As India’s push towards Renewable Energy adoption gains significant traction, there is a need for entrepreneurial minds who can take on the practical challenges that lie in the way of a smoother on-the-ground implementation of energy projects.

Akshay Malgi, our next pathbreaker, Renewable Energy Market Consultant at Mercom Communications India, advises companies on Renewable Energy related policies and market developments to assist them in taking the right decision to be part of India’s energy supply chain strategy.

Akshay talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about always wanting to play a critical role in the global effort to bring down carbon emission by furthering the cause of Sustainable Development Goals for a cleaner planet.

For students, emerging technology based marketing is an exciting area, because it gives you an opportunity to leverage your experience in market research, business and technology to help realize a noble mission !

Akshay, tell us about Your background?

I grew up in a small hilly town which is part of the Western Ghats range in the state of Karnataka. We ran our own family business; hence I was often surrounded by strategy talks. As any South Indian parent insisted, our primary focus was always on getting the best education. But that did not keep us away from sports and extracurricular activities. We had a daily routine with a mix of both. This ensured that I always topped my class. As I entered my high school, my vacations were often spent helping dad to maintain the Invoices and manage stocks in a small way. I believe that my interest to get into business management took deep roots here and this helped me to get a sneak peek into the world of business. The fact that both my parents including my younger brother are involved in the same business indicated how industrious our daily lives were! I must say that I experienced and acquired all my entrepreneurial skills during the course of my childhood until the end of my school life. After completing my 10th grade, I moved on to bigger cities to complete my further education and since then I have learnt to be independent and I again attribute this to my upbringing during early childhood days. 

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I finished my Class XI and XII from St. Aloysius PU College, Mangalore in Karnataka. People living in the Coastal region will tell you how the city of Mangalore was considered to be our Harvard School. With access to quality education and aspiring to get into the best engineering college, i spent those two years learning science and nothing but Science. Those were one of the most challenging and by far the most interesting days of my life. I was blessed with some excellent professors here, which further developed my thinking in a pragmatic and logical way. 

Further to this, I chose to study science. I continued my love for Physics, which led me to study mechanical Engineering. In the year 2013, I finished my graduation with flying colors. However, deep down, my entrepreneurial spirit never diminished. Inspite of having high paying jobs in hand, I made a hard and wise decision to join my dad in further expanding his existing business. Pharma has always been an evergreen sector and there is an immense opportunity to grow here. For the next two years, I did not look back and completely immersed myself into getting things done with aggressive targets. We were successful in establishing a whole new supply chain by incorporating all new technologies. 

However, my dad often wanted me to pursue higher education and understand more about how things worked in the corporate world. I got into RV Institute of Management, Bangalore through a competitive exam. I owe my achievement and success to this great Institution where I learnt the art of business management. I still vividly remember my days on the college campus and how i was trained under highly accomplished professors to be industry-ready. Being the college topper, I landed my first job at a FMCG firm and began my corporate journey in the year 2017.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and rare career?

If you connect the dots in my life, you will understand that our upbringing and the environment in which we grew up greatly influenced our decision patterns. I was destined to be in this field of Business Management. In my experience, the key to success in the corporate world is to demonstrate all the work qualities of an entrepreneur. Being a self- starter and taking on responsibilities will only make us reach greater heights. This is where one can differentiate oneself from the rest. 

I have always intended to build my career on these basic principles which have helped me to achieve whatever I have accomplished so far. With global warming and the thrust towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Renewable Energy (RE), Battery and Energy Storage Systems (BESS) and the Electric Vehicle (EV) sectors are going to play a critical role in the global effort to bring down carbon emissions. Coming from one of the most ecologically sensitive hotspots of the world, I decided to choose this sector to further the cause of SDG. More importantly, I selected my career path which is close to my heart. This should always be the ultimate bottom line when you have a dilemma while evaluating your options. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

My career path has been quite a fascinating journey and all my efforts have been focused on giving my best in all my assignments. During my second year of management studies, I took up a six-month Internship at ACN Globiz, a business consulting firm in Bangalore. An Internship gives you on-the-job experience which helps understand the know-hows of a job. I undertook market research, prepared reports, attended client meetings and more. I never said ‘No’ to any work that came to my desk. I built on my abilities and did thorough research to get things done within the given timeline. That’s what is important here! 

