How two aerospace engineers help small enterprises go green

GTarang provides technologically optimised and affordable clean energy solutions

Love for a Doordarshan serial called Tarang aired every Sunday in the 1990s was the initial spark. Manvi Dhawan watched the serial at her hometown in Gwalior, while Ratnesh Mishra was inspired by the same serial which he watched in his home town Raipur.

The serial dealt with small science projects and espoused ecology. The programmes on science were interspersed with “how not to kill plants; plants can also breathe; how to look after the environment,” and helped infuse the zeal of going green even while tinkering with science.

Their mutual passion for cutting carbon emissions and harnessing resources more efficiently surfaced several years later when Manvi and Ratnesh met up at IIT-Bombay.

Manvi, an M.Tech in aerospace engineering from IIT-Bombay, was only interested in making planes and rockets. While doing a project with one of her professors at IIT, she rekindled her old love: making eco-friendly products.

At that time, Manvi was the co-founder of a start-up at IIT-Bombay. Operating under Manastu Space Technologies, InSpace Labs aims to provide low-cost solutions to aerospace problems, and is into green propellant technology, akin to green fuel for rockets.

The green alternative

“Rocket fuels are hazardous. They are toxic and carcinogenic,” says Manvi, adding that the team was looking at a potential green alternative to current mono-propellant propulsion technology. Manvi realised it was a capital intensive project and would be difficult to sustain and got out.

“I realised the start-up would require more than 50 crore as capital, and decided to do something else. The idea of doing something green was strong,” she says.

Ratnesh, an M.Tech in Aerospace Engineering from IIT-Bombay, was clearly leaning towards everything green with his Master’s on wind turbine and renewable energy. The common interest brought the two together.

During graduation, both worked and helped in the launch of IIT-Bombay’s first satellite ‘Pratham’ in September 2016 by ISRO. The team under their supervision got global recognition. The duo left to co-found GTarang Energy Solutions.

The name harks back to the Doordarshan serial with a green tag.

GTarang Energy Solutions aims to provide technologically optimised and affordable clean energy solutions. As Manvi notes, the mission is to make people adopt energy efficiency as a habit. The team has developed a line of solutions working on natural fuel such as wood and biomass to generate energy. Given the huge demand-supply gap of energy efficient and affordable systems in small businesses, these solutions are specially designed for small and medium scale enterprises.

The systems so developed utilise farm waste to generate energy, which Manvi insists will enable MSMEs to reduce their energy expense by at least 40 per cent.

The start-up has received support from IIT-Bombay and the Tata Centre for Technology and Design. Their current product is a belt to convert waste thermal energy in various processing industries into electricity.

Manvi and Ratnesh were asked to do a survey of core industries across Maharashtra, of jaggery producing units and rice mills, and were part of an ongoing project of IIT-Bombay in Kolhapur, where research was conducted on a fully automated jaggery producing plant aimed at optimising profit for jaggery makers.

The duo realised the problem on the ground. “Most jaggery makers operate inefficiently and use the remains of sugarcane, dried in sunlight, as a replacement for wood, since they don’t have money to buy wood. However, this releases heavy smoke and pollutes the environment,” says Manvi.

Seeing the workers least bothered about their own health and clueless about policies that regulate the environment, the duo decided to make a system that is affordable and efficient and can help farmers save fuel and generate extra income. The same system could be scaled up to any industry which uses wood as fuel, Manvi adds. Explaining to workers across jaggery units that there was “a greener way, a more sustainable way of conducting operations and ensuring profits,” they decided to set up GTarang to take the project ahead.

What helped was the low capital requirement. While IIT helped on the R&D side, the Tata Centre helped with 12 lakh. The initial grant helped in completing the survey of jaggery units and making a business model. A prototype of a smaller stove was built to showcase to customers, since jaggery makers tend to use a big stove and burn more wood.

The stove is to be rented out at 30,000 per month, since the “jaggery makers cannot afford to buy it upfront.” Starting from Kolhapur, the plan is to go across Maharashtra and then move to Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

Eyeing big industries

Manvi says the next target would be “bigger furnaces of big industries. We cannot be dependent on fossil fuel, coal or LPG. Industries need a lot of energy and waste from farms can be used.”

Though a bigger version of the stove for industries is next on the agenda, it has also brought in the need for capital investment. Money arrived at the right time.

[“source=thehindubusinessline”]