are you allowed to talk about like some specific details in which states you find to be presently more attractive for solar manufacturing investments and like what these states are offering to attract more solar manufacturing investments?

13:44 Pallavi Bishnoi
In Westerners is a central government agency, so we're completely unbiased in our opinions towards states. But I can tell you that the one interesting thing in India is that because we're a tropical country.
All of our states are Sunny, so why you can set up, say, a solar manufacturing unit in extremely sunny states in the country? You can also look at the northern state of all the Northeast states for sale, rooftop manufacturing, or look at some of the mountainous regions for such smaller-scale projects. You can also set up, say, an off-grid project in an agricultural state where you're producing solar pumps, so with India and solar manufacturing, it is really incredible that all states have something to offer. That being said, when you talk about the kind of incentive states are offering, these are extremely vast States now, especially in light of competitive federalism, are being extremely aggressive in attracting investors to their states. So you know they are providing UM Duty reimbursements and tax reimbursements. They are building dedicated parks for certain industries. As you would know, solar parks are also being set up in the country solar cities are also being set up in the country. It's now being said that they are identifying land closer to the ports for certain industries that require. Uhm, trading off either raw materials or the final product, they are, of course, working on the internal connectivity to ports, airports, you know, freight corridors. In terms of both infrastructure and incentives, all states are really coming up the curve in terms of whatever they're offering to investors, and this is not just limited to solar manufacturing, but it's really across industries.

15:48 Karan Takhar
Understood, and my final question is, so of course, solar manufacturing traditionally has been dominated by China. But now, just from my own point of view, I really see India as having a lot of opportunity to kind of fill that gap both in solar manufacturing and also in Battery manufacturing. This is just my own personal view, but I would love to hear what you think in terms of, like, do you see in India, or do you see a lot more people coming to you in terms of inquiring in these two areas does happen?

16:23 Pallavi Bishnoi
Absolutely, without a doubt. You know, Karan, my, I think my MD likes to say this, companies and countries can no longer Ignore India and the kind of market and opportunity it has to offer, not only being able to absorb the demand domestically, but because we have such a big coastline, it's extremely easy for us to provide access to other geographies, other countries to companies as well and so while I understand China has Uh, you know, established itself as one of the leaders, uh, you know, in several industries but India is right up there any company that is significantly involved in renewable energy has considered India, is considering India or is already in India and this is for across subsectors, more in solar and wind energy of course, battery manufacturing, we're still coming up the curve I think there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of completely understanding the market, understanding the right policies to offer, et cetera, but we're continuously doing that and we've already seen a few big ticket announcements in that space as well.

17:50 Karan Takhar
Thank you, Pallavi, so much for your time. I hope you enjoyed that episode, and do check out the show notes. For more information on my guest, see you next time.

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