Energy Is a Fundamental Need for Any Economy - Shashi Hegde

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1. ​Tell us about your background and journey 

I belong to a farming family growing Areca-nuts, Pepper, Elaichi, a village near Sirsi town in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. I did my initial studies in Dharwad, worked in Chennai, Pune, Mysore, and Bangalore. 

Started career in small scale workshop and found my way through Indian and foreign Multinationals. (L&T, Schneider, Moog) work spanned over medical electronics, Power, and aerospace industry. 

The working experience gave access to a network of people, technologies, knowledge, skills, and initial corpus to start own ventures. 

Started with organic urban gardening products. I have good knowledge of composting. Composting leads to bio digestion, bio digestion leads to biogas and BioCNG. 

My microbiologist friend had developed a proprietary technology to use grass, paddy straws, and other commercial and agricultural feedstock for producing biogas. 

Meanwhile, the government came up with a scheme called SATAT, which asked the government oil marketing companies to buy compressed biogas (BioCNG) from local entrepreneurs, this leads to myself and my co-founder Jaipal Reddy to start our own BioCNG venture Hycons Bioenergy Private Limited. 

2. How is CNG produced using agricultural waste? 

Our of several bacterial families methanogenic produce methane while degrading bio digestible waste. The methane gets generated during any degradation process, the BioCNG process captures such methane and makes good use of it. 

The methane left as is to atmosphere create 4 times more greenhouse effect, hence it is better to burn it as a fuel. Methane as fuel is the cleanest known so far, as it contains minimal pollutants and almost no particulate matters. 

In the BioCNG production process, the Agricultural waste is mixed with water and dumped into huge structures called digesters; bacterias take over, consume, and release biogas. Biogas is a mixture of gases mainly methane and carbon dioxide. A purification process separates methane, carbon dioxide, and other gasses.

Methane is then compressed and filled into cylinders and supplied to CNG stations or industrial customers. Carbon dioxide gets used in welding, fire extinguisher, and beverage industries. 

3. How does one enter this field? 

It is currently a sunrise sector, I compare it to the IT industry of the 1990’s, and pretty low risk among available options in the manufacturing industry. Energy is a fundamental need for any economy. 

Best way I would suggest is to participate with Oil marketing companies. They give out an LOI, to set up a plant. Many consultants can guide to set up the plant, at Hycons we share the information transparently to help the ecosystem grow. 

About 1.5 acres of land and access to collect high energy potential waste is the key. Most of the machinery and technologies are highly matured over several decades, and not a big challenge. 

Hycons have their own plants, also we construct and maintain for others. Factories can set their own plant and have their own energy production in house. If not, people can invest in BioCNG companies and make profits, right now being a good timing to participate in some way. 

There is a promotional subsidy available from the Ministry of renewable energy, which further helps. 

4. What is the future potential of your industry? 

CNG is growing at 50% year on year and the recent decision of going for BS6 emission standards will create a huge spike in demand. India is forecasting 38% CAGR till the next 10 years, it is unimaginably huge. 52% of Indian geography is allotted with piped cooking gas under the city gas distribution project. 

Transporting gas all across the country and redistributing will be a challenge. The easier way will be having a BioCNG plant per town and have a local distribution network. This will happen sooner or later. 

CNG demand is in multimillion tons per day. The cost of producing BioCNG will remain lesser than extracting it from coal mines and oil-wells. 

5. How do you define success in your industry and what is your success mantra? 

Continuous investment in innovation, sensors based monitoring of each stage of production, transparent approach with customers, and also helping other entrepreneurs succeed to make a good vibrant energy ecosystem will ensure our success. 

As a default, the best possible purity of the gas to be achieved to ensure customers enjoys the benefit to the most. 

6. Which is your favorite book and why? 

I consume over a thousand pages of information every day. At Hycons I take care of the engineering side, which pushes me to read more and more of engineering-related information to keep my continuous learning and problem-solving. 

Some of the books make good impacts on me are 

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kawasaki – it is an entrepreneurship awakening book, the earlier one read it is better. The whole series is an eye-opener. 

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho – Finally you will realize the gold mine is lying beneath us. 

Bottom of the pyramid, by CK Prahlad – helps to understand the basics of economics with practical examples to derive our own mix of solutions. 

Mother pious lady by Santosh Desai – A good read for general joy, but has intricate hints for a sales and marketing pitch. 

And not the least Panchatantra, Mahabharata, and chapter 13 of Bhagavad Geeta. 

Shashi Hegde

BioCNG | Agri Mechanisation |

Interview By - Sandeep Virothu 

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