To really build a successful company, you must be driven by passion and purpose—but the road to finding your passion and purpose can be a long and winding one. Mine was anything but straightforward; nothing in my life or work experience pointed toward inventing a new kind of water heater and founding an innovative clean energy company. However, when I look back, it is clear how many disparate experiences combined to put me in an ideal position to solve a complex problem. As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
For me, those dots started back in my hometown of Tiruchirapalli in India. From a young age, I was very interested in energy efficiency; although Tiruchirapalli was an industrialized township, we frequently visited my father’s family farm, which had no electricity and not even a real bathroom, so I never took electricity, water, or energy for granted. I remember as a small child asking my father what he put into his motorcycle to make it run; when my father explained what petrol was and where it came from, I immediately concluded it must be a finite resource. After that, I insisted my father shift his bike to neutral when going downhill so he would not waste gas!
This awareness stayed with me as I grew older; in college, I was bothered by the incandescent bulbs in our dorm rooms, because I knew florescent bulbs were much more efficient. I wanted to swap them out, but florescent lights were too expensive for a poor college student—so I developed a high voltage inductor circuit that could take a blown florescent light and make it usable again.
I had been a tinkerer- inventor since childhood; I loved all things electrical and mechanical and was always taking apart household objects to get at the electronics and motors inside. As I grew older, my love of motors expanded to include a passion for motorcycles, and I was constantly tinkering with my bike—a hobby and passion that continues to this day.
I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and over the years I started many different businesses—from making rock cutting burners for granite mining in India, to creating the first website to digitize the Indian stock market, to starting a company that sold LED lightbulbs. I volunteered at dog shelters (and even considered becoming a veterinarian!) and started taking flying lessons (before 9/11 halted that plan). Through all of this, I was also working as an engineer at Caterpillar, where I ended up in the Marine Division..
As interesting as all these endeavors were, none of them stuck, because my heart was not truly in any of them; but they were all dots that would soon connect me to my true calling.
When I met Siva Akasam, who would become my best friend, co-inventor, and co-founder of Intellihot, we immediately bonded over our love of robots and intelligent machines. Soon, we were spending every evening and weekend in our basements running experiments—including developing a smart motorcycle that would give us the reflexes of a professional rider.
While we were working on this smart motorcycle, my water heater broke. As I started thinking about how to redesign water heaters, all of the dots of my journey began to align: the smart motorcycle and all my work with intelligent machines; my work with marine engines at Caterpillar; my longstanding interest in energy efficiency. It was a perfect triangulation of seemingly disconnected events, decisions, and adventures—the few I’ve shared here, plus many, many more which I’ll be sharing in my book, coming in 2023—that all led me to being in the right spot at the right time. I knew I had finally found my passion, my calling, my true purpose—and out of that, Intellihot was born.