In my second stint, while I continued my studies, I chose a rather unusual assignment which took many by surprise. Media has always been an integral part and parcel of my daily life. Long hours of reading and watching debates are my hobbies and I enjoy the process. When I got an opportunity to join an English News Media channel as a Business and Political Copywriter, I couldn’t refuse it. Though I must say that the job which I took up only for a short period of two months was very intense, I worked under the best of Journalists and inspiring personalities. The decisions I made could not always be taken based on one particular factor and what really excited me was that I explored all opportunities.

Finally, the day arrived when the global FMCG giant Colgate Palmolive India selected me during campus Interview for the position of Customer Development Officer (CDO). Here, I worked as a shadow officer under the Area Manager in the southern districts of the state of Karnataka. During my stint here, I was given the responsibility of handling retail distribution chains, ensuring proper stock management as well as on-the- ground interaction with the retail shops and chains on a day-to-day basis to understand the gaps. I was reporting directly to Regional Manager, Chennai bringing in fresh new ideas and perspectives in improving the sales performance

Five years down the line, the RE (Renewable Energy) sector had just started to take shape in India as a real business opportunity. Solar Energy suddenly started taking off, by becoming a major part of Government policies. While I was aware of such developments, I started exploring career options in this emerging sector. After a successful year at Colgate Palmolive, I decided to resign against the will of my parents and took up a sales assignment at Mercom Communications India. The primary sources of my job search were LinkedIn and Naukri. Mercom is a globally respected renewable energy research, media and consulting firm based in Bangalore. Started in 2010, the company has done a phenomenal job in furthering the cause of RE adoption in India. Though for any parent, big brands always mean a secure job and high pay, here was a golden opportunity for me to be part of India’s non-conventional energy revolution and what seems to be the future of the world! Huge investments were flowing in, with Private Equity players, Banks and Energy markets reposing huge faith in this sector. My combined experience in Business, Media and FMCG coupled with my entrepreneurial qualities paid off which helped me secure this highly competitive job at Mercom. Today, as I complete more than three years of my RE journey, I have travelled globally to understand this space and have been closely associated with influential business leaders of this sector. I handle marketing activities of more than fifty global companies and advise business houses on renewable energy business strategies. 

Also, during the period when I had just quit Colgate Palmolive, i started discussing a few ideas with my close collegemates who were equally excited to start a venture. Ironically, the idea to start this venture was conceived at a Café Coffee Day (CCD) outlet in Jayanagar, Bangalore. After exploring many ideas and presenting many pitch decks, this was one innovative concept that no one else had encashed yet. In 2018, we registered our company called ‘Creative Transit Media’ under the brand name ‘Vehicle Wrap’. We bootstrapped our idea and presented it in various forums in Bangalore and Chennai for the next round of funds. The basic objective was to monetise the unused spaces available in the city for branding and advertising purposes; and to tap into small & medium scale businesses for an affordable product marketing avenue. Marketing and branding exercise is a costly affair and eats up the prime budget for a well-established firm, however, smaller firms are left behind in the race because they cannot spend much on product marketing. This undue disadvantage is what caught our attention because the only way to democratize was through giving them affordable ad space. That’s what we achieved!! We collaborated with some exceptional graphic designers who had creative ideas, and things started taking shape in early 2019. It was also the time when we applied all our classroom concepts on ground and saw results for ourselves. Weekends were spent attending classes to understand success stories and case studies at NSRCEL- a startup cell in IIM Bangalore. We discussed processes and took decisions in consultation with the experts. Patience and calculated decision-making abilities are key to unlocking the success in any business venture. Therefore, we never let our ideas to die down as a gossip talk at a CCD outlet, but instead built on it and strived to make things happen. If you have an appetite to take up challenges, you are in the right time to start something on our own!! Don’t forget to seek valuable guidance from start-up mentors at your colleges. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Based on my experience, here is what I can advise all my dear aspirants:

Challenge 1: Be clear on the sector you want to work in and do thorough research. List out some of the major developments in the sector and understand how promising the future job prospects are. List out some of the promising startups and companies which are operating out of India and those that have an excellent client base. 

Challenge 2: Once you have collected all the basic details, understand your skill sets and list down relevant openings in those companies. These days we have multiple positions with fancy names but do the same thing. Based on this, create a customized resume explaining your work abilities and achievements.

Challenge 3: Simultaneously, start tracking your preferred company websites and follow their page on LinkedIn. Remember, LinkedIn is one such professional social media platform which will be your real friend in understanding the corporate world. You can also create accounts on some of the online HR portals and apply. The process might take you years, but I advise you to be patient and continue to apply with customized resumes and covering letters.

