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A Technology Entrepreneur with an Academic Core

Thiruvananthapuram: Dr. Sreekumar R, Director, Delgado Coating & Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and a hardware startup entrepreneur from Kerala, recently made headlines when India’s prestigious Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) approached him to build and supply Ultrasonic Spray Coater. But what really went unnoticed were his efforts and perseverance to become a successful entrepreneur after

Thiruvananthapuram: Dr. Sreekumar R, Director, Delgado Coating & Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and a hardware startup entrepreneur from Kerala, recently made headlines when India’s prestigious Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) approached him to build and supply Ultrasonic Spray Coater. But what really went unnoticed were his efforts and perseverance to become a successful entrepreneur after completing PhD. Many PhD holders may not be able to work in a field which is related to the topic he or she had chosen for their research due to certain compulsions of life or peculiarity of their background. But, for Dr. Sreekumar, who is also a post-doctoral fellow at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), this was not the case. His passion to become a technology entrepreneur in an area which was somewhat connected to his academic work helped him succeed as an inventor.

“DRDO’s priority was to encourage manufacturers from India. I only knew that the technology would be used for biomedical application. The coater we developed using the technology would be used for coating clothes, goggles and other apparels of soldiers with nano particles,” he says. Delgado Coating and Technology Solutions, incubated at Maker Village, has already supplied an instrument to the DRDO and, if it is proved successful after trial run, Delgado would be required to provide more such instruments.

However, the purchase order was formally handed over by Dr. Ajay Kumar IAS, Secretary, Defence Production, Government of India to Dr. Sreekumar at the recently-held Hardtech ’19 conference in Kochi. The ‘Advanced Spray Coater’ can help slash the production cost by 30 per cent compared to the present technology used by other countries.

The idea to setup Delgado dawned on Dr. Sreekumar some 12 years back. But he was not able to do anything to materialise his dream as his hands were tied due to a number of reasons. But now, he says, “there is no need for large chunks of money to evolve a concept and realise it.” He urges startups to get incubated at institutions like Maker Village in Kochi or approach banks which issue soft loans to overcome the financial difficulties in the initial phase.

However, he is not very impressed by the role played by financial institutions like Kerala Financial Corporation (KFC) in this regard. Last year, under the leadership of an economist, the Corporation had announced a number of handholding credit systems to give a boost to the startups in Kerala. But Dr. Sreekumar feels that the schemes are delayed and yet to help the startups in Kerala. “KFC’s scheme to help startups on the basis of purchase order is really sloppy. When we received the purchase order, we were allotted only 90 days to supply the product. KFC, on the other hand, informed us that it would require three to four months to process the loan request. KFC thus comes across as an institution which is not dependable as of now,” Dr. Sreekumar says.

What is more ironical is that Dr. Sreekumar has committed to supply the products to DRDO by having his personal assets mortgaged. As far as the risk factor is concerned, especially considering that Dr. Sreekumar is far above the mean age of startup promoters in Kerala, he feels that it is never too late to start. “I take inspiration from those multi-billion dollar entrepreneurs who started very late,” he exudes confidence.

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