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Arun Subramony: An

Arun Subramony: An "Industry Outsider" Who Became An Energy And Water Stalwart With A "Will To Win"

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Arun Subramony,Founder Chairman & CEO

Arun Subramony

Founder Chairman & CEO

Once a niche segment dominated by few players, Renewable Energy (RE) has fought and earned its seat at the energy table as an important source of power in every region across the globe. RE market size is estimated to hit USD 1.5 Trillion in 2025. Clean and RE power generation are led by next generation private players who want to transform the energy industry 1GW at a time, significantly reducing carbon footprint as the world’s energy needs grow. Let us now add the dimension of providing desalinated water to water stressed and overpopulated parts of the world by using RE, and we get a killer combination of a business model that is “Sustainable beyond Subsidies”. Empereal Energy & Services is one such pioneering organization that brought in revolutionary and innovative changes to the global renewable energy market and water desalination sectors.

Empereal is led by Arun Subramony, recognized globally as a Clean Energy Industry Pioneer and as a transformational leader in the Knowledge Economy. He has the unique ability to manage and balance ambiguity and risk in a very volatile energy industry. He combined innovation and expertise in structuring large cross border alliances and deals, to grow Empereal Group. In an exclusive interview with CEO Insights, Arun Subramony shared some of his personal and professional experiences and contributions.

Let us get started with a few of your achievements in your professional journey prior to becoming an entrepreneur.
I'm grateful and fortunate to have amazing people guide me at every stage of my life. They made 30 years of professional journey to feel like 3. During President Obama's presidency, it was a pleasant surprise to get invited to the White House as part of AAPI/Business Advisory Council, contributing in areas of IT, Immigration and Renewable Energy. As GenShare's COO, a joint venture with GE Corp, we built the world’s first enterprise-wide B2B “Procurement as a Service” (PaaS) platform. An opportunity to build UST’s first USD 100 M F500 account in less than 100 weeks, was as gratifying as structuring long term deals worth 250 M at UST Global. It was super exciting to be included in Wipro's Future Leaders' Program, that helped to build the foundation to “Think Big”. The stint in Microsoft helped me to realize the “hidden bandwidth” to scale.

Can we shift gears and look at your entrepreneurial and personal achievements at Empereal?
There are no personal achievements in any, and in my entrepreneurship journey. Along with Manoj, Dr.SPV, Shiva, Ashok, Munjal, Dr Mohamed, Praveen, Sandeep and team, we made a bold decision to conceive the business model of combining power and water from renewable energy sources, that made us compelling and “sustainable beyond subsidies”. But for Dr SPV’s inspiration and Manoj Divakaran’s steadfast support and leadership, I would have never become an entrepreneur, or enjoyed the journey as much as I do today.

Prior experience in renewable energy industry was never a
prerequisite and we were always called “Outsiders”. Our decision to develop intellectual property and know-how in India, form a World Class Advisory Board, serve the tropical belt and operate out of Singapore as our HQ made a significant impact to our investors and clients.

We won and executed very prestigious deals at EXPO 2020 Dubai, MASDAR @ Abu Dhabi, NTPC and Reliance in India, validating our team leadership approach to succeed in the most competitive and challenging environments.

MIT’s recognition of an Empereal Group Business as one of the TOP 10 Technology Innovators for economic and social impact and FICCI/HSBC’s recognition of an Empereal Group Business as #1 in Innovation beating J & J made the phones ring.

But the one I cherish the most every day, is undoubtedly the opportunity to mentor and coach 1000's of Next Gen colleagues, friends, students and professionals to achieve their goals and potential.

Empereal is led by Arun Subramony, recognized globally as a clean energy industry pioneer and as a transformational leader in the knowledge economy


What were the initial career challenges that you faced and the lessons learnt?
‘People, people, people’. All challenges are related to people, and the art of approaching every such challenge as an opportunity, makes all the difference between success and failure. I learned hard lessons during my initial days at work to know that good people make great families, a peaceful village, a great company or an amazing country, and hence I concentrate on people all the time. If we get that one dimension correctly, the probability of success increases exponentially.

