• 10 December 2012
  • Features
  • By Narayan Kulkarni

The accidental entrepreneur

At 23, he joined Biocon and directed its R&D ethos and enzymes conquest spiritedly; At 52, with the same raft of energy and agility, he's etching a pioneering entrepreneurial story which has the potential to change the energy ecosystem


BioSpectrum Entrepreneur of the Year - Mr Shrikumar Suryanarayan, chairman, Sea6 Energy

Applied research was always his area of interest and he was fascinated by chemistry. In an era, when being a doctor or an engineer was the trend, he opted for chemical engineering at IIT Madras as the subject was close to his heart. He also did not flow with the tide of going and working abroad or pursing a career in established companies. He listened to his heart and chased his dreams-first with Biocon and now as chairman of Sea6 Energy.

Mr Shrikumar Suryanarayan or "Shri", as the world knows him, calls himself an accidental entrepreneur; but all his friends and colleagues say he is an entrepreneur at heart and his new venture, Sea6 Energy is pioneering and is potentially transformational in the alternate energy space. "He has not lost his youthful exuberance and his zest for scientific innovation, both of which will steer him to success. I am sure he will not only make me proud but the country proud by realizing his dream of converting seaweed into bioenergy," stated Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon.

His young colleagues at Sea6 Energy are moved by his exuberance and passion. "A great quality about Shri which can never go unnoticed is his enthusiasm and passion for everything he does which makes interacting with him an amazing experience," says Ms Sowmya Balendiran, co-founder, manager, Operations, Sea6 Energy. His infectious energy inspires everyone around him to put in their best efforts. "Coupled with this is his ability of getting together the right group of minds from diverse fields to solve any challenge, no matter how complex," tells Mr Nelson Vadassery, co-founder and manager, Technology and Engineering, Sea6 Energy.

Shri was always interested in the interface of biology and chemistry. He was drawn towards the plausible energy crisis as early as 1982 and explored projects in alternative energy. And it was during his undergraduate days at IIT Madras that Shri got introduced to Ms Shaw and Biocon in Bangalore, where his parents lived.

The meeting was interesting relives Shri. "The learning culture at IIT Madras was to observe and ask questions and be connected with the industry." He thoroughly cherished this process of knowledge acquisition. And during one of his visits to Bangalore, he saw enzymes on the shelves of Biocon. The company was operating out of Cunningham Road in Bangalore. He approached Ms Shaw to buy some enzymes for his project. Biocon was very small and Ms Shaw probably was hoping to bag a major order from IIT Madras where Shri was studying. On the contrary, he needed only a few grams of enzymes and told Ms Shaw that he would pay from his pocket. He thereafter left to IIT Madras and was surprised when he received a parcel at his hostel canteen. It was a parcel of enzymes sent by Ms Shaw and what struck him was a small, but magnanimous note from Ms Shaw stating that she was giving him the enzymes for his project and he needn't pay for the same. This action set the connect between Shri, Ms Shaw, and Biocon.


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