Raman has been managing SoftBank’s global energy investments since 2011. He founded SoftBank’s international renewables arm in 2015, developing a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of high-tech solar and wind power plants. Before that, he created his own solar company, e10six, to develop grid-scale solar projects in India.
How did your upbringing set the stage for your career?
My upbringing was quite international and full of adventure. My mom taught languages and my dad was a chartered accountant, first in India, then in the Middle East during the 1970s oil boom, which had attracted young professionals from around the world. By the time I was 18, I had lived in seven cities across India and the Middle East. My hunger to learn probably had its roots in being exposed to such diversity. An undergraduate degree in nuclear chemistry was followed by graduate degrees in environmental science, architecture, and action research. I moved to the United Kingdom for graduate school, then to New York—the opportunities for learning were endless.
Technology and software will play a fundamental role in accelerating the energy transition. Without it, we simply won’t get to net zero carbon.
What sparked your interest in renewable energy?
As kids we were out all day in the blazing sunshine. When I first learned that all that sun could be converted into electricity, silently, with no pollution and no moving parts, that sparked my imagination. But what really got me excited was the idea that you could build modern solar infrastructure across the remotest parts of India to power its incredible growth—all while helping to protect our planet. That made me ask, why would I do anything else?
What do you look for in a founder?
The founder’s journey is hard. You’re dealing with people problems, business problems, with investors’ needs, and then with the nonstop daily curve balls that come at you. Ultimately, you are responsible. Passion and a clear sense of direction is an extremely powerful combination that can give you the resilience you need to build your vision against the odds. And when your team sees that resilience, it drives them forward, and that creates a virtuous cycle.
How do you test to see if a founder has what you’re looking for?
I look for the way a founder talks about their company. I ask them tough questions and listen to how they respond. I watch their team dynamic. That can really give you a sense of their focus, their resilience, and ability to succeed. Also, no matter how incredible a founder is, there’s a whole set of skills needed to build a company that no single person can possess. So I look to see how the founder goes about attracting people and giving them the space to contribute and thrive. If they’re doing that well, it’s a big signal of potential success.
What should founders know about you as a potential investor?
I’ve been in their shoes. I’ve emptied my bank account building companies, so I know what it’s like to take a risk. I have a deep appreciation for the kaleidoscope of ups and downs that’s part of being an entrepreneur. Toward founders, I see my role as twofold. First, I want them to know that I care and that I will make resources available to them. They don’t have to worry about picking up the phone and calling me. Second, I want to get out of their way—to support them but give them the space to do what they do.
What is your definition of personal success?
I deeply believe that in the next 10 years, technology and software will unlock a path to net zero carbon. It’s going to be tough, and I want to spend my time supporting the teams and companies that will help create a safer, happier world to live in.