Engineer’s Day: These 5 engineers built businesses making crores in revenue, contributed to nation-building
A 2019 employability report by talent evaluation company Aspiring Minds revealed 80 percent of engineers are not employable for any job in the knowledge economy.
However, success in India's business ecosystem is not always dependent on employability.
For many years, engineers with innovative and disruptive business ideas have chosen not to take up a stable job. Instead, they have taken risks and started businesses to execute their unique ideas. Building their business acumen along the way, these engineers grew their companies and found great success.
Today, their companies are building the nation’s economy, production capacity, job market, infrastructure, and more.
These contributions are a testament to the legacy left behind by one of India’s greatest engineers, Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya.
M Visvesvaraya was a prolific civil engineer, economist, and statesman. The engineering community counts him among India's most important nation builders.
His birthday, September 15, is celebrated as a tribute to his achievements and also to recognise the contributions of engineers.
This Engineer’s Day, SMBStory has curated a list of five engineers who built businesses clocking hundreds of crores in revenues and contributing to nation-building.
In the 1990s, IIT Kanpur graduate and oil engineer Mahesh Gupta was on a vacation with his family when both his kids suddenly fell ill. The children drank some contaminated water and were diagnosed with jaundice.
The kids recovered, but Delhi-based entrepreneur Mahesh could not forget the incident. He started doing research on water purification and found that the commonly-used Ultra Violet (UV) system purifiers were not good enough to remove dissolved impurities from water.
“At that time, I was running my oil conservation products company SS Engineering. Before that, I worked with Indian Oil as an engineer. Despite all my expertise in oil engineering, I began doing a lot of research and experiments on water purification,” he says.
The process of Reverse Osmosis (RO) caught Mahesh's attention. RO is a process of water purification that uses a partially-permeable membrane to remove ions, unwanted molecules, and large particles from water.
In those days, no one in India was using RO to make water safe for people to drink. Mahesh decided to test it out and imported a membrane and a pump from the US.
At home, he built his first RO water purifier. This was the genesis of Kent RO, the popular water purifier brand that today clocks a turnover of around Rs 1,000 crore and has a 40 percent share in the RO purifiers market.
Amitansu Satpathy’s father always told him, “Do something excellent and stand out from the rest of the crowd,” – words that were etched into his memory. Amitansu lost his father when he was very young, but these words stayed with him.
The loss of his father made Amitansu determined to stand for himself, become financially independent, and take care of his family. But he didn’t always know he wanted to become an entrepreneur.
After completing his Bachelor’s in electrical engineering from NIT Kurukshetra, he took up a job in the UPS (uninterruptible power supply/source) industry.
“I started working for domestic and international brands. I built an understanding of the know-how, challenges, and nuances of the industry,” he says.
Through the 90s, Amitansu helped several international UPS companies set up their operations in India. This experience proved to be a turning point for him. He picked up in-depth knowledge about international alliances, product technicalities, sales, operations, and more.
When he was 29, Amitansu decided to quit his job and start his own UPS company. He raised some funds from his friends, family, and business contacts and started Best Power Equipments (BPE) in Noida in 2000.
Over two decades, the engineer led the company through many challenges and grew it into a leading, Rs 200-crore manufacturer of UPS solutions and inverters.
While working with Honda Motorcycles and Scooters as an Operations Head, Jeetender Sharma visited the Okinawa Islands in Japan. Residents of the islands are known to have very long life spans in the world.
Jeetender, who is a Mechanical Engineer and a PG Diploma Graduate in International Business, felt the islands’ zero-pollution environment played a major role in boosting the health of its people.
“This experience inspired me to start a venture to contribute to an eco-friendly environment in India. I decided to set up an electric vehicle (EV) company to replace the use of conventional fossil fuels with clean energy, thereby reducing pollution,” Jeetender says.
Having worked for almost 25 years in the automobile production and quality assurance departments, Jeetender put his domain expertise to use and started an electric two-wheeler business in Gurugram in 2015. Paying tribute to the archipelago that inspired him, he named his company Okinawa Scooters.
“We spent the first two years in research and development. In 2017, we launched our first product — Okinawa Ridge. Since then, we have launched seven different electric two-wheelers, and have captured the highest market share in high-speed electric two-wheelers in India. We have over 60,000 of our two-wheelers on the road right now,” he says, with the claim also reported by Autocar Professional.
Okinawa Scooters reported Rs 200 crore revenue for 2018-19.
In the 1970s, marine engineer Vijay Mansukhani was working in the Iranian merchant navy. As a man who was just starting his career, he was happy earning approximately six times the salary that Indians in the merchant navy were earning.
When he met his to-be business partner Gulu Mirchandani, his life’s trajectory changed. Vijay decided to jump ship and become an entrepreneur. Leaving behind a well-paying job was risky.
But little did Vijay know that he and his partner would go on to redefine the Indian consumer durables industry with their iconic ‘Onida’ brand of TVs.
“We had started the company when the Asian Games took place in Delhi. The late PM Indira Gandhi had just opened the floodgate of opportunity by announcing national telecast and colour television around that time,” he says.
In an incredible tale of perseverance, battling adverse economic conditions, and facing stiff competition from foreign companies, Onida emerged triumphant. It became a household name as lakhs of Indians were buying their first TVs, and choosing Onida.
Over the years, there were many challenges, but Vijay led Onida to become a Rs 736-crore turnover company. At 69, he is now a stalwart in the Indian consumer durables industry, but he says he always remembers the big risk he took by becoming an entrepreneur.
Prashant Srivastava fell in love with electrical equipment when he was a child. He spent his early years in Pune toying with panels, bus ducts, wires, and cables. He and his father, who worked in the electrical equipment industry, spent hours together amidst the colourful electrical paraphernalia.
“From an early age, I developed a keen interest in the working of complex electrical equipment. I started to research and experiment and wanted to take my interest to a new level. I developed a dream to set up a manufacturing project and used my research for making different kinds of innovative electrical control products,” Prashant says.
After completing his bachelor’s, he was ready to start his entrepreneurial journey by making panels for electric switchboards.
“In 2002, I saw a huge demand for electrical panels and switchboards due to a boom in infrastructure development in India. I felt Noida would be a better bet than Pune. So, I moved there and set up a manufacturing unit for electrical panels. It was completely self-funded,” Prashant says. He named the venture Nitya Electrocontrols (NEC).
Prashant signed up with NTPC, formerly known as National Thermal Power Corporation Limited, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL), Engineers India Limited (EIL), and MECON, formerly known as Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants.
NEC is now clocking a turnover of Rs 150 and has around 200 employees. The business now has three manufacturing units across Noida and Greater Noida.
Edited by Dipti Nair