Anupam Bhargava '98, General Manager, Line Maintenance Services, UTC Pratt & Whitney
I have two great passions: entrepreneurship and the environment. When I was in college, I convinced my hometown to let me start its first recycling program. It was a summer project, and we became the first community in Connecticut to do curbside recycling of plastics. The experience led to a central tenet of my career: Finding ways to create businesses that help the environment.
Before SOM, I worked for a start-up that was producing new, environmentally friendly products for the gas and oil industry, specifically vapor-recovery systems to help gas stations comply with the Clean Air Act. At a startup you’re involved in so many different aspects of the business. You weren't just designing the products, you were also getting prototypes built, overseeing the manufacturing, and then the field testing and commercialization of the technology. I joined as the seventeenth employee and when I left to go to SOM, there were about 120 people working there.
I focused on corporate strategy at SOM, because I knew I wanted to be involved in start-ups and the creation of new technologies and new businesses. When it came time to choose a job, I had offers to work in M&A at a small investment bank, to go into venture capital, and to join United Technologies Corp. A lot of my friends thought I was crazy to pass up the other two to go work in a big, industrial company like UTC. But I decided that for the long term, it was good to learn how to build and run businesses. UTC's leadership program was a great way to go and do that. My first assignment was to help start a joint venture in India. I was the project lead, and it was really trial by fire. The company made the assumption that I had the tools to get it done. I used the skills that I gained at Yale SOM — and they were absolutely vital to doing my job.
I did a lot of business development at UTC and, later, at its Pratt & Whitney's Division. I loved the work. But then, about six years ago, I had the opportunity to start a new venture within Pratt & Whitney to commercialize environmentally friendly technologies. I was the first employee; I was responsible for aggregating a few existing businesses and technologies that we pulled together from within Pratt as well as bringing others from the outside. This was before green ventures became as fashionable as they are today. We had some technologies that were successful, some that weren't, but there was one in particular, called EcoPower® On-Wing Engine Wash, which we thought could be a home-run. At that point I approached my senior management and said I would like to focus on developing a business around this one technology and see if we could actually commercialize it.
EcoPower engine wash extends the life of engines by reducing contamination that builds-up inside the engines over time. The effect is a healthier engine that burns less fuel and reduces greenhouse gas emissions quite dramatically. We’ve created a global business around the process – we have service centers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. And we are saving very significant amounts of fuel as well as CO2 emissions for our customers. We were even mentioned in Bill Clinton’s 2007 book, Giving, as one of UTC’s most interesting new technologies.
To date, we have completed more than 8,000 EcoPower engine washes, and as a result, conserved approximately 51 million gallons of jet fuel (and saved our customers more than $102 million). This also translates into reduced CO2 emissions of nearly 500,000 tons, which is the equivalent to the emissions of around 55,000 cars, a quarter of million people or that is stored by 84 million trees.
From here, the move to start this new venture looks almost easy, but the decision was difficult. I was on a good path with the corporation doing business development. It provided a fair amount of visibility and stability. There are plenty of case studies written saying that entrepreneurship within the context of an existing company, much less a large company, rarely succeeds. There was a lot of risk involved. But I felt very strongly about the opportunity, so it was a risk I was willing to take.