An interview with Sameer Shinde, one of the founders of Vikarsh Nanotechnology & Alloys, which recently bagged an award for taking a giant stride in the field of nanotechnology.
T he Technology Development Board, a statutory body under Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology recently honoured Pune-based Vikarsh Nanotechnology & Alloys Private Limited for the successful commercialisation of nano crystalline ribbons and amorphous ribbons, which contributed in foreign exchange savings through these indigenously developed innovative advanced materials. The award, comprising a trophy and Rs 15 lakhs was presented to the founders of the company by President Pranab Mukherjee at a special function held at Vigyan Bhavan on May 11, which is celebrated as Technology Day to commemorate the successful nuclear tests carried out in Pokharan on May 11, 1998.
Nano and amorphous ribbons are the outcome of complex engineering techniques. Vikarsh Nanotechnology & Alloys has become the first Indian company to develop these products in India for which the Indian industry was largely dependent on imports. These products have passed all international quality and environmental norms and have proved to be five times better in performance as compared to its competitors from developed countries. Largely used in electrical and electronics segment, the use of these products has caused an estimated savings of foreign exchange of USD 2 million in the last financial year. Apart from electrical and electronics, these ribbons also have applications in other areas like defence, medical sciences and solar energy. Excerpts from the interview:
Could you provide further details about your company?
Vikarsh Nanotechnology & Alloys was established by three entrepreneurs, myself, Milind Wani and Laxmikant Trivedi, who have been friends since their days of studying in an engineering college. After gaining individual experience of working with MNCs, we started a firm to make magnetic cores, which, incidentally, was our final year product during the electrical engineering course. In 2009, a quiet revolution was started with soft advance magnetic material used in the electrical and electronics sector. This is almost five times superior material as compared to conventional steel but the technology to make it was available only with two companies, Hitachi Metals and Advanced Technology & Materials Co., China. There was no access to this material by Indian companies and it was difficult to import it. This is where we thought of filling the gap and our research led to us to finally produce it in India for commercial and technological self-reliance of the nation.
What are its application areas?
These products are now a vital part of electrical, electronics, nuclear, defence, medical, solar and other fields where sensing and measuring is required. Being packed with much superior properties as compared to conventional soft magnetic materials, designers can work on new dimensions for various products, as for instance, BS-4 in the automotive industry. It is of use in four-star electrical transformers and can help in saving power as well as reduce global warming and carbon footprints.
What is the commercial status of this product?
The technology to manufacture these products is super-critical and involves a combination of engineering branches. It took us five years of intensive research and development and we first tested its commercial viability in December 2014. We can now proudly state that we are the only company making this product. One of our big achievements was that we became the only Indian company approved by PGCIL for metering cores up to 765 KV. Now, leading industry houses like ABB, General Electric, Siemens, Toshiba, Crompton Greaves and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited have approved the usage of nano crystalline ribbons and amorphous ribbons made by us. We are soon planning to enter into an agreement with GE to supply these products globally to all the six countries where it has manufacturing facilities. We have some definite plans to start exporting this product.
What about further development of the product or its variants?
We are busy developing new grades of these materials with unique features and also new product lines for solar reactors and power supply units for high-frequency appliances since core parts for these applications are still imported in India. The company is planning to sign MOUs with engineering colleges to develop new metallurgical products.
What kind of investment has this entailed?
The first phase of development leading up to commercial production called for an investment of about Rs 200 million. We now have two verticals of Vikarsh viz. Vikarsh Stampings and Vikarsh Nano Technologies & Alloys and there have been huge investments in our magnetic core manufacturing facility. In fact, we are the only company of its kind to have a combination of conventional and advance magnetic material at one place.
What kind of growth do you foresee for these materials?
Constant efforts are being made by the government to upgrade the electrical and electronics equipment industry and this has, and will, trigger demand for advanced materials like amorphous ribbons. Our prediction is that the demand could go up by five times from the present 20,000 MT to 1,00,000 MT by 2020.