Student Media Body of IIT Kgp


Jewels Of KGP: Mr. Shrey Goyal

Posted on Sept 07, 2018

With technology and industries encroaching upon the nature, sustainability of resources is perhaps the toughest challenge that the world faces today. However, there are few underrated stars directing the focus towards sustainable growth. Mr. Shrey Goyal is one such bright star who hopes to bring about a change. A graduate from Mining Engineering department of IIT Kharagpur in 2011, Shrey Goyal chose an unconventional career choice when he co-founded ‘Sustainable Growth Initiative’, a startup that advises corporates and governments on energy security and works towards low carbon emissions. Following a right plan and an effective philosophy to deal with problems, he was listed in the ‘Forbes India 30 Under 30’ list of 2016 in the NGO and Social category, at merely an age of 27. The products and projects laid out by him have received applause on both national and international forums. He also spoke at the COP21 climate conference in Paris.

Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur got an invaluable chance to interview him during his visit to KGP and here we present an insight into his life and work that is definitely inspirational for all young brains of KGP.

Mr. Shrey

Role of IIT KGP

IIT-KGP has been very central to both my professional and personal life. IIT has played a big role in my technical education. IIT helped me learn a lot of lessons from my classmates and my friends circle which is today my network of contacts. Also, I believe that the premier IIT-tag has helped me a lot especially when I have worked in national areas.

On developing skills during college years

I have led teams and we won a bunch of competitions while in Kharagpur. I also had a startup which was moderately successful. I believe that considering the time, space and opportunity that resources in KGP provide, it is a wonderful time to try these things. People look for people who can lead them. There are lot of things such a societies and causes to be done if one makes the best use of his/her time. Soft skills are challenges many IITians face after graduating so it’s helpful to develop those skills.

Roots of the startup- Sustainable Growth India (SGI)

My startup and academic work here in KGP was broadly around the idea of sustainability. My first startup was in clean energy, followed by working at World Bank and at Grameen which also revolves around the idea of sustainable development. After I had worked with policy makers, National development agencies and corporates, I and the co-founder realised there is a lot of work to be done in the sector. Hence, we started on the idea as we felt the time was right.

Role of Himanshu Gupta - friend and co-founder of SGI

Himanshu is the reason the company started essentially. Himanshu worked at the Planning Commission when we first met and he was the brain behind the operation. He created the tool that we worked with and took complete ownership of this work. Even today, while Himanshu and I work on different projects, we serve as advisors to each other and he has been a big companion of mine in professional and personal capacities.

Travelling the road less taken

Entrepreneurship was a completely new concept when I had made this “difficult” choice ten years ago, while most of my classmates opted for corporate jobs. However, by the time of graduation, I had gained enough industry experience, campus internships and built a strong network of contacts, so I had the confidence of doing reasonably well. Two-thirds of all first ventures fail, but acknowledging the fact that IITians have beaten odds of almost ninety to one, this would be relatively more probable.

Facing the tough times

I have had my fair share of tough times and an equally combative philosophy to face them. I learnt to live with uncertainties, acknowledging the fact that things may not work well every time. Sometimes, the unconventional choices can take a toll on a number of things, ranging from health to personal relationships. My batch mates and friends have been supportive all this while and have helped me draw lessons out of difficulties.

Hobbies and Interests

I have been passionate about quizzing since my days at KGP. Even after that, I go for conducting and participating in quizzes when time and space permit. I am fond of writing and have written Op-Ed blogs for newspapers like The Hindu and Economic Times occasionally. I have also written fiction stories and poems that have been published. Apart from these hobbies, I am a cricket spectator and a fan of the Indian cricket team.

On the decision to shift his office to Paris

Paris is the third most important city in the world following new York and London. COP’ 21 was a great success in Paris in the way French Government handled it. Also, the French government offers support for any foreigner researcher, entrepreneur or expert on climate change. They provide free office space, VISA assistance, legal help along and have a new passport category in order to facilitate the setting up of business. I met with a french Diplomat in Delhi who motivated me to shift to Paris. We have formed a joint venture with a French Energy Company and I am also on the board with a French social entrepreneur network who will also be lending their resources. All these factors sum up to make Paris an ideal place for us.

To how many countries is SGI currently playing an advisory role to?

