5's National Business Correspondent Steve Kass sits down with Rakesh Parasuraman
SK: Tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up.
RP: I spent the first nine years of my life in Malaysia. My father was a marketing professional and was sent to that country on assignment. After working there for a couple of years, he moved me, my mother and brother to Malaysia too. We moved back to India when I was about 9 years old. I got my Bachelors degree from the University of Mumbai in Mechanical Engineering. After that, I worked for two years in India and then came to the USA to pursue my MBA in Finance and Marketing at SUNY Buffalo.
SK: And where do you live today?
RP: I have lived in several parts of New Jersey over the years. Presently, I live in West Orange, New Jersey with my wife Meera, my seven-year old son, Ranvir and four-year old daughter Nandini.
SK: How long have you been working in the energy business and how did you get started in this industry?
RP: I have been working in the energy industry since 2003 when I started with Catherine Luthin. I am an engineer by training, but I’ve also always been interested in business and finance. While I was working on my MBA in Marketing and Finance at SUNY Buffalo, I had an internship with Praxair and had the opportunity to get involved in the evaluation of fuel cell technologies for their fleet of vehicles used to transport industrial gases. When I finished my MBA, I wanted to be a little closer to New York City and that’s when I moved to New Jersey and started with Luthin Associates.
"When I started with Luthin my knowledge on energy was principally limited to E=mc2. I can safely say that after 16 years, I know a bit more now."
SK: Were you surprised by the winters when you got to Buffalo? I have to imagine that was a little different from Malaysia and India.
RP: In India and Malaysia, I was used to warm weather with high humidity, so Buffalo was a total surprise. The brochures I got from SUNY Buffalo showed a lush campus with lots of green grass. And then we got eight feet of snow my first winter there. The marketing materials may have been a little bit deceiving, but I pretty much knew what I was getting myself into! I have not-so-fond memories of shoveling a car out of the snow…only to find out that it wasn’t mine!
SK: How have you seen the energy industry evolve and change over the last sixteen years?
RP: You know one of the advantages of being from my generation is that we have seen technology actually evolve. From fax machines to email, from pagers to mobile phones and so on. The energy industry has also evolved rapidly from the number of suppliers, innovative product options, regulatory forces and environmental considerations.
"The energy industry and the choices that are available have made it more complex. Complex doesn’t mean bad – but it has made decision making more complicated than it used to be."
RP:Today, clients have to understand factors such the regulatory environment – the new Climate Mobilization Act in New York City is a great example of legislation that will have a dramatic effect on what our clients will pay for electricity. Additionally, clients need to understand how the supply and demand sides fit together in order to get a complete picture of their energy usage. That’s not easy to do as there are several factors in play. These factors can be beneficial or detrimental to a client and I think that is where our services and expertise can help.
SK: Did you always want to work in the energy industry?
RP: No. When I was 4, I wanted to be Superman…I still have a chin scar to remind me of that ambition. Later when I was in school, I thought I was going to be a doctor. But in school, things like dissecting frogs and worms never appealed to me and I really didn’t want to have to deal with blood. I realized that going into engineering would be a better route for me.
SK: What is one piece of advice from your parents that you have taken with you?
RP: It is not so much a piece of advice as it is my moral compass and ethical values.
"They taught me to never compromise my ethics and that the integrity of what I do must always be preserved. I found that same ethical sense with Catherine Luthin. This was very important to me, especially in an industry where there are many bad apples. For me, that has also been one of the best parts of 5 and Luthin Associates coming together – our shared ethics and values."
SK: You are trapped on a deserted island. What books, movies and music do you bring with you?
RP: I love to read. So, I would probably bring a book on how to build a raft…I’m not much of a do-it-yourself guy. But I am a big Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown fan. I would probably have Kane & Abel and the Da Vinci Code with me. In terms of movies…probably Hot Shots with Charlie Sheen and Star Wars. And I would have to have some Pearl Jam and The Doors with me too.
Connect with Rakesh on LinkedIn.