Veteran IIT Madras professors start up in pursuit of building a world-class data analytics product

GyanDataShankar Narasimhan and Raghunathan Rengaswamy are professors at IIT Madras. Shankar obtained his Bachelor’s degree from IIT Madras in 1982 and his MS and PhD degrees from Northwestern University, Illinois, USA, in 1984 and 1987, respectively. Prior to joining IIT Madras, he was an Associate Professor in the chemical engineering department at IIT Kanpur. And Raghunathan received his B.Tech from IIT Madras and PhD from Purdue University, USA, in 1990 and 1995 respectively. Before joining IIT Madras as a professor, he was a professor in chemical engineering and co-director of the Process Control and Optimization Consortium (PCOC) at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX USA, professor and associate professor at Clarkson University, USA, and an assistant professor at IIT Bombay. Spending their lives in the academia, the duo always harboured a desire to start out on their own.

Professor Raghu

Professor Raghu

Their roles at IIT Madras didn’t allow them to start up alongside but with the incubator coming up at IIT Madras, the hurdle was crossed. Shankar’s major research interests are in the areas of Data Mining, Process Design and Optimization, Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) and Fault Tolerant Control, while Raghu’s areas of research are Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) and development of Sensor Placement (SP) algorithms for FDD. Data Analyics is their core expertise and over the years, they’ve developed a foundation that can be applied to any sector.

“We were not too keen on raising venture capital and hence took the services route to start out with,” says Raghu. The duo has a strong team of 12, including a few youngsters who graduated from IIT Madras itself. “We’re working on some very exciting projects with a range of clients from government bodies to large private companies. And the youngsters are also enthused to be working with Gyan Data,” says Shankar.

The company provides services in four primary areas:

  • Pipeline Networks
  • Data Analytics (Steady State Data Reconciliation, State Estimation in Dynamic Processes, Data Modeling, etc.)
  • Energy Systems
  • Training and Education

These services are typically for large companies in the manufacturing and chemical industries to increase efficiency. “We are geared towards increasing the competitiveness of our customers through the development and deployment of innovative and holistic solutions to their engineering problems,” believes the duo. The team is based at IIT Madras Research Park that provides a technically synergistic work environment with access to research facilities and skilled manpower resources. The startup graduated from the incubator after a year (the incubator holds some equity).

The vision is to build towards a solid data analytics product. This will be developed from all the use cases they are currently seeing with their consultancy work. Alongside, their other product which is being built is the PHA Suite- Hazard and operability analysis (HAZOP) that is widely used in process hazard analysis of chemical processes. The product will offer an intelligent automated approach to safety analysis. “It cuts down the time and effort required for performing safety analysis by 40-60% by taking care of routine hazards and can act as an indispensable aid for human teams allowing them to focus only on special hazards,” says Shankar.

The duo has embarked on their startup journey and the products focus on an industry that requires a lot of domain expertise. If they’re able to productize their solution seamlessly and build a strong business case, Gyan Data will certainly be a company to watch out for in the enterprise space.

Webite: Gyan Data


Jubin Mehta

Jubin Mehta

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about more than 1000 startups. With an engineering background and a keen interest in data analysis, his passion for writing and entrepreneurship makes him a perfect match for Yourstory. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he also runs a hackbase. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at jubin@yourstory.com