Regarded as one of the pioneers of India’s renewable energy, sustainability and thinking green, Tulsi Tanti passed away Saturday at the age of 64.
The founder-chairman and managing director of Suzlon Energy, Tanti founded the company in 1995, kick-starting the wind revolution in the country at a time when the global wind energy market was dominated by international players and characterised by expensive and complicated technologies that were largely unviable for traditional businesses.
According to a company spokesperson, he had returned from Ahmedabad and was on his way back home to Pune from the airport when he suffered a heart attack. Tanti was immediately taken to a local hospital, but passed away late Saturday night.
He was in Ahmedabad on September 30 to attend meetings for Suzlon Energy’s Rs 1,200-crore rights issue. Tanti also addressed a press conference in the morning at a hotel in Vastrapur to announce the rights issue, where he spoke about the advantages of investing in renewable energy.
“About 500 gigawatt of renewable energy will be produced in India by 2030 and by 2070 we will become net zero and by 2030 we will reduce it by 45 per cent. Everyone needs to come together for this,” Tanti had said at this press conference.
Survived by his mother, wife, two children and three brothers and one sister, Tanti was the eldest in the family.
Born on February 2, 1958, in Rajkot to a farming family, Tanti studied commerce and mechanical engineering at Government Polytechnic College in Rajkot. His family owned Amrapali Cinema and Kisan Cold Storage.
Hansraj Gajera, Tanti’s collegemate and former chairperson of Gujarat Rajya Bin Anamat Varg Aayog, told The Indian Express that Tanti wound up the two businesses and headed to Surat to set up textile units in the early 1990s. According to Gajera, Tanti was “among the visionaries of his time and an entrepreneur in the true sense”.
In 1995, Tanti formed Suzlon and with the help of a German firm, the company began designing wind turbine generators (WTGs) and, in March 1996, commissioned its first 0.27 MW wind generator for Indian Petrochemicals Ltd (now Reliance Industries) in the state.
According to Suzlon, “The business was not in the best of health, mainly due to high operating costs caused by expensive electricity and the frequent power outages. Mr Tanti wanted to explore other avenues for fuelling his business’ need for power. In 1994, he purchased two wind turbines and literally produced his own electricity. Other owners evinced interest in his solution, which inspired Mr Tanti to exit the textile business and enter into the energy sector with Suzlon.”
The statement said that with Suzlon, Tanti created a new business model, “an end-to-end solution to create realistic avenues for businesses to ‘Go Green’, and thus emerged as a strategic partner in developing sustainable businesses”.
On October 19, 2005, Suzlon Energy, in which Tanti held 70 per cent, was listed at a 35 per cent premium valuing the company at Rs 13,850 crore. In March 2006, Suzlon was ranked fifth globally as a manufacturer of wind turbines and had a 50 per cent share of the Indian market. The company manufactures wind turbine generators and provides operations and maintenance services.
Suzlon currently has a footprint in 17 countries and has 13.45 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the country as on June 30. It also has 5.96 GW of installations outside India.
Suzlon has an installed wind power generation capacity of 1,800 MW in Gujarat, with an approximate investment of Rs 14,000 crore. Most of these are in Kutch. Among the recent investments promised by Suzlon was in the proposed Hybrid Energy Park in Kutch, where Sarjan Realities Ltd was allotted 9,500 hectares along with other players.
In Gujarat, Suzlon manufactures wind towers at Gandhidham and rotor blades at its unit in Bhuj. At Vadodara, it had a blade testing centre which was part of its R&D activities.
Top leaders at Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) said Tanti had thought of sustainability and climate change before it became
fashionable. Sudhir Mehta, former MCCIA president, told The Indian Express, “His global approach and vision will always be remembered.”
Ajay Mehta, director of Pune-based Deepak Nitrite Ltd, said, “He fulfilled all his commitments and had revolutionised the entire concept of wind energy”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too condoled Tanti’s demise. “Shri Tulsi Tanti was a pioneering business leader who contributed to India’s economic progress and strengthened our nation’s efforts to further sustainable development. Pained by his untimely demise. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti,” he tweeted.
“He was a visionary business leader who led India’s renewable energy progress and strengthened our nation’s efforts towards sustainable development. I have worked in the wind sector for the past 22 years and have seen Mr Tanti’s passion for wind that helped India’s success in the wind domain. Today, India is the fourth largest in terms of wind installed capacity. Suzlon’s contribution to this has been immense. Recently, Mr Tanti, as chairman of IWTMA (Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association), was closely working with the Ministry on certain interventions to accelerate the wind power capacities in India. I am deeply pained by his untimely demise. Condolences to his family, friends and the entire Suzlon pariwar,” said Dinesh Jagdale, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
“’Suzlon One Earth’ corporate office at Hadapsar in Pune was created more than a decade ago and is testimony to his vision of a cleaner world,” Pradeep Bhargava, another MCCIA former president, told The Indian Express.
“Tulsi Tanti stood tall and was a clear visionary in the renewable space. While solar is hogging the headlines today, wind and Suzlon were trailblazers originally. He was one more Indian entrepreneur who dared to have global dreams. He was tenacious and committed, and also very private in many ways. It is really sad that he went with the wind so young and so suddenly,” Bhargava added.
Director of Pune-based Deepak Nitrite Limited Ajay Mehta, who knew Tanti well, said he was “a man of his word”. “He fulfilled all his commitments and revolutionised the entire concept of wind energy.” “He was one of the few gems in this sector and it is a big loss for India,” Mehta added. Jayant Deo, former CEO of power trading platform Indian Energy Exchange Limited, said Tanti was at the forefront of developing wind power in the country and was a pioneering figure in this sector. “This was a great loss,” he said.