Chandrasekhar Hariharan, Founder, Biodiversity Conservation India Limited (BCIL)


Zero Energy Driven!

of Biodiversity is an important global issue. And so while we dominate this planet we still need to preserve the biodiversity. Now there is a solution to this. This time we present a very unique and innovative venture Biodiversity Conservation India Limited(BCIL). YourStory had a conversation with Chandrasekhar Hariharan where he discussed his entrepreneurial journey.Please tell us about BCIL?

As the name suggests, this is a company that strives for conservation of biodiversity in various forms beyond vegetation and forests into cultural diversity and urban lifestyles. Our mission objective is to mainstream sustainability with successful market acceptance among various constituents in the building industry in particular and among various other segments of industry at large. Our work extends to offering directions for energy efficiency beyond housing into buildings of every variety as well as industrial process efficiency.

What is your target audience?

Our clientele extends from homebuyers in various economic segments, to corporate representative, who are looking for creating green buildings. It also includes professional and practicing engineers, architects, and other service consultants who seek to learn insights into the new green guidelines and parameters of performance efficiency for all varieties of buildings. The benefit for such people ranges from financial savings to health benefits [clean, pollen-free air, natural warm floors that’s great for asthmatics / rheumatism-afflicted, lack of chemical and toxic materials being used in our patented processes for construction…. It also gives them the advantages of efficiencies in terms of both Cap Ex and Op Ex.

What basic idea do you follow?

At core, BCIL aims at demonstrating powerfully different methods of enhancing energy efficiency in buildings. Our work emphasizes innovations in all the areas and elements of work that go into making any building. We strive to reduce carbon emission with planned reduction of energy use in our buildings that we create and design. We consult for companies on housing and commercial buildings. We also train and disseminate information on green building to young and old professionals.

Why is your venture unique?

The uniqueness of our design approaches is that it revolves around the central axis of a 6 strand strategy. Every building that we work on is created around the multiple implications of these 6-strands—energy (both embodied and actual), air, water, waste, earth material, and biomass or landscape planning. What distinguishes BCIL’s buildings is that they offer lower running cost for occupants in terms of energy or water that is needed to run the buildings, regardless of whether they are homes or offices.

The other USP is that these buildings that we create reduce as much as 50% on carbon emission of the building. The buildings are cooler. BCIL’s buildings don’t use bricks nor concrete blocks, or clay blocks or clay tiles, since they are high on use of fertile top soil. We very nearly don’t use vitrified and ceramic tiles for the high embodied energy such tiles consume. Our structural engineering is far more efficient and reduces use of concrete. We do not use toxic paints. We don’t need water from the grid supply. We need only 40% of energy from the grid. No waste is exported from any of our housing projects. We do not use chemicals even for waterproofing compounds or for swimming pool water treatment, or for all plants and trees we vegetate. We do not use regular conventional floors. We do not use deep borewells for supplying water for our housing colonies and enclaves, while we ensure that there is 24/7 water supply. We do not use incandescent bulbs or halogens or regular tubelights. We do not use mortar for our construction of walls. We do not use pure cement for any of our structural building work.

There are many more such unique factors that make our buildings sustainable in terms of planet resources, while not compromising comfort and convenience for the customer. Effectively this means that we do not need the grid and state infrastructure for power, water, and waste. Our air-conditioning is free of HFC and HCFC or other ozone-depleting substances.

Please tell us something about your entrepreneurial journey?

My constant drive for innovation and for definitive impact on communities in terms of lower eco footprint was a drive that has remained with me for 20 years. When I did not find the right organization to work with and fulfill these basic professional drives of mine, I decided to create one! Entrepreneurship is not something that comes naturally to me. It is thanks to hard work, dedication and commitment from many professional colleagues who have had the joy of traveling with me on this unique journey.

