Indrani Butany-DeSouza is Sparking Change in the Energy Utility Industry
Contributed by Kelly Anderson, DeGroote Contributor
Indrani Butany-DeSouza (BSc’96, MBA’00) admits she’s not the most interesting person at a cocktail party. “Not many people understand what someone who works in a regulated sector, like electricity, does,” she says, “and when I explain it, they complain that their electricity bills are too high!”
Fair enough. But anyone who digs a little deeper finds a sharply-focused energy guru at the top of her game who is extremely knowledgeable and excited about the transition to an electrified society – and a people person who is passionate about helping others, especially young, diverse professionals rising through the ranks and breaking barriers like she did.
Born in New Delhi but hailing from Toronto, Indrani is the only child of two over-achieving South Asian physicians, so when she enrolled at McMaster for an undergraduate degree in science, it was with the expectation that she too would become a doctor. By her second year, however, Indy knew that was never going to happen. “This did NOT go over well with my parents, but I assured them that I would finish my degree with honours and find my own path.”
That she did.
She returned to McMaster to enroll in the co-op MBA program at the DeGroote School of Business and her first job was with PWC, where she consulted on a project working with the Ontario Energy Board just as the retail market for electricity was opening up in the province.
“It was an interesting time of transition in the industry, and the energy bug bit me. There was no turning back.”
Indrani worked in gas and electricity retailing and carbon market trading before landing in the utilities sector in 2009, where she quickly began climbing the corporate ladder. At Horizon Utilities Corporation and later Alectra Inc., she became Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Chief Privacy Officer, providing leadership and shaping the regulatory framework for energy distribution in Ontario. In 2021, she was tapped to take the helm as President and CEO of Elexicon Energy Inc., the fourth largest municipally owned electricity distributor in Ontario.
“It’s so exciting to be part of this industry at this time in history. We are again in a period of transformational change when it comes to energy. Electricity is a huge part of everyone’s everyday life, and it’s now becoming even more so, as everything from cars to bikes to transit to cooking becomes electrified.”
Energy usage and the regulatory environment is becoming something that people understand as extremely valuable and influential in society, both now and as we plan our future. I’m proud to play a part in that.”
She has also been playing a big role in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in an industry that’s typically not been so diverse. “As a young, South Asian woman it has definitely been a journey in this field. When I began at Horizon Utilities, I was one of five people of colour in the whole building, and I was the only one on the executive team. It’s been important to me as I’ve gained influence to be an agent of change in that regard.”
As a President & CEO, I must be concerned with many things, and one of them is EDI. When you have a seat at the table you need to bring your full self, not just for you and the company, but for everyone else who is not at the table.”
In fact, Indrani recently made sure that there are smart and diverse people at her table: the Elexicon Energy executive team of eight people is 60 per cent women. “I’m happy to be a change agent and remove obstacles.”
She also mentors those coming up the ranks after her. “I love to help people and have all the time in the world for anyone who asks. My own mentor told me that the only payment needed is to pay it forward. Those words have never left me. I’ve also always remembered my dad’s words: ‘value the humble turtle, who needs another turtle to nudge them onto a rock and never pulls another down.’ This little gem has been central in my journey.”
Indrani is known for her high-energy and perseverance, but she says that her success is also due to thinking strategically and investing in relationships.
“My superpower is that I can see the big spider web and figure out how to connect all the dots to make things work. But I also recognized early on that strategy without the right network of people means nothing. I’ve put time into building relationships so that I have the currency with peers, regulators and MPPs and executives when I need help.”
It seems this energy expert, business strategist, influencer, diversity champion, community volunteer and mother may be someone to spark a conversation with after all, should you spot her at your next cocktail party.
Indrani Butany-DeSouza (BSc ’96, MBA ‘00) is the 2023 recipient of the Wayne C. Fox Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Wayne C. Fox Distinguished Alumni Award was first presented in 2000 to its namesake, Dr. Wayne C. Fox. Each year the legacy of the award continues to recognize our outstanding alumni.
The DeGroote School of Business is looking forward to honouring Indrani Butany-DeSouza at a special Accolades celebration on May 23 at the Park Hyatt in Toronto. For more information and to register, please visit the DeGroote events page.
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