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Alumni Connect:Former COEP student on how specialised electric drives can save energy

An alumni of College of Engineering, Pune (COEP), Saurabh P Nikam, is one of the founders of Aproposdrive Technologies Pvt Ltd, a startup venture in a non-conventional sector of hardware, working in the specialised electric drives field. 

pune Updated: Dec 29, 2017 17:18 IST
Ananya Barua
Ananya Barua
Hindustan Times, Pune
Saurabh P Nikam.(HT PHOTO)

An alumni of College of Engineering, Pune (COEP), Saurabh P Nikam, is one of thefounders of Aproposdrive Technologies Pvt Ltd., a startup venture in a non-conventional sector of hardware. There, he is working in the specialised electric drives field.His research interests include design, modelling and analysis of electrical machines and drives, particularly switched reluctance motor drives and permanent-magnet motor drives. Speaking to Hindustan Times, he expounded on his journey so far.

Tell us about your educational background? How were you in academics- a bright student, average or below average?

My interest in engineering started from school itself through various projects. In higher secondary school also, I had a vocational course which taught us basic mechanical engineering. I joined the electrical engineering course at COEP in 2004 and graduated in 2008. My father, being a professor of electrical engineering (teaching in Aurangabad Government college at that time), nurtured my interest in the field. I owe my good grades in COEP to his teaching.

What happened after graduation?

I had two placement offers; from Accenture and Siemens. Since I preferred core engineering field, I joined Siemens. However, the job turned out to be a disappointment as I was allocated to Pune office which handled only sales. So I decided to leave the job in December and followed the advice of my guide (professor BN Chaudhari from COEP) to prepare for Gate exam. My family supported me through this tough decision and it paid off. I got into the MTech programme at IIT Bombay.

After PhD at IIT, what projects did you venture on? Tell us about your journey?

During the course of the PhD, I got full freedom to work on many machine design problems. This freedom and great encouragement from my guide, prof Fernandes convinced me to convert my MTech programme into PhD and continue to work in machine design field after the PhD. Instead of abandoning my research work and joining an MNC, I stayed back to improve my designs of Switched Reluctance Motor (SRM) for high efficiency ceiling fan. We also founded a startup called Aproposdrive Technologies Pvt. Ltd. which is into development of specialised electric drives and is working towards commercialisation of the high efficiency ceiling fan.

What about the highs and lows of your career so far?

The research work in the electrical machine design field received the Best Thesis award from IIT-B. Our startup is quite young and for hardware startups, the progress is slow. So we had to be quite patient. We got rejected from the incubation centre in IIT-B, but later got funding from a big MNC company which saw the potential in our technology and helped us to bring it to the commercial level.

Tell us about the current project you are working on and its potential impact on the society?

We are currently working on an SRM drive which reduces the power consumption of ceiling fan by half. In hot and humid climate of India, ceiling fans are quite popular. Every year, 40 million ceiling fans are sold with an average growth of 10% per year. There are approximately 350 million existing ceiling fans in India. If all these induction motor-based fans are replaced with the high efficiency SRM fans, significant energy saving could be achieved.

What does the future look like?

There are a lot of challenges and opportunities in this field of electric machines and power electronics. With modern society becoming more and more electric with shift towards electric vehicles, cleaner sources of energy like solar and wind, the demand for specialised electric drives is only going to increase. We hope to make a difference by developing the technology also in India along with Make in India.

First Published: Dec 29, 2017 17:17 IST