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‘I am driven by concern for the environment…’

TruAlt Bioenergy was established with a visionary goal to pioneer the growth of biofuels in India. With the motto of ‘Farming Fuel for a Greener Future’, the company embarked on an exceptional journey. Vijay Nirani, CEO and Managing Director shares his vision in this chat with B S Manu Rao
Last Updated : 09 September 2023, 00:26 IST
Last Updated : 09 September 2023, 00:26 IST

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What inspired you to foray into manufacturing ethanol?

The inspiration behind entering the field of ethanol production stemmed from a combination of factors. Firstly, I was deeply inspired by my father’s emphasis on empathetically elevating farmers’ lives and catalyzing progress in their livelihoods. Secondly, I’ve been constantly driven by environmental concerns and the imperative for sustainable energy sources. I learnt and witnessed the adverse effects of fossil fuels on our environment and recognised the finite nature of these resources. This realisation fueled my sense of responsibility to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

The renewable nature of ethanol, derived from sugarcane and food grain-based raw materials, presented a very unique opportunity to address these concerns while also fostering economic growth through innovation. Additionally, this endeavor aligns with important governmental initiatives such as the National Biofuels Policy, Ethanol Blending Petrol Programme, SATAT etc towards creating an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Waste to Wealth Generation and Swachh Bharat. By producing ethanol, we aim to double farmers’ income and contribute to these pivotal initiatives.

Will ethanol serve as a viable alternative to fossil fuels? Do we have the resources to meet the demand?

Ethanol does indeed hold the potential to be a viable alternative to fossil fuels on a global scale. Its production relies on biomass feedstocks such as corn, sugarcane, and cellulosic materials, which are widely available across different regions. While it might not entirely replace fossil fuels, it can certainly contribute significantly to meeting the demand.

Ongoing research and advancements in technology are continually enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of ethanol production, making it a promising option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

What is the biggest benefit of shifting to a biofuel-based economy?

The most significant benefit of transitioning to a biofuel-based economy lies in its profound positive impact on the environment. Biofuels, such as ethanol, are inherently cleaner-burning and emit fewer harmful pollutants compared to traditional fossil fuels. By harnessing renewable feedstocks, we not only decrease our carbon footprint but also play a pivotal role in mitigating air and water pollution. A biofuel-based economy brings about enhanced energy security by diversifying fuel sources and reducing reliance on oil supply.

The global attention on biofuels is emblematic of governments worldwide seeking solutions in fuel efficiency, air quality and energy resilience. These biofuels, derived from renewable biological sources, are promising alternatives. In line with this commitment, the Government of India introduced the National Biofuel Policy. This policy boosts the availability of biofuels and promotes the use of cleaner alternatives like ethanol, biodiesel, and bio-CNG. Ethanol blending in petrol, a significant stride, has already yielded substantial results. During the Ethanol Supply Year (ESY) 2021-22 (December 2021-November 2022), the estimated impact of ethanol blending on the import bill of crude oil and petroleum products exceeded Rs 22,600 crores.

The National Policy on Biofuels has also set a target of 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol by ESY 2025-26. Remarkably, public sector oil marketing companies (OMCs) have already achieved 11.74 per cent ethanol blending as on August 20, 2023. Notably, the sale of E-20 fuel (20 per cent ethanol blended petrol) was launched in February 2023, reflecting the continued commitment to advancing cleaner fuel alternatives.

TruAlt Bioenergy has met with remarkable success – production of 450 million litres per annum. What has driven you to achieve such remarkable success?

Our corporate agenda at TruAlt Bioenergy revolves around innovation, sustainability and responsible growth. On the downstream front, we actively pursue a strategy to bolster our non-crude oil businesses and foster tighter integration across our upstream and downstream operations. We view product diversification and global integration as the means to fortify our portfolio resilience and deliver additional revenue streams for the company. We’re also aiming to foster strong partnerships within the agricultural and scientific communities, leveraging their expertise to continuously improve our operations. By adhering to our core values and pursuing a holistic approach, we’ve been able to achieve exceptional results in the biofuel industry.

What sort of impact can we expect from ethanol on the economy?

Ethanol has the potential to provide relief from the economic burden posed by rising fossil fuel prices. As a domestically produced renewable fuel, it can help stabilise fuel costs by reducing reliance on imported oil and import bills. This, in turn, can positively impact inflation rates and alleviate the financial strain on consumers and businesses. Further, the growth of the ethanol industry can stimulate rural economies by creating jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and research.

Will battery-driven vehicles compete with ethanol-driven ones for efficiency?

The Government has adopted a five-pronged strategy comprising increasing domestic production of oil and gas, promoting energy efficiency and conservation measures, giving thrust on demand substitution, promoting biofuels and other alternate fuels/renewables, EV charging facilities and refinery process improvements to reduce the county’s dependence on imported crude oil.

Definitely, proliferation of cars with green number plates signifies a growing interest in environment-friendly options. When considering the competition between battery-driven electric vehicles (EVs) and ethanol-driven vehicles for efficiency, it’s important to acknowledge that the market for alternative fuels and technologies is dynamic and multifaceted. Both battery-driven EVs and ethanol-driven vehicles have their merits, and their efficiency can vary depending on various factors. Therefore, rather than looking at EVs and ethanol-driven vehicles as direct competitors, they can coexist and cater to different consumer needs.

The potential for disruption in the market could come in the form of technological advancements. Government policies and incentives can also play a role.

Do you have politics in a corner of your mind?

It’s a question that I have very carefully clarified whenever I have spoken on any public forum. No, I am an industrialist, an entrepreneur and I have no plans of venturing into the space of politics. I’m going to leave that to the experts. While I do believe that social contributions are of vital importance, I aim to achieve that through the MRN Foundation, where we work with the rural populations of Karnataka and Maharashtra on three verticals - skill development and training programmes, sports and culture, and education. Through the Foundation, we collectively work with over five lakh families, mostly families involved in the agrarian sector. It’s our vision to catapult rural India to greater heights and empower them to contribute significantly to the economy of India.

You are a young and successful entrepreneur. What does it take to make it big?

It’s no rocket science, and success can be achieved by almost anybody. I believe that for any budding entrepreneur or any working professional as well, India currently is the place to be. With a solid growth rate, a strong financial ecosystem, and an environment that is supportive and nurturing, we can consider ourselves blessed to be in India at this point of time.

The external environment is as favourable as it can get. But coupled with a favorable external environment, it’s our individual drive, capacity, tenacity and hard work that can push us towards success. Let’s put in our hard work, put in the hours, work in a smart manner and that should be more than enough.

You are playing for Team TruAlt Bioenergy…

Kudos to Deccan Herald for bringing us all out onto the football pitch. We’re very excited and look forward to an eventful tournament. Sports do play a very important role in shaping one’s mindset and studies show that it significantly contributes to our critical thinking capabilities. While the boardrooms don’t test us physically, football is definitely going to test us physically and mentally. We’ve just started hitting the field and look forward to the entire month.

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Published 09 September 2023, 00:26 IST

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