‘Curiosity killed the cat’ is an oft repeated English saying. But it has no place in the life of a man, who is dedicated to scientific research. Innately curious, fiercely determined and an avid learner, Sandip Patil has literally stumbled upon his business idea in the pursuit of bettering his research. Today, a proud owner of E-Spin Nanotech Pvt. Ltd., Sandip Patil was a Ph.D scholar at IIT Kanpur, when he designed and developed a machine for producing nanofibers at a substantially affordable cost than were available in the market then. During his Ph.D in Chemical Engineering, which he completed in 2013, Sandip had this idea that there is an economical way to produce nanofibers and he felt he can design and develop such a machine for furthering his research.
For those of us unaware of this sector, a nanofiber is a fiber with a diameter of 100 nanometers or less. The properties of nanofibers have caused researchers to study the possibility of its applications in medicine, electronics, filtration and other engineering domains. This sector is popular for research purposes but has only a little standing in the commercial sector. Sandip and team are interested in using this technology to develop air filters. Currently, in this field HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorber but also sometimes called high-efficiency particulate arresting or high-efficiency particulate arrestance) technology is prevalent, but Sandip believes that with time and correct effort nanofibers can prove to be a cheaper substitute for this technology, at the least less specific purposes.
With the success of his machine and the encouragement from his Professor Ashutosh Sharma (Ph.D advisor), he registered the company in 2010 during his Ph.D. Sandip has always been intent on pursuing his education, he left his house at the age of 6 because there was no school nearby. Born to a contract farmer in a village in Northern Maharashtra, which had no schools to registering his own company in Uttar Pradesh, his journey, by no means has been conventional. When I asked him if he did not find it risky to start a company after already investing so many years in his education. He said that it was not risky at all. He had yet to complete his Ph.D, so he had time both to complete his Ph.D and try out the viability of his business, if he failed he would apply for jobs and if he didn’t, well and good. This flexibility and confidence to face any circumstance that may come and change plans accordingly is a very promising quality for an entrepreneur, I suppose.
He immediately got his first order after registering his company from IIT Kanpur. He believes that in this aspect he has been very lucky as it is quite difficult to get your first order as not many people are willing to trust you or your product. For completing this order he raised the money, by borrowing money from Professor Sharma, some of his friends and using his Ph.D savings. From this start, today he has a team of around sixty members and a clientele spanning across countries. Oniosome Healthcare Private Limited, Mohali, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur, Prof. Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, from Department of Applied Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mme Soleillant Murielle from CIRIMAT- Universite P. Sabatier, France and Mr Leo Ni from University of Waterloo, Canada, to name a few. He believes, “The future is a mystery. Both good and bad can happen. One should not be intimidated by fear of failures. Think of innovative ideas and take the plunge.” Interestingly Sandip succeeded in his business venture along with securing ‘Shah Schulman best Ph.D thesis Award’ from India along with publishing several research papers and adding a patent to his name.
He admits that at the start he was all set to be a scientist, he had started the business with little idea of how a business is done. He says that even to this day his only source of marketing has been the word of mouth from his clients. He has now learned the technical know-how in the fields of manufacturing, electronics and design, this has and does help him in not being fooled by anyone. The most interesting aspect of Sandip’s business is that it is tailored for the research and development sector. They do not only sell the machines but encourage any physical modifications their clients deem fit to make for their personalized research. They often provide advice and guidance on the experimentation aspect to their clients as well. While we talk Sandip reiterates that he and his team do not wish to stop innovation to keep on manufacturing these machines, but they have continued innovation along the production. Sandip talks about his journey without being proud and without being falsely modest, but with the simple conviction of a man who has made the journey and enjoyed it. I believe it is very rare to be able to take pride in something without being proud, to me interacting with Sandip has been a humbling experience. In the end I believe, it has been his curiosity along with his innate drive to see, to understand how he can make his ideas into reality, his ability to hope and couple it with relentless efforts that has helped him in this journey.
As always, I will be back in August with a new venture or a venturist, hope to see you too……..