Coming to India to head Wärtsilä as president and managing director (MD) in April was a homecoming of sorts for Neeraj Sharma because he had worked with the company about 20 years ago, from 1993 to 1996.
Sharma’s energies are focused on understanding where precisely the company stands. Wärtsilä has delivered around 250 power plants in the country with a total output of over 3,500 MW. “The challenge with renewable energy is the big variations in supply that need to be balanced in real time by the rest of the grid. When solar or wind power peaks, conventional power has to be backed down to absorb it.” Sharma says energy storage has become an important part of every power system and it is Wärtsilä’s topmost priority too.
On leaving school, Sharma enrolled at the Directorate of Marine Engineering Training (DMET), now known as the Indian Maritime University, in Kolkata in 1978 to prepare for a marine engineer’s career. He spent most of his time with the Great Eastern Shipping Company, first as a junior engineer in 1982 and later was promoted to chief engineer. The experience, he says, is something that no one can anticipate until they start it.
In 1990, he joined Thermax, which hired him for sales, although it believed that marine engineers made great service engineers. Later in his career at GE, he rounded off his capabilities further by taking up a management role. But Sharma really came into his own as a leader while working with elevator and escalator company Kone Corporation, Finland. He would go on to be executive vice-president, Asia Pacific, and a member of the executive board. But his first assignment was with Kone India where, as MD, he fine-tuned his management skills.
In his spare time, Sharma likes to travel with his wife Arundhoti, who works as an interior consultant, and his daughters. The last holiday was a road trip in Croatia, along the Adriatic coast, from the picturesque town of Dubrovnik in the south to Zagreb in the north. Next year, he plans on going to Scotland to sample some nice single malts at various distilleries and play golf at St Andrews while celebrating a friend’s 60th birthday.
Later still, he is thinking of contributing to society in some way. The work that Wärtsilä is doing in corporate social responsibility is very important to him. The goal is to have a direct impact on people’s lives.