Khurram Shahnawaz, CEO Intelli Energie and Astrodome Sports Private Limited, a dynamic personality with a vision to conserve the environment by providing sustainable power solutions, talks to Ali Naqvi about the value and importance of solar as the most reliable source of renewable energy and how rewarding it could be both financially and environmentally.
Ali Naqvi: You have the experience of working as CEO for different companies, how do you see yourself in the lead role?
Khurram Shahnawaz: It is always challenging to be in the lead roles. As CEO this is my second company. Previously I served EDCOM as CEO which was concerned with power and construction sectors. Obviously when you are in a top position there is an added responsibility to flourish the business and restructure the company. You also have to look after the position of your company in the market; always a challenge.
AN: What is the proudest moment of your career as a professional?
KS: Well, the proudest moment comes when you get your first job after university and that’s the best thing that could happen to you. Recently we have signed a project of 200 KW with a very young team in the industry. Working with a young team was a good experience.
AN: How important is it to educate our people about the value of solar energy?
KS: There is no alternate to a free source of energy. God has gifted us with immense energy in the shape of sunlight and now is the time to utilize it. Look at it in terms of assets. We are using coal that is available in different pockets in the country. We import oil. Our entire supply network is majorly thermal. Our electricity generation is dependent on oil. But we have another asset, our roofs that are lying idle. There is a tagline of a solar company that says “convert your rooftops into your savings accounts”.
There are numerous benefits of installing solar on your rooftops; no line losses, no taxes and above all it’s sustainable. The sun is here till the end of days. Most importantly if you install a solar system today your unit cost will be fixed and there will be no increase. It’s a misconception that solar is a luxury. I think solar energy is the need of the day. We should definitely educate our people. We spend on grocery, education and health and on utility. But we can only save money on utility bills by producing our own energy. We can now take self-reliance to the next level by feeding surplus energy back to the grid through net metering. Your electricity bill can be neutralized or even go into minus.
AN: Tell us something about Intelli Energie and its role in eliminating the energy crisis in Pakistan?
KS: Intelli Energie is a sister concern of Knightsbridge Capital Group. The group is an equity management company that has marked a few areas to invest and power is one of them. Intelli Energie is a part of our renewable energy division which is not limited to solar energy. We are also planning to expand our renewable energy segment with the inclusion of wind and hydel power in future. As far as Intelli’s role is concerned, we are trying to create awareness in the market about solar. We are working for a change by utilizing the digital marketing platform which is an effective tool to get your message across to your core target audience.
People hesitate to opt solar because of capital investment. In January the electricity tariff was Rs. 9.5 and the next month it jumped to Rs. 14.80, it’s a fifty percent increase. If 1,000 units cost you Rs. 15,000 at 15/unit today and in the coming months or years it reaches up to 25/unit you would be paying Rs. 25,000. That will upset your budget and you will not be able to control your expenses. This is the point we are trying to communicate to the people that they should go for self-reliance through renewable solar energy. Solar panels work for more than 25 years that gives us the benefit of a lifetime.
AN: Intelli Energie is working with UBL to make solar systems financially viable, how effective is this strategy?
KS: Well, we cannot say as to how effective it has been. Actually the product could not be launched properly. UBL was working on 18% markup which was very high. Currently we are looking to benefit from State Bank’s policy which is at 6%.
AN: Where do you see Intelli Energie in the next 5 years?
KS: With the potential we have and the rate at which we are progressing I think Intelli Energie would be among the top 5 companies of Pakistan.
AN: How far do you think business community in Pakistan is willing to invest in solar energy sector?
KS: Corporate sector and big companies are now investing in solar energy. From a small shopping mall to big business hubs, solar energy is being used today than ever before. Nishat Group is already in the process of shifting its factories and offices on solar energy. In footwear category ECS and Firhaj footwear are our clients. Not only that schools and hospitals are also converting on solar.
AN: Don’t you think the government should facilitate the solar energy sector in terms of subsidies or import duties?
KS: There is no import duty on solar. The government has been very supportive of this sector. It has also introduced quality checks to maintain product standards. Recently an SRO has been issued by the government according to which pre-shipping instructions are now mandatory and lab test reports among other certifications are now mandatory as well.
AN: How do you see the future of solar energy in Pakistan?
KS: The change is here. 2019 has been very productive so far, I think in the coming few years solar will do well. But as you know we are an import dependent country, in the wake of dollar rupee disparity it is hard to say what the future holds for this sector.
AN: Professional life is more challenging and competitive today than it has ever been, how do you take time out for yourself and your family?
KS: Honestly, it is not possible to give proper time to the family; at least I have not seen anyone doing that. When you are running a business you give maximum time and energy to it. We usually go out for dinners or arrange family get-togethers and that’s all. Family outings are once a year depending on the schedule. But it’s tough, really tough.
AN: How would you describe yourself as a person?
KS: I try to be in my comfort zone but life is challenging wherever you go. As Pakistanis I think our nerves have become strong enough to withstand any difficulty or hardships. We are now used to living a tough and challenging life.