Initially we had no seed capital! In October ’94 I borrowed Rs 1 lakh and paid it as advance for a land of 41 acres which I bought at 97 lakhs. I did not know how I will pay the rest of the money while a small group of four of us had the confidence that we had the right set of homes to offer on paper to people who will trust us and pay the initial advance amount. We started in January ‘95 and began a long haul to completion of that first residential enclave called Trans Indus in Bangalore.

We only had our deep conviction that there was a value that we were offering which could be seen by some farsighted individuals who aspired to have homes. The process was long and took five years for that first project. From then on we picked up momentum over the four years. The last five years has been a story of many ups and downs, but we have set our course on achieving urban sustainability and have not strayed from it. Our focus on water and energy leading to quality of life has remained steadfast and unchanged. That has been our seed capital!

It has been a long and hard journey, but it has had its rewards even if they have been slow in coming. Today with the extended base of people as professionals, we have a greater and more confident role to play into the future.

Any challenges so far?

I am myself personally the biggest challenge for the organization! My ability to understand my own self and my limitation and strengths will in turn get me to grow the trust and confidence of the professionals who drive the company’s initiative. I wish I can overcome such challenges of my own inherent limitations in certain areas of understanding organizational development.

There has been no major external big challenge that we have not surmounted in the past. At the worst times, I have learnt to offer bad news to people who have to receive it. I don’t wait for them to know it from others. That has always helped me, for people see the earnest and sincerity, and are willing to partner you through a difficult phase or crisis.

What mistakes did you make initially?

In the early years we did not professionalize the company and build the middle organization. Money was always a challenge, so we couldn’t recruit enough people. There were not enough trained minds who were willing to work on just passion and tea! If we had overcome that challenge in the beginning, we would have grown faster.

There are many battles that are lost but if you keep your objectives in sight, you will win the war. That has kept me and our colleagues determined.

What is the present scenario of BCIL?

We have grown from that borrowed Rs. 1 lakh to a stage where we are now creating about over 200 homes in the next two years at two residential projects that that company is promoting, and about 4500 homes that we are guiding other major builders to create with green guidelines.

We have grown to about 150 people and have about 1500 virtual workers who create our projects on an outsourced basis. Our projects today are in Bangalore, Goa, Chennai, Mangalore and Mysore. We hope to be extending our influence in green buildings to other cities over the next two years.

Whats in the future of BCIL?

Our vision for the future is to build the team with greater depth of leadership so that an organizational legacy can be firmly put into place, to complete two projects that are currently under way and which are ambitious in their higher thresholds of sustainability, to impact more buildings with our green directions and strategic interventions across India and the world.

What has been the biggest achievement for BCIL? Any moment of Recognition for it?

Our demonstrated success with business viability of many sustainable design and technologies is our single big achievement in the last 15 years. As far as the recognition are considered we are humbled by the global and national acclaim that we have received in the last 5 years after our initial phase of completion of the first three or four projects. When proof of concept was visible, with energetic endorsement from our clients, recognition came easier. We have won 6 awards from 5 countries in just the last three years. We have won about 14 awards in the last 6 years from institutions as varied and diverse as the CII, the Institution of Economic Studies, The Asian Development Bank, the IGES in Japan, Ademe in Paris, and many others. We were recently awarded the San Diego based Core Net Global Award which was given to only four projects in the world! We received the Realty Plus award for excellence in April 2010. We have been nominated for many advisory boards in the center as well as in state governments for them to learn policy directions from our accomplishments.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the coming entrepreneurs and how can they overcome it?

The government is the single biggest challenge. Getting clearances for any idea you want to promote is not easy. People will be your next big challenge and if you have got the right team in place you can overcome your financial challenges. But I would like to advice them that don’t strike out on your own if you do not have the strength to persist and persevere in the face of failures. Do not chase money in your professional pursuits, and yet constantly think of costs! That’ll offer a key to success. Trust your people and build your strengths along with the team.

YourStory wishes Chandrasekhar Hariharan and his innovative venture BCIL all the best for their future.