Critical Engineer of Change

by Utkarsh Sharma Delhi

Budding inventor and entrepreneur, UTKARSH SHARMA of Delhi, embarks upon a journey to be a “critical agent of change” amidst “global challenges” in the solar power sector

In Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly Resolution that sets out the SDGs, young people are identified as ‘critical agents of change’, a conviction I share wholeheartedly. Young people and their energetic engagement represent the solution to the global challenges we face;… young people have the power to create new breakthroughs in any field where they are given the chance to be actively engaged… when youth make the determination to illuminate the corner of the world they inhabit now, it brings into being a space of security in which people can regain hope and the power to live.

– Daisaku Ikeda, 2017 Peace Proposal: ‘The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering In a New Era of Hope’, 11-12, 22, 23.

While in college, I read that 304 million Indians, and many more in the entire world, live in the dark. I had to do something. In response to my mentor, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda — “the faith I place in our world’s young people, each of whom embodies hope and the possibility of a better future” (2017 Peace Proposal, 3). I decided to “illuminate” these dark “corner[s] of the world” (ibid., 23) and “regard hardships [I might face along the way] as great badge[s] of honour and the source of brilliant future success” (‘Green Fields’, NHR-17, 345). I determined to become a top CEO and use my engineering qualifications towards making our world a better place.

I took my first step towards this dream by founding an organization that would work on renewable energy. Our tag line was ‘Helping Humanity’ and our first goal was to find a cost-efficient alternative to kerosene lamps — solar lanterns! But ours were too expensive. Applying nothing but the strategy of the Lotus Sutra to my endeavours, I was able to get support from a global NGO to subsidize the cost of the solar lanterns we designed, up to 50 per cent. We distributed around 900 lanterns, which have illuminated around 3600 lives and we are still counting. I then submitted a project report to establish a solar plant in a village!

At around this time, some medical students in our college were unable to complete one of their projects for want of a machine that measured the viscosity and surface tension of blood. The machines available in the market cost Rs 24 lakh. Here was a “chance to be actively engaged” and “create new breakthroughs” (2017 Peace Proposal, 22). A few of us engineering students designed a machine for them at a cost of Rs 40,000. This machine won us a national level competition in which we defeated 500 teams, and as a result, I earned a well-paying campus placement in a multinational corporation (MNC)! This victory gave me the courage to register my company with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Here, I encountered an obstacle: the ministry required every registered company to be ‘rated’, a process costing about Rs 75,000. While I had begun putting aside some part of my salary towards this expenditure, I also wrote to the ministry, pleading the case of all new entrepreneurs like myself. Then, I determined to create a monumental victory. And in November 2017, the ministry removed the criteria of company rating, allowing any company employing professionals with engineering degrees to work freely on renewable energy projects. I could now utilize the money I had saved towards my company’s growth.

In that same month, I bagged a solar equipment order from Jordan. Realizing that our country doesn’t permit the supply of electronic equipment to Jordan, as there is a risk that it may be used to promote terrorism, I decided to focus on creating a bond of friendship between the two nations, with the clear understanding that the equipment could not be misused. I convinced the Ministry of Commerce to sanction the export and my company delivered its first international shipment in November 2017.

As a result of my focused efforts, a senior business developer emerged to promote my company on a profit-sharing basis. My company, which had not been able to hire anyone at even Rs 10,000 per month, is now mystically employing a person at Rs 40 lakh per annum! And in this Year of Brilliant Achievement, I am on my way to achieving magnificent victories for my mentor by installing a 106 KW solar power project and devising ways to increase production on farmland 100-fold.