An inspiring story of Rohit Kochar, Founder, Executive Chairman & CEO, Bert Labs Private Limited. In this exclusive interview, Rohit shares his motivation, idea and inspiration behind starting the company. Also, he talks about his unique Bert Platform Solution in which he tells how Bert Platform Solution integrates First-Principles modelling with data-driven models. Also know about hybrid modelling and the company’s solution approach (First-Principles modelling/ AI).
TimesTech: Kindly share the story behind Bert Labs and what is your inspiration to start a unique start-up like Bert Labs?
Rohit Kochar: Over my professional journey with GE and American Express, I realised that there is a lot of entrepreneurial ability within me in terms of problem-solving, client focus, leadership, setting up a clear vision and followed by strategy in execution. Clarity of thought was very strong from the beginning, and I wanted to leverage this by starting a small company and then building it up. I wanted to pursue my entrepreneurial journey in terms of a technology-led Problem-Solving Product platform.
My entrepreneurial idea germinated from my personal experience with my family. My father went through a lot of serious ailments. Even though he recovered well, he needed complete monitoring. This gave direction to my calling, and I realised how important it is to sense, connect and act. It became the backbone for Dice Automations, my initial venture, in 2015. So, we sensed vital parameters, hospitals got access, nurses, and doctors analysed and processed it in real-time and timely actions were taken. I wanted to scale this up to other industries, and so I thought about energy efficiency. We evaluated this space and mapped different aspects of energy generation, energy distribution and energy consumption. And so, we are here at Bert Labs, for the last five years, are helping clients achieve their sustainability goals, capital efficiency goals and bring in profitability.
TimesTech: What do you mean by an innovation-led successful company and why it is important?
Rohit Kochar: I got inspired by the innovation in my previous organisation. At the annual 6 Sigma innovation carnival, we used to generate 300, 400 and 500 ideas across the organisation. Which allowed me to think about how can we conceptualise a solution around the problem without resorting to any reference point. For example, we have built a product for solving energy efficiency challenges for our clients and then we train the minds of researchers and developers for the next version of the solution. Once you get into the client ecosystem, you help the client to realise their latent needs.
Our solutions also entail a lot of consulting with the client and working closely with them. Adapting to the impending situations, building something non-obvious to solve and with a very high impact will alleviate any compromising circumstances in the future.
Inspiration can also be driven by incentives, both in terms of recognition as well as the monetary rewards for any new ideas which get translated into design and architecture. And pursue product development and through that patent which gets filed and patents which get granted.
This is the path we are taking to build innovation-led successful company.
TimesTech: How hardware and software components complement each other in a product company and spur up the growth towards a better solution led company
Rohit Kochar: If you see the history of companies that have sustained themselves over decades, are those who have both software and hardware capabilities. The seamless experience between hardware and software gives a product unmatched superiority. We want to give that unmatched seamless experience, and this becomes one of the biggest differentiations to bring in unprecedented impact on energy efficiency, production efficiency improvement and quality improvement. This will help us to build an institution and therefore contribute to India’s economy.
There is always a high-risk factor where there is a strong hardware element in a product because India does not offer the infrastructure. We are building Bert Labs firmly – where there is Bert Maximus and Bert Qrious Platforms are seamlessly integrating with the Bert Nova and Bert Optimus Platforms.
We have to also think about the advantages of building more companies with hardware and software capabilities. We are setting up our own manufacturing hubs or research centers that will employ researchers, innovators, manufacturers and designers and will create ancillary enterprises’ products and services, therefore generating employment.
TimesTech: What are your plans to transform the work through innovation?
Rohit Kochar: I believe in the conceptualization of a solution around the problem without resorting to any reference point. The solutions should be drawn by understanding issues and by working closely with clients. We built Bert Solution Platform where it is perfectly able to adapt to build something which is truly non-obvious to solve and with very high impact.
As we think about the advantages of building more companies with hardware and software capabilities, we realise, we can provide a better solution with a complete suite of products.
We are here to build a very strong foundation with a strong value system. We live by the adage you always have to be fair to people. Choosing a client who is aligned with our value system is very important. From day one, we focus on having a problem led approach rather than having a product-led approach.
At Bert Labs, we have looked at the problem the way our clients see it and experience it, and that’s what we did when we started to address energy efficiency in commercial buildings. The number one energy guzzler in commercial buildings is HVAC – heating ventilation air conditioning. So, we visited a lot of commercial buildings around airports, hotels, hospitals, and office complexes to talk to the stakeholders there who use HVAC systems and understand how HVAC systems are controlled from a user standpoint. We identified a lot of gaps and understood the problems and then conceptualised our solution around the problem statement exactly bridging these gaps.
We always try to bring in people who have the common thread of being bound together with the value systems. The sense of ownership, the talent to back it up, deliver on innovation and solutions or sign a sales deal or an investment closure is a way to build innovation and tech-led institutions out of India.
TimesTech: Could you explain a bit about hybrid modelling and your solution approach (First-principles modelling/ AI)?
Rohit Kochar: Bert Platform Solution integrates First-principles modelling with data-driven models. As part of first-principles modelling, depending on the complex process lines, or a virtual process for non-manufacturing physical process, we model the actual physics, chemistry or biology, as part of an equipment or a process line. To build data driven models, we use time-series data and built a neural network and machine learning models. This is generally done keeping in mind two things, one is, the actual physical equipment or the actual complex process which involves physics principle, or chemical reactions, or chemical engineering, or atomic reaction or molecular modelling are level application. Therefore, for the digital twins to understand and learn, the real-time operating and health conditions of these equipments’ understanding these curves, understanding these reactions, and understanding the molecule level application becomes a necessity. Then the prediction outcomes are calibrated against the outcomes of building models using neural networks and vice versa. The other reason why Bert Platform Solution is built on a hybrid model is the practical reality of data not being available or good quality data not being available with full coverage, and granularity required to build a high performing neural network model. Therefore, in scenarios like these data gets generated using first-principles modelling and this data is then converted into environment model files which are readable by Bert Optimus – Optimization Algorithms like Reinforcement Learning (RL) operational parameter search agent and genetical algorithm.
TimesTech: Could you explain a bit about the advantages of Bert Platform Solutions?
Rohit Kochar: At Bert Labs, we have built Artificial Intelligence – Internet of Things (IoT) powered Bert Platform Solutions for Energy Efficiency Improvement which are effectively and efficiently used at factories, manufacturing plants, production facilities, R&D facilities, commercial buildings in FMCG, pharmaceuticals, cement, automobile, and other heavy engineering industry verticals in developed & developing markets. And for supply chain planning & logistics efficiency improvement.
At Unilever House Mumbai, we have installed our solution in 1 million sq. Ft. with 1000+ Bert IoT devices, which is integrated with 1000+ existing sensors, 450VAVs, 74 AHUs, 17 pumps, 4 chillers and 4 cooling towers.
With our solutions, they are able to get 52%+ savings across all the blocks of a LEED Platinum Certified Building between Oct 2019 to Mar 2020 over the baseline defined by the latest technology of one of the leading technology conglomerates and a 20% reduction in thermal comfort complaint.
This is how we are able to bring in 52% energy efficiency in our first execution at Unilever House that becomes an inspiration for the team to work harder towards the next execution at the paint shop of a leading automobile manufacturer and utility system energy efficiency for a large pharma production facility among others.
Now with these learnings, our innovators are able to experience the success of problem-solving which becomes the impetus for them to focus on the next level of innovation and drive complex problem-solving.