The Hubli Express

Written by Geeta Nair | Updated: Feb 17 2013, 06:58am hrs
Nurturing a biotech start-up in a small town in Karnataka is not easy, but a couple of 22-year-olds are staying put and have dreams of putting Hubli on the world map with their innovations

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, founder of Biocon, would approve. For, Amit Kumar Vernekar said no to a job offer to chase his dream of nurturing his start-up, Biosyl. Its another matter that the job offer came from Biocon itself!

Vernekar is aided by classmate Sarah Pearl DSouza in the venture, who, too, had a choice of joining Navya Biologicals but decided to co-found Biosyl with Vernekar. The two 22-year-olds from Hubli in Karnataka fully understand the risks involved, but are confident they have a winner on their hands.

This adventurous streak is not the norm in Hubli, where every graduate dreams of either going to the US or land a good job in a big city in India. There is not much to do in Hubli as few opportunities exist here, but Vernekar and

DSouza say they are staying put and will put the town on the world map with Biosyl.

The object of their dreams is an anaerobic chamber, which is set for commercial launch after a development period of over two years. The concept took shape on the campus of BV Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering and Technology in Hubli. The supportive college offered basic research facilities and helped incubate the company. Funding of around R1.5 lakh from their parents gave the project the financial push.

Biosyl was born when the duo realised the shortage of anaerobic equipment for culturing anaerobes during their projects. The equipment was not available commonly, with only large companies having access. This set them thinking on ways to deal with the problem, says Vernekar.

So Biosyl came up with the idea of a potable anaerobic workstation to cultivate anaerobic organisms, which could replace a tedious culturing process. The Biosyl chamber utilises a glove-port system for handling and inspecting samples. These chambers are also designed with a large, open work area thats maintained at a comfortable ambient atmosphere and provides for adequate viewing and working conditions.

Biosyls new anaerobic workstation, named Anaerobio, provides researchers, microbiologists, pharmacists and chemists a quick and easy way to culture anaerobes, which are potential producers of several industrial products. The company in its start-up phase has contracted 10% of its first years projected sales. The prototype is ready and Biosyl will soon manufacture and sell a new product aimed at the biotech and life science industry.

While focusing on product development, Vernekar has been carrying out market surveys too. He has gone around Hubli, Dharwad, Belgaum and Bangalore, checking out the market potential for their products. They are targeting customers in education and research institutions specialising in biotechnology, pharma, pathology, chemical engineering and polymer chemistry. Vernekar believes that once their equipment gains acceptance here, it would be easy to get into small- and medium-size industries. Their goal is to become a leading manufacturer and establish themselves in the biotech industry.

Biosyl Technologies was the winner and among the top six judges choice student ventures at the Tata First Dot and Nen Student Ventures competition and the duo are energised after going through the whole process of participating and winning. While their base will be Hubli, they hope their products to be available all over the country.