Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Chitra Rajan (CR): I started my career as a computer programmer and spent nearly two decades in the IT industry. My final stint was with HP handling its new products division.
Currently I wear two different hats. I am a serial entrepreneur, and I work for a United Nations organisation called Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN). I coach entrepreneurs in clean energy and energy efficiency business, getting them investor ready and help them to get funding. As an entrepreneur, I am currently working in the area of renewable energy. I convert organic waste into Bio Compressed Natural Gas (Bio-CNG).
MB: What led you to start Radix Group?
CR: After leaving the IT industry I became a serial entrepreneur focused on three very diverse industries; construction, coffee plantation and renewable energy.
There are two reasons why I chose these totally unconnected industries where I did not have any prior experience. One is I that have short attention span, I get bored doing the same thing day in and out. I like trying new things where I have to learn everything from scratch. In fact, the reason I got into IT industry is also the same. I come from a family of bankers. My father use to work in a bank and all my cousins (I have quite a few!) worked there too.
It was considered the safest and best job for a woman because the working hours are fixed, one doesn’t have to travel, you have health insurance, and there is pension after retirement. I rebelled and said that I wanted to work in an industry where I can have my breakfast in one country, my lunch in another country and my dinner in a third country. So, I joined the IT industry and lived that dream.
The second, and most important, reason was that I was tired of people telling me which industry is safe for women or what kind of job is more suitable for women. I chose three industries that are predominantly male dominant. That’s how Radix started.
MB: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
CR: As I mentioned before, we convert organic waste to Bio-CNG. Today, the world is facing two main challenges; managing waste and accessing clean energy. By converting organic waste to Bio-CNG I am addressing both of these issues.
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
CR: Accessing funds on a timely basis and at a reasonable rate is the biggest challenge, not only for me, but for all clean-tech ventures.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
CR: We are already in the process of setting up Bio-CNG plants in multiple locations in India. Alongside that, I am working on two new technologies. One is to convert unsorted municipal solid waste into crude oil, which is a unique technology, and the second is to convert methane into hydrogen.
At the lab level we have seen very good results. We are in the process of patenting them and we will be commercially rolling out shortly.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
CR: Though profitability has traditionally been the key indicator of business success, today there are other factors – like societal and environmental impact – that will define the successful businesses of the future. A good leader should be in a position to balance the two.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
CR – It’s good to be ambitious, but learn to be content with, and grateful for, what you already have.
MB – Who inspires you?
CR – I don’t have one role model. Anybody who has fought against the odds and became successful inspires me. Whether it is Arunima Sinha, who despite being an amputee climbed Mount Everest, or Dhirubhai Ambani, or Elon Musk’s mother Maye Musk. They remind me that adversities can bring out the best in people. If I am facing a challenge then I have to put in my best and I will come out of it with some learnings even if I am not successful. So no need to fear adversities or challenges.
MB – How do you define success?
CR – Success is learning something new each day. Also success is not giving up.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
CR – Public speaking.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
CR – “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach
MB – What do you do to relax?
CR – I am a voracious reader. I read everything from fiction, philosophy to comics. It’s a big stress buster. I also start my day with meditation to help me relax. Of late, I’m also trying my hand at writing fiction.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.