Dubai: Nitesh Kumar Phulwani is 25 and a multi-millionaire.
Now you may want to jump to conclusions that he probably had it easy with his family handing him the silver spoon.
Well actually, yes. He was lucky enough to be born into a family which runs a successful business here in the UAE.
But take this: besides a good education, love and care that his family gave him, the rest of his achievements have been thanks to his own efforts. He is pretty much a self-made millennial entrepreneur who only knows work work and work.
Say hello to Nitesh, managing director at BDP Energy Pvt. Limited, a company that deals with renewable energy particularly solar energy with operations in India and Dubai. The business records an annual turnover of around Dh14 million.
As a company, BDP Energy aims at providing equal and greener air access to future generations while living on a thriving an sustainable planet. “We want to evolve is to evolve communities by offering them cleaner energy and help organisations in setting up and finance solar plant of any size,” said Nitesh.
“I think this is a pretty good number, considering we are still young in the market. I hope to make it grow at least ten folds in the next couple of years,” said Nitesh with confidence.
Nitesh’s father Bhagwan Das Phulwani died nine years ago. Phulwani left his business empire to Nitesh’s mother Lata Phulwani and his older brother Deepesh. Nitesh was 16 and his Deepesh 17. “But my brother is brilliant. He is way matured for his age and took over my father’s business with ease. He has turned into a major business empire too. But I was – how can I say – the pampered one. I loved being on my own and all I wanted was to be educated. And so my brother sacrificed his education to run my father’s business and on top of that told me to go chasing my dreams. He ensured my dream to be educated would be fulfilled.”
For the record, Nitesh did BSc Business at the University of Kent from the UK.
Nitesh’s brother on his part, built the family business into an empire and today it records an annual turnover of Dh100 million.
Recalling the days of his past, Nitesh said his father worked hard to achieve success.
“My father decided to come and work in the UAE way back in 1983 because the economy here was great. The trend was for several people from the sub-continent leaving their home country to work here in the UAE.”
Although building a business empire is not a new concept for Nitesh or his family, he struggled to get to where he is. “That is because I had my own ideas about what I wanted to do for business. My inspiration has come from external factors and as a result I got little support from my family.”
Nitesh said his father came to work as a store keeper for a textile company. But he was so good at his job that his employers recognised his hard work and dedication. His father was promoted year after year and eight years into the job – his father was made partner in the company.
How it all began
“When I graduated from my out of university, I was completely reckless. But I was and am ambitious. My main motivation in life is to make money. My family did ask me to join their line of business but my heart was saying wait for something else.”
Around about that time Nitesh’s close friend expressed an interest to get into the business of renewable solar energy. He (the friend) was seeking help from Nitesh to meet some top government officials in India to get him the necessary permission to penetrate into the market.
“For the record, one of the countries aggressively promoting solar energy is India. At the time, India was also giving tax benefits for the sector in state of Rajasthan. So my friend wanted to get in touch with the government officials of Rajasthan to set up something in the state. I started chipping in those meetings and I understood how it all works. My friend had the idea and my uncle helped him achieve the dream. That let me with the idea of getting into the business of providing solar energy.”
Indeed, this was the turning point in Nitesh’s life.
Nitesh got to learn about the nuances of running a solar business and this was it. It was the beginning of a new and beautiful journey for the young entrepreneur.
The solar energy business
“We are living in an age where energy generation and conservation debate is at the core of all developmental activities. Needless to say that solar energy is the most powerful and meaningful alternative at our disposal. The need to go solar is universal across the globe. The Middle East has also made a significant progress in making solar energy, one of the leading sources of power for various residential and industrial needs. The road to future is bright with solar energy and it’s not an exaggeration to say that solar energy is the hope of tomorrow and also the fuel to energise our collective dreams.”
“For me as an entrepreneur in the UAE, I see a lot of support coming from the UAE. For the record, the UAE has achieved the world’s lowest levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). That is truly commendable and goes to show how serious the government is about conserving energy here in the UAE. I feel lucky to have my business here.”
So how does he do it
"I ask people how much they pay for electricity. I tell them to invest in something big now so they can save on something bigger for the future. That is the concept of the solar energy business rooftop solar.”
Nitesh’s mother, Lata Phulwani and brother Deepesh would travel to India regularly. Nitesh started convincing them to take him along with them. He would get trained on how to run a business. And in the evening, Nitesh said, he would sneak out with friends to discuss business opportunities in the solar energy business. “I made five to six trips to India before I finally got my first client,” said Nitesh.
“The experience I gained working with my friend was that there was nothing wrong with the idea of a solar business. It is a fairly easy concept to sell, but I just need to meet as many people as possible to get the message out loud and clear. My parents did not give me any money to start my business. They said how can we give you money when you are not sure of where you are heading."
"Luckily I found a company selling panels at Rs53 per watt. And I sold my first deal of solar panels at Rs. 63 per watt. So that gave me a huge level playing field. It was a very small project. Now I am working on mega-watt scale. Today I am funding mega-watt projects and no one asks me anything."
All in the family
“I have been born into a family where everyone has achieved alot and have been successful from it. My achievements are completely over-shadowed. My mother does not think my achievement is a big deal. They are just filling the part. I feel like oh!
"So my family does well keeping a reality check on me".
Advice to millennials
Just for the record, Phulwani has not taken a holiday in three years. He has missed many family birthdays. "I missed my sister’s wedding reception because I was working and concluding deals. I don’t consider it a sacrifice as I enjoy my job and love it completely. Secondly, as a newbie entrepreneur, have patience. Don’t look for instant success. Keep at whatever you are doing. And most importantly, keep dreaming and never give up being ambitious," said the successful entrepreuner.