Tulsi Tanti, pioneer in India’s wind power, dies

Tanti not only founded the wind turbine maker Suzlon in 1995, he also drove it to become a global force in the wind industry, expanding beyond India into markets including the US, China, Australia, and Brazil.


By Chanakya

Suzlon was once India’s top and one of the world’s leading wind power companies. Its fortunes dipped later, but they have remained known as pioneers in the field in the country. On October 1, its founder Tulsi Tanti has died at the age of 64, of a cardiac arrest.

Tanti not only founded the wind turbine maker Suzlon in 1995, he also drove it to become a global force in the wind industry, expanding beyond India into markets including the US, China, Australia, and Brazil.

His death has been a major setback to Suzlon Group and Suzlon Energy Limited. He was in Ahmedabad on October 1,  at a media briefing to announce the opening of the company’s rights issue worth Rs 1,200 crore on October 11. “Suzlon Energy plans to repay its debt and reduce its interest liabilities using the fund, to meet working capital needs and deploy the rest of the fund for corporate requirements,” Tanti had told the media.

Following the death, Suzlon stated: “With profound sadness, we inform you of the untimely demise of Shri Tulsi R. Tanti, the founder, the chairman and managing director, often regarded as the Father of the Indian Renewable Industry, and one of the promoters of Suzlon Energy Limited on October 1, 2022.

“In this difficult time, the company continues to be supported by its highly experienced board of directors and senior management who are both able and committed to take Shri Tanti’s legacy forward and realise his vision for the company,” the company added.

Others from across the wind industry and the world of politics also paid tribute to Tanti.

Tulsi Tati, a mechanical engineering graduate with a diploma, was based in Pune, Maharashtra, but he is originally from Rajkot, Gujarat.

Textiles were Tulsi Tanti’s previous passion. In Surat, Gujarat, he launched his textile company under the name Sulzer Synthetics Pvt. Ltd. He founded Suzlon Energy, now valued at Rs 8,535.9 crore, in 1995.

He served as the face of India’s wind energy boom, and his ascent was fuelled by rapid acquisitions. Suzlon’s successful capture of 50% of the market in India represents the realisation of the company’s ambition to dominate the wind energy market. His downfall was also brought on by his desire for more.

In a span of 22 years, Suzlon established a global installation of over 17 GW with over 11 GW being installed in India and over 2 GW installed in its second largest market, the USA.

The Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association described Tanti as “the entrepreneur” and added that “he left a legacy for us to follow with inspiration to reach [India’s target of] net zero by 2070”].

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) added that Tanti “was among the first Indian wind energy champions, before taking his passion to a global audience”. CEO Ben Backwell added: “Tulsi was a strong advocate and spokesperson for the role of wind energy in the developing world, playing a role in many international institutions and events.”

Andreas Nauen, operating partner at climate-focused investment firm Sandbrook Capital, is the former CEO of turbine maker Siemens Gamesa. Before rising to the top job, Nauen served as technical project manager in India for Siemens’ wind division – just as Tanti was launching Suzlon.

Nauen said: “He saw the need to fight climate change much earlier than others and started a mission for which he will be remembered – in India and in the whole world. But he was also a very kind human being that had respect for all his employees and all people and loved his family above anything. He was one of the best people I ever worked with.”

Suzlon Group, which had got into financial difficulties following the 2008 global economic meltdown, provides a full spectrum of green power solutions. The group has a market capitalization of over $1.5 billion and an international presence across 18 countries in 6 continents.

However, since restructuring its debt in 2020, Suzlon has started to announce turbine orders again and turned a profit in its 2022 financial.