Aug. 23, 2020

#18 - Sandith Thandasherry - Clean energy for water transport

#18 - Sandith Thandasherry - Clean energy for water transport

A  few weeks ago, the TIME magazine carried an issue solely dedicated to global warming.It said we have a few months to take decisive action. Given all that is going around due to pandemic, upcoming US elections people sometimes tend to forget about the larger than life crisis that’s looming over us. And so I am out looking for people who were continuously working  in the midst of this pandemic to address climate change. In this week’s episode I speak with Sandith Thandessery, CEO and founder of NavAlt Solar & Electrical Boats. He is the man behind India’s first solar powered boat. 
With a Bachelor of Technology in Naval Architecture from IIT Madras and an MBA from INSEAD, France, Sandith has around two decades of industrial experience behind him. He worked in a shipyard in Gujarat for two years, after which he went to South Korea and worked across shipyards in the country. After he completed his MBA, this naval architect and entrepreneur started this journey with Navgathi, the first company that he founded to build small-capacity, solar-powered boats. 

Although solar-powered ferries are a common sight in global waterways, they were yet to sail in Indian waterways because of the high costs involved when Sandith started out. 
He soon realized that the biggest and most commercially viable sector is large passenger water transport boats. However, to initiate that business, they needed to team up with a larger player in the field.  Coincidentally, this was when AltEn, one of the world’s most experienced solar boats manufacturer was looking for a partner in India. 

NavAlt was finally formed in October 2013 and the rest as they say is history. 

In July this year, Aditya, India’s first solar powered passenger ferry built by Sandith and team won the first ever Gussies award. 

This is the world’s only international award exclusively for electric boats.  

More than 50 electric boats were nominated for this award, representing over 19 countries of manufacture, in 3 different categories. 

Aditya won in the 3rd category “ Excellence in Electric Boats Designed for Paying Passengers”.             

Every day Aditya makes 22 trips with 75 people on board – that’s 580,000 people a year – and the charging cost to top up the batteries is US$2.60 – TWO DOLLARS and SIXTY CENTS A DAY – preventing the burning of 58,000 litres of diesel and saving ₹ 4,612,000 – US$ 65,000 a year.

Aditya plies on the waterways of Kerala, a small state in South India, where Sandith’s company and operations are located. 

Kerala has been affected by global warming very severely in the past few years with heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides visiting her every year during the monsoon. 

Seeing that positive steps are being taken in the state to tackle climate change is an inspiration to the rest of the country. 

I also take personal pride since I am from Kerala. 

Aditya’s success and recognition is testimony to the fact that clean energy is the solution that we have to adopt to rewrite the climate change narrative. 

I speak to the man himself to learn more about his story and his vision for the future.