How did your vast industry experience help to design an efficient business model at Empereal?
Our business model is designed and built on 2 principles, simplicity and sustainability. We strive to provide superior client experience and a ‘Wow’ factor in everything we do. We get to work every day with the mindset of ‘The size of the fight in the dog’, rather than the traditional rule book of ‘The size of the dog in the fight’. We may have lost millions on some of our initial projects, but we never gave up and stood by our clients and delivered a superior solution. Innovation gets us a ticket to the dance, but passion and determination in our teams delivered the magic.

Managing a company involves a lot of stress, skill, and time. How do you manage to balance your personal & professional life?
Working through time zones takes its toll, and wellwishers who love me constantly remind me to take care of my health and spend more quality time with them. I hope they don't give up on me, because I don't dream of giving up on them at all. Hopefully I will find a way to share the gift of time with dear and loved ones.

I am blessed with the ability to “switch on and off” at will, which keeps me sane. I can be 100 percent with someone who is energizing/inspiring and live in the moment, forgetting everything else. My twin girls keep me grounded and are my ultimate stressbusters. Hiking, Watching Tennis/Cricket, Yoga, Music, Mentoring and get-
togethers take my mind off work.

As an organization gets bigger, there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” Comments?
On Inspiration Vs Institution, we committed to blend in and be local in every geography that we operate. We nurtured and enriched leadership teams to cultivate and practice what works best in that country. We encourage diversity of all denominations, one that keeps the company connected and engaged.

We have a fearless culture that fosters imagination and innovation. We embrace change, conflicts and crisis and look at each one of them as an opportunity. Working and learning in collaboration with the best minds and hearts makes it fun, energizing and vibrant for our employees. We provide internships for students of diverse academic, ethnic and social backgrounds from Asia, Europe and Americas every year.

All of the above helps to keep our firm as fresh and inspiring as we were on Day one.

What are your future plans for Empereal group?
We are transitioning Empereal from a pure play R & D and EPCM services provider to becoming an energy assets developer and desalinated water producer in select markets. We are investing in Energy Storage, and plan to consolidate our equity positions in all of our group companies over the next 12 to 24 months. We are seriously looking to acquire interesting and aligned portfolios in areas of renewable energy and water in the US and GCC markets in 2021.

Name a Mentor who has had a tremendous impact on you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Naming one is a difficult proposition. In business, I was inspired and influenced by Dr. Ram Charan, a reputed American business consultant and coach. He made a tremendous impact in my professional life to deal with decisions, ambiguity, risk, crisis and conflicts. In my personal life, it is my family and close friends who have stood by me through thick and thin. I wouldn’t be here but for their faith and confidence in my pursuits.

“We won and executed very prestigious deals at expo 2020 Dubai, Masdar @ Abu Dhabi, Ntpc and reliance in India”

Name one personality trait every leader should possess, and one challenge facing leaders today?
A socially conscious leader with empathy is a must have trait for success in 21st century as the ability to deal with non-market forces seems is THE differentiating factor; ceteris paribus.

The biggest challenge facing leaders today are interestingly the endless opportunities in front of them. One needs to have a clear vision, and have the ABILITY to say NO to many so called opportunities that are so tempting. I have been through severe hand burns and learnt it the hard way.

What are the few commandments for becoming a better leader?
Surround yourself with amazing people who are genuine, fearless, and inspiring from all walks of life. Diversity in thought coming from any corner of the world should be welcome. Build friendships and relationships without an agenda like in our elementary school days. Constant connect with young beautiful minds in schools and colleges keeps you relevant, refreshed, egoless, grounded and curious. Think beyond success and legacy, and stop chasing fortune and fame. Never stop learning. Have time for yourself to think. Always aspire to be the child in you.

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