There are places and organisations who have bought our product but they may call us again to do some servicing or they may not. In the past we have done some work in Australia, UK, US and now we are doing it in mainland Europe. In a next few months, a lot of things are supposed to come.

On the short term and long term targets of SGI

It’s really difficult to say but a lot is happening right now. Soon we would be in Paris and we would be establishing an office based there and there is a company with which we will be working in a joint venture. They have a few ideas of their own and have planned to spend parts of it off. Those ideas vary a lot. Over the next few months we will test those ideas and see which one works. One of the ideas where we have already started work is in the Electric Vehicles space. We will be developing toolkits which could be installed in any normal car that will make it into a hybrid vehicle. We are also working on things like seawater air-conditioning. It’s a way to provide cooling solutions and potentially generate using seawater. The company already does that and have been already doing that for over a decade. We are looking to improve it and to make it feasible at a much larger scale. These are a few things we would be working on. About the long term we can’t say where this will go but the long term ambition is to play an important role in advancing society and social equity, policy changes that could be brought through technologies etc. There is a lot that needs to be done and we want to play some part in doing that.

On brain drain from India

There are a bunch of reasons for the brain drain. There is not much research infrastructure in India and that is something which I don’t see changing, honestly, it is not really improving. Most of the people of my batch who are into research are therefore outside India. In general, a lot of research happens outside of India. In other areas too there are greater opportunities outside of India. Though the Indian Government is making a lot of efforts and things are changing slowly but at this point if you want to raise money, it is so much simple to go to Silicon Valley and do that. If you are working in planet change, there is so much more interest by governments and companies outside India. Even startups by Indians are based outside, example Flipkart which is based in Singapore and that is where it pays its taxes. Of my own experience, running a company in India is very challenging with the bureaucracy, a certain sense of lack of security, in terms of uncertainty regarding whether things will continue the way they are right now, planning for the future and so on. As a country we really need to step up our actions. Also, there is a possibility that a lot of these people who are abroad in research or in business could come back and continue here.

Steps that can be taken to stop this brain drain

The government or the IITs themselves can make greater investments in research and there have been some attempts. For example, when we were looking at doing something in Electric Vehicles we didn’t find a place in India to do that. Climate change and clean technology is going to be the issue of the future. None of the IITs have a climate change research cell or research centre to work on climate change, clean energy or sustainability in general. These are some low-hanging fruits that could be caught. That is it for research. On all the other fronts, the government is encouraging startups and doing a lot but still there is still a lot to be done.

Changes in higher education system that can be brought

The problem really starts at the school level and the whole coaching industry level. I think the biggest problem that the IITs need to figure out and need to do something about which they haven’t done is the issue of stress and student suicides. That was already a problem in my time at college. It wasn’t that big a problem some ten to fifteen years before that and now it is a much bigger problem. Taking care of that shouldn’t be that difficult as all the premier universities in the world do it. The same goes for addressing other issues such as the gender issues here. Other universities have managed to balance their gender ratios. There is not much support for LGBT groups too. In general, improving student life and student morale will do a whole lot of good.

Importance of making students more aware about the sustainability of resources

There are two angles to it. As soon as students graduate and take their career paths in different industries, no matter which industry they go into, sustainability and climate change will affect them. Microsoft right now are devoting a lot of their resources towards making them more sustainable. Some of the highest paying sectors here are oil and gas and we don’t need to say why they are a part of this. Investment banks are figuring out how to deal with climate risks. So whatever industry you go to, you need to understand the idea of sustainable development and climate change to be there and work more professionally. Secondly, the world is going through a challenging time and as a citizen you need to understand sustainability. The more people who care about these ideas and factors, the greater is the chance that politicians and policy makers can be affected at some point of time.

On his plans to visit Kgp next and message for budding entrepreneurs

Co-incidentally this is my third visit to Kgp after graduation mainly because whenever I was called to give talks I was usually around. Now, I will not be based here but I’m currently engaged in a project in collaboration with my former HOD and we will be continuing with that. The next time I‘ll be visiting Kgp would be four or five months from now. For all the budding entrepreneurs now I would say - stick to it, it’s not that tough. It’s very doable and if you want help there is no IIT Kharagpur graduate who isn’t there to help you. I’ve known so many graduate entrepreneurs from here who have helped people like me and mentored me. Anyone who is interested can write to me. In fact, there are people who write to me, send me their plans, drafts and I send them back. Use your IIT brethren to help you.

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