Accelerated by the pandemic, there has been a mammoth shift from fossil fuel-based power towards renewable energy in Vietnam, and rooftop solar firm SkyX Solar is securing its position at the forefront of this vibrant new energy landscape.
Vietnam boosted the share of its electricity supply generated by solar from a negligible base to almost 11 per cent over the four years to 2021. This represents a greater share than many other much larger economies and an increase rate faster than most other countries around the world, positioning Vietnam as the world’s 10th-biggest producer of solar power and the largest in South-East Asia.
“More and more companies are turning greener and faster than they had previously planned,” SkyX Solar Founder, Chairman and CEO Samresh Kumar tells The CEO Magazine. “We are at the epicentre of this phenomenon and dare I say, a catalyst as well.”
Samresh has worn a number of hats over the years having worked in management consulting, private equity and investment banking. “But the core common thread of my global experience has been business building,” he stresses. “I connect all the various dots in a certain business, and then identify, support and seize those opportunities.”
“More and more companies are turning greener and faster than they had previously planned.”
Having identified renewable energy as a sector that Vietnam-focused investment management firm VinaCapital should be focusing on several years ago, Samresh was seeking early stage private companies for it to invest and help build out. But he soon discovered a lack of suitable projects/companies for multiple reasons.
“So I pitched to our management team that we should start our own and so I started SkyX Solar around three years back within VinaCapital,” he says.
A sky with no limits
Determined not to miss the opportunity, Samresh and his team established the new venture in 2019 with VinaCapital as the shareholder, and then subsequently got EDF Renewables as a strategic investor in 2021. “The last two-and-a-half years have been spent building out the an effective strategy, the team, systems and processes, bankable contracts, world-class monitoring systems, business development and partnerships, capital raising and low cost marketing” he explains. “Now, we have multiple projects across Vietnam and are continually growing.”
Right now, SkyX Solar is focusing on the rooftop solar segment, partnering with both industrial and commercial customers. “We lease their roofs and then we design, invest, build, own and operate the power plants on their roofs and sell the power to the factory owner at a good discount to the EVN price,” he explains.
“Currently we own and operate more than 70 MWp across more than 20 project sites in Vietnam. And in the next two years, we intend to grow three times this.”
“We treat their roofs and their factories as if they were our own – there is zero compromise on quality, health and safety.”
At the same time, Samresh and his team work with large customers to get to net zero carbon emissions, through support from VinaCapital and EDF Renewables. “Our vision is to be the renewable energy partner of choice for large FDI and local companies so they can focus on their main business while we take care of their renewable energy needs,” he says.
“Currently we own and operate more than 70 MWp across more than 20 project sites in Vietnam. And in the next two years, we intend to grow three times this. And in the next three to five years, more than ten times.”
Overcoming all obstacles
However, there are plenty of challenges to overcome in order to achieve this ambitious growth plan, with Samresh highlighting a few “roadblocks.”
A lack of clarity in terms of regulations around the industry currently poses a short-term challenge, but Samresh believes the next wave of policies will resolve this. “Whenever the regulations are not amply clear, it’s a little challenging as to how to work within the legal and regulatory boundaries but still grow,” he says.
As with so many other industries in the country, the biggest hurdle the company faces at the moment is finding suitable talent. “The industry has grown much faster than the capability development of people,” he says. To tackle this, he reveals that the company focuses on hiring and training people who possess the raw skills, the right attitude and the hunger to learn and grow.
Managing the swift expansion of SkyX Solar while also ensuring the right processes are in place is a balancing act, he admits. But by combining the best of an international company with the access and knowledge of a local company, he is confident SkyX Solar will thrive. “It’s largely about relentless focus, ruthless execution, immense hard work and a positive, can-do attitude which is required to continue to be successful in this cut-throat and competitive sector of rooftop solar in Vietnam (and life in general),” he says.
With Vietnam’s solar market now the largest in South-East Asia, and rooftop solar achieving steep growth over the last three years, the outlook is very promising. Already the company has built a solid network of partners and is demonstrating its commitment to renewable energy and a more sustainable future.
“We are willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the next few years to help companies become greener and save money at the same time,” Samresh says.