Where do you work now? Tell us about your role

Currently, I work at Mercom, which is a globally respected renewable energy research, media and consulting firm based in Bangalore

Renewable Energy jobs are more technical in nature and deal with engineering concepts mainly from Electrical and Mechanical engineeing. The nature of the job is quite different from jobs in the conventional Oil and gas industry which also form the part of the Energy sector in India. My job entails consulting with renewable energy companies which constitute the upstream and downstream supply chain. We advise companies on all market related aspects and take up assignments from across the globe. With many enabling policies and increased energy demand, more and more companies are looking at India as their next investment destination. Multinational Global Energy giants like Total, Shell, BP etc., are entering into the Indian market. Hence, all these firms need to know what are their market entry options and how they should go about it. This is where we come in and assist them in taking the right decision. Based on my evaluation and understanding of the scope of work, I recommend projects and assign it to our research team to take it forward. The process requires me to have a solid understanding of the concepts and current affairs in the sector to build on the conversations and close the deal. Unless we are good at our fundamental concepts, we will not be able to take it forward. If anyone wants to build a career in this sector, the primary subjects one needs to opt is Electrical or Mechanical Engineering. There are numerous job prospects available and one needs the right attitude to get to it. 

Simultaneously, I also handle the marketing for Indian and foreign solar companies. China dominates and controls the renewable energy supply chain of the whole world and no one can ever match their scale of production. Hence, not surprisingly, even I deal with many Chinese companies which have established themselves firmly in the Indian market and are here to stay for the long haul. Currently, I take care of marketing activities of more than fifty companies and have delivered exceptional results. One needs MBA in Marketing subject to handle this complex process. 

My requisite qualification in the field of Mechanical Engineering coupled with the MBA (Marketing) has got me through this job and without which it would not have been possible to crack the Interview. So, plan wisely, choose the right sector and then carefully select the courses.

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

A university degree alone cannot secure a job even if it is a gold medal ! At best, it can only facilitate getting through the doors. However, our survival depends on what we bring to the table. All aspirants must focus on acquiring essential allied skill sets required for a particular job. One can connect with the experienced professional on LinkedIn and seek their valuable advice. LinkedIn’s online Learning platform gives you immediate access to some professional training courses. Remember, we can retain and enhance our skills only through experience. Hence, the number of years of job experience matters in the job market. 

To illustrate my efforts in acquiring new skill sets other than through my academic degrees, I joined the Google AdWords and Analytics classes which taught digital marketing courses and got myself a certificate. Though one might think it is an obvious choice, five years back, no one had known of such courses. I also completed Salesforce and Lean six sigma courses while I was in my second year of my post-graduation. All these have certainly helped during my interviews and this certainly demonstrates to the Interviewer the interest and passion i have towards your field. 

My typical daily work schedule at Mercom is often filled with physical and virtually scheduled meetings. Client facing jobs often require you to have a special skill set of being business-like and professional in your conduct. I am the face of my company and help service our clients to the best of our abilities. The best part of my job is that it allows me to directly communicate with the C-level executives which in most other established sectors is not possible.

How does your work benefit society? 

India is already one among the world leaders in the renewable energy sector and the industry has an aggressive target to achieve in the next five years. For the world to save itself from the threat of global warming, a quick shift towards more carbon-neutral sources of energy is imperative. The only means of achieving such a noble initiative is to help deploy more renewable energy plants across India and I am part of such a cause. Every day, scientists across the world are researching new sources of clean energy and it is part of my job to keep our community informed of such developments. Finally, it is all about saving our only habitable planet in our solar system and transforming it into a better place to live in.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

I have elucidated my career journey in a more subtle way, and I want all the aspirants to take a few life lessons from here. It is very important that we enjoy the process and do what we are good at. Gaining more experience and being professional is what the corporate world is looking for from every job seeker. Never stop your learning process. When you are clear about your destination, it will pay off sooner or later. Always have an optimistic outlook to your approach and gain expertise. Make physical exercise as part of your daily routine and I will guarantee you it will be transformational, both personally and professionally.

Future Plans?

My ultimate goal will be to gain more expertise in my profession and rise up the corporate ladder. I want to leave an indelible mark in the RE, BESS and EV sector by being part of the policy-making process and bringing in innovative business models. Nevertheless, life has its own story to tell and I will continue to strive in my profession and contribute to society.