When B.C. Jain decided to return to India from the United States in 1977, all his friends dissuaded him.
"They tried to drill some sense into my head," he says. "They thought I would return to the US within a year." Jain then worked in the research & development (R&D) division of an energy and engineering company in Boston.
His friends failed. Jain, impeccably qualified, with a doctoral degree and a Masters in Business Administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, moved to Vadodara, wife and daughter in tow, and joined engineering company Jyoti Ltd. He made rapid progress at Jyoti, going on to head its renewable energy division. But by 1986, he was ready to try his hand at entrepreneurship and set up Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies.
Ankur Scientific makes biomass gasifiers, mostly used for power generation. A gasifier is used to partly burn biomass - a clean, renewable energy source - into gas, which is then fed to engines to generate power. It has some heat applications as well. Ankur Scientific has now become a well-recognised name in gasifiers not just in India, but also in Europe and the rest of Asia. It closed 2011/12 with sales of Rs 34.7 crore and profit after tax of Rs 4.6 crore.
Jain's Indian Institute of Management Bangalore-educated son Ankur also joined the company in 2005. Within six months of Ankur joining, his father took a backseat in business to focus on research even as the company steadily stepped up its presence overseas.
"It was not as if there were not enough opportunities here," says Ankur. "We just found that there was a lot of interest overseas as well. In the last four years, 60 to 80 per cent of our revenue has come from abroad." The company has installed gasifiers in over 30 countries including the US, Bulgaria, Argentina and Cambodia.
Arman Massoumi, Chief Executive of Kuala Lumpur-based Renewables Plus, a power producer, has bought nine gasifiers from Ankur Scientific for its plants in Malaysia and Thailand. "Banks in Thailand are familiar with Ankur Scientific. They finance projects if the gasifiers are from Ankur Scientific," he says.
Ankur Scientific has lately diversified beyond selling biomass gasifiers to setting up power plants that use biomass. It has a licence to set up such plants of a total capacity of 10 MW in Sri Lanka, and has so far completed two megawatts.
With Jain spearheading research, and his son taking its products across the world, Ankur Scientific appears poised to consolidate further.