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Theyre giving platinum a run for its money

Posted on September 12, 2010 | Author: Anirvan Ghosh | View 626

ANTS makes ceremic out of egg white which has applications ranging from aerospace to ball-point pens 

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WHEN FIVE IIT-ians from Kharagpur finished college,they decided to stick together.While many of their friends and batchmates were drawing up a list of companies they could possibly join,Ashwini Jain,Prashant Rout,Sabyasachi Roy,Tushar Gothi and Sujit Dey teamed up with their professor,Parag Bhargava,brainstormed through several nights and hit upon an idea that would turn their learning at the prestigious institute worth the money and energy spent.

From their research at the institute,they had managed to make ceramic out of egg white.And they wanted to commercialise their idea.But with personalities poles apart,would they be able to stick together in this unknown journey They did,and like ANTS,as their company was christened,embarked on a remarkable journey of teamwork and passion.

The idea got incubated at IIM-Ahmedabad in 2005.In two years,they created a new company called ANTS Advanced Materials in Nashik,which has already crossed the 1 crore revenue mark,and is targeting 3 crores in sales next year.

For a company this niche,that is surely an achievement.The global market for advanced ceramics is estimated to be around $24 billion.India,with a meagre share of 0.34%,ranks 36 in export of traditional as well as advanced ceramic products,says Roy.

Roy,with a major in ceramics,was more than happy to learn that the girl he loved could discuss ceramics at length.Jain,the odd one out with an exploration geophysics degree,applied his target-oriented and engineering sense in handling R&D.Dey took to handling the administration of the company.
As is the case with most startups,the initial days of ANTS were tumultuous.There had been instances when the company was on the brink of closure,but each time,the determination of the team saw it through.Problems also arose from the initial set of managers with little understanding of the manufacturing business, says Jain.

The company began marketing its products last September and demand slowly picked up.This year,ANTS is going to launch textile ceramics,currently being imported from Japan,the trials for which have just gotten over.At present ANTS is providing full lab solutions to various research institutionfrom crucibles,tubes,lab wares to powder compaction dies and custom fabrication of systems,says Roy.
So why is ceramic so much in demand Because,like platinum,they do not contaminate the materials that are in contact with them,whether heated or otherwise,as it is inert.Unlike platinum though,it is not that expensive.And their application is far widerfrom aerospace to gas lighters and ball-point pens,everything runs on ceramics.

Technological barriers,high processing costs and special process requirements limit widespread manufacturing of ceramic stuff.ANTS hopes to plug this gap.The objective is to provide an alternative to costly imports for the time being.
Most of the team members are in the 27-30 age bracket,except for the technical director,Prof Bhargava,and B Devidayal,director of Devidayal Chemical Industries.

Currently,the company is getting managerial support from CIIE,the incubation cell at IIM-A and from TIETS,IIT Kharagpurs incubation unit.With new orders flowing in,and wider offerings,ANTS is now sitting on projected revenues of 3 crore,and a client list with names such as BARC,ISRO,and the CSIR labs.
It was this young team that thought of the name ANTS.These tiny creatures are known for their untiring efforts,impeccable teamwork,excellent communication and quick recognition of opportunities.It is a lesson for enterprise, adds Jain.

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