Making Change Happen
N. Venu, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Hitachi Energy in India and South Asia, shares the company’s enthusiasm for sustainable energy for all…
N.Venu was instrumental in writing a memorable new chapter in the centuries-old legacy of the company that became Hitachi Energy from ABB Power Products and Systems India Limited in 2021. An industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Venu joined the company in 1995. Since then, he has worked across business units, become managing director and CEO, India and South Asia, and worked towards shaping a sustainable energy future.
In fact, the most rewarding part of his job has been his shared commitment with Hitachi Energy to advance sustainable energy for all while balancing social, environmental and economic value. “These are exciting times,” he says, “The power landscape is evolving, offering many an opportunity to us to help our customers manage the energy transition. We are making change happen by imbibing an inclusive culture focused on diversity of thought, constant learning and skill expansion.”
The country’s climate change agenda goes together with the need to adopt clean energy sources “without effecting an energy crisis”. Venu lauds the country’s zero emission target, “The year 2070 may seem far away but it really isn’t, as we have a colossal task to achieve without disturbing India’s socio-economic fabric,” he says. He believes in India’s ambitious targets such as 500 GW of renewable capacity, 100 per cent rail electrification and 30 per cent electric vehicle (EV) penetration by 2030, as well as initiatives such as FAME and the National Hydrogen Mission, which are all harbingers of positive sector growth and a sustainable energy future. “The power sector will be at the centre of this change,” says Venu. By 2040, the country’s power system is expected to be bigger than that of the European Union and will likely have 30 per cent more installed renewables capacity than the US.
To meet these targets, Venu suggests, “The market for renewables ought to be built to scale quickly. Then, there is an urgent need of rationalisation and sustained reduction of debt in the power sector, especially with discoms. Further, as electricity becomes the backbone of all energy systems, grids need to smarten up. And today, we have technologies that have been demonstrated to make grids sustainable, flexible and secure.”
As per a NITI Aayog report, it is estimated that the power sector will require an investment of $4.5 trillion in building a green energy framework to have 50 per cent renewable energy capacity. Further, in order to meet India’s COP26 commitments, the power sector will need the right upgradation of technologies and implementation of policies to drive decarbonisation, digitalisation and decentralisation of power. Further, the power industry will need to achieve significant energy management capabilities. “The Indian power sector has shown an encouraging growth trajectory. But it has some way to go to withstand the required capacity addition to match the growing power demand,” says Venu. This will entail the adoption of smart digital grid solutions to manage the risk of grid instability, AI-enabled power products and systems to improve operational performance, and enable integrated planning and a higher degree of customer engagement. “Technologies such as these will also help increase efficiencies at the distribution level – which has been the Achilles heel of the power sector – reducing the debt gap plaguing some state utilities, if supported by the requisite regulation,” he says. Venu also sees a big opportunity for industry-wide collaboration to advance a new-age power ecosystem.
His green energy outlook is optimistic, for the country as well as the company. Expressing his enthusiasm for the power sector, he says, “In the coming years, as we strive for carbon neutrality, we will see that electricity will form the backbone of the entire energy system. Green and clean energy will be the substratum of the modern world. We will witness the production of hydrogen via electrolysis, thus making renewables the undisputed winner in the energy transition.” He expects modernised forms of load such as EVs, electrified rail and data centres driving the adoption of smart energy management systems.
“This transition to cleaner, resilient and efficient energy will see grid modernisation and expansion across the country,” he adds. Going forward, Industry 4.0 technology – AI and machine learning, robotics, remote monitoring, big data, hybrid cloud management, cybersecurity, robust OT and IT solutions – will deliver real value and intelligent decision-making to power sector stakeholders.
Venu’s time at Hitachi Energy has been memorable, with many fulfilling professional moments. He shares one of these. “At a time, some 13 years ago, when no one was venturing into Tier II cities, I, as the head of sales, spearheaded an operational focus that continues to pay dividends to date.” Staying ahead of the curve, be it by identifying new market segments such as electrical balance of plant and renewables, or clearing legacy challenges to bring higher accountability, creativity and innovation, has been rewarding for him. Then, about 10 years ago, as the Indian transmission landscape was in a flux, he was given the challenge to make the Power Systems Division (then a part of ABB) even more relevant to the market. Working closely with global and domestic leaders, and balancing customer needs with tight supply chains, he turned around the business and put it into profitable and sustainable growth mode. Legacy challenges were cleared, and the company significantly improved the net promoter score in the shortest possible time.
In 2021, when ABB Power Products and Systems India Limited became Hitachi Energy India Limited to advance a sustainable energy future for all, it added another star to Venu’s prolific assignments. “We are ready to cater to a bigger market and play a leading role in the ongoing energy transition,” he shares.
For Hitachi Energy, the customer is at the centre of the company’s business and growth strategy. The same value percolates to every employee of the company. “Identifying and addressing customer pain points is a key ingredient of business success,” believes Venu. Apart from this, collaboration and execution are critical. Venu explains his management strategy and values in detail, “I am driven by improving the ‘Say:Do’ ratio to bring credibility with various stakeholders. We must drive our strategy in letter and spirit. The same values are reflected in our employees. Inclusion, transparency and openness are the yardsticks of productive engagement and lasting relations. I believe that diversity + collaboration = great innovation. The extraordinary talents of our company are empowered to shape an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. Every employee should have enough opportunities for growth, self-actualisation and learning. This helps in retention and a sense of belonging.”
Venu has a degree in electrical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal. He has also attended management programmes at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, and the International Institute of Management Development, Switzerland.
He enjoys playing golf and believes that many life lessons can be learnt from a game of golf. “It teaches you that it is not only the power that will help you win, but the precision, tactics, timing and selection of the right tools,” he says. Venu is also passionate about gardening. The fact that he has recently created a roof garden from the ground up is proof of his skills that are by no means amateurish. “It is fascinating to witness and experience these plants grow and add value to your life. One needs hobbies in life to ensure a healthy work-life balance,” he says. n