Toshiba Lighting Bets on Solar-Powered Indian Border Plan

Toshiba Lighting & Technology Corp., a unit of Toshiba Corp., will seek to win defense contracts in India where Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to light up national borders with solar energy.

Toshiba Lighting, along with its local unit, GreenStar Research and Development India Pvt., has been shortlisted in a border-lighting project, Toshiba Lighting Chief Executive Officer Yoichi Ibi said in an interview in New Delhi, without giving details of the contract. The Japanese company also expects municipalities and industries to drive its business in India, Ibi said.

Modi has called for building a solar-powered corridor along India’s western border with Pakistan as the country prepares to raise its solar target to 15 gigawatts by 2019, more than five times current capacity. He also has pledged to spend $25 billion on roads, airports, ports and smart cities to unclog Asia’s third-largest economy.

“We hope the barriers of doing business in India will be reduced,” Ibi said. “The Indian market is huge, for its population and growth rate, and is becoming an interesting market.”

Modi has said accelerating infrastructure development is one of his top priorities.

India is planning two pilot solar-power projects of 5 megawatts each in the desert regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The country has 15,107 kilometers (9,400 miles) of land border with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan, according to the home ministry’s website.

Infrastructure

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has promised reliable electricity for all households by 2022 and has budgeted an initial 70.6 billion rupees ($1.16 billion) to build 100 new “smart cities”.

“My expectation is that India will invest in energy saving, smart cities and infrastructure, and we could contribute through our products and solutions,” Ibi said.

While Toshiba Lighting does plan to eventually build a manufacturing plant in India, the company will wait for a minimum 10-fold increase in revenue from its Indian operations before deciding when to proceed, Ibi said.

He didn’t specify a timeframe.

GreenStar, which was acquired by Toshiba in 2012, makes light emitting diodes for outdoor use and expects as much as $4 million revenue from its Indian business in the year ending March 2015.

“At this point in time, GreenStar India’s revenues are too small to set up a plant,” Ibi said. “But I understand the importance of local stuff for doing business in India.”