Business / Industry Sectors
Israeli entrepreneur touts business in India
“Go East, young man, all the way to India”

For Focal Energy, India presents a vast business opportunity where its Israeli expertise is valued and where demand for its products – renewable energy solutions – is widespread, if not “desperate.” Focal Energy does 100 per cent of its business in India, where it provides the management skill and technical know-how behind solar panel, biomass power plants and run-of-the-river hydro-electric generation, said Noam Ben-Ozer, CEO of Focal Energy.


Ben-Ozer, along with Anchit Gupta, Focal’s Director of Business Development, are met in Toronto to brief business people on “The India-Israel Opportunity.” The meeting was co-sponsored by the Indo-Israel Chamber of Commerce; the Canada-Israel Chamber of Commerce; the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs; as well as the City of Markham; businessmen Walter Arbib and Surjit Babra of Skylink Group.

Israel’s energy needs are pretty much taken care of and the entire country’s population is one-third that of New Delhi alone. As a result, a company like his has to look abroad for business opportunities, said Ben-Ozer. India has long held a fascination for him and when he learned that the country had a nearly unlimited demand for power – you could even call it “desperate” – he saw a potentially lucrative opportunity.


“There’s a huge gap between supply and demand for power in India,” he said in a telephone interview from Israel. Even in the top hotels in India, you’ll find a  five-, six- or seven-hour gap each day when they’re taken off the grid and have to rely on generators to provide power, he said.


Half the country is not even hooked up to the grid, but as the country develops, the need for power will continue to accelerate, he said. And that falls right inside Focal’s wheelhouse. The company’s hydro, biomass and solar solutions are perfectly suited to the Indian market, Ben-Ozer said.


The country doesn’t have much in the way of fossil fuels and is not giving approvals to coal-generated power plants that pollute, he said. So, Focal’s “run-of-the-river” generation projects – a 21st century equivalent to the old water wheels that powered mills – each provides 3-10 megawatts (MWs) of power.  They are environmentally friendly and can be located every six or seven miles downriver. Ten MWs of power is enough to provide electricity for 20,000-25,000 households, he said.


Its solar solutions are somewhat larger projects, providing 15-20 MWs each.

Focal’s expertise is in providing the “technical optimization” as well as cost containment for each project, said Ben-Ozer. “We bring the quality of materials, design, utilization, controlling and maintaining. That’s why the Israeli experience is so important.” Focal works with Indian partners to implement its projects. The majority of its workforce is Indian, he noted.


“We’re in a good space, a positive space. Our projects are attractive and they’re good for people. You change the lives of hundreds and thousands of farmers by buying the stuff they’d burn in the fields.” The projects generate work for many Indians, he added.


Ben-Ozer has found doing business in India is a positive experience. “India is a tremendously tolerant environment. Today, India is really favourable for Israel.”

It’s not too bad for the bottom line, either. Given the country’s high demand for energy and the lower costs, the return on investment is in the 15-16 per cent range, “higher than in the west,” he said.


Ben-Ozer will be told his story in Toronto, and met with investment bankers as well. An infusion of private capital will only increase the company’s capacity to do business. For Ben-Ozer, the sky’s the limit. “Renewable energy in India and in developing nations is not a ‘nice to have.’ It’s a necessity,” he said.


Source:  The Canadian Jewish News

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