Santosh Gurunath: CEO and Co-Founder, Umagine

Santosh Gurunath, CEO and co-founder of Umagine, has had an interesting professional journey. He started as a process engineer with Shell in Amsterdam, responsible for concept engineering of syngas and hydrogen plants. Later, he worked with Sh­­ell Pernis, where he was a process technologist and team lead for hydrogen manufacturing and HF alkylation units. Subsequen­tly, he joined McKinsey & Company as an expert consultant in energy practice, contributing to margin transformation projects across midstream and downstream plants globally.

In 2019, he established Umagine in the Netherlands. He and his team executed several rooftop solar and EV charging infrastructure projects as an EPC provider until 2021. Since 2021, Umagine has been headquartered in India, with a primary focus on green hydrogen. The company provides services in strategy, policy and concept engineering; acts as a system integrator for projects; and develops its own hydrogen fuel cell technology for stationary power generation applications.

Gurunath’s role is both exciting and demanding, as he navigates challenges such as an inadequate regulatory environment, a lack of technology standards and a shortage of talent with deep-tech expertise. “As a 100 per cent green hydrogen company, bootstrapped through its own revenues, it is challenging to ensure reliable cash flows in the Indian market. At this point, we have a measured view of the green hydrogen market in India. On the positive side, MNRE and other ministries are playing a proactive role with a range of policies and incentives for both the private and public se­­ctors. Most large companies have also stepped up with pilot pro­jects, plans for manufacturing and production facilities,” he says.

Gurunath’s management style is very hands-off. He says, “I dislike micro-management. I expect my team to take full ownership, ensure the work gets done within deadlines and meet quality standards. We have a very flexible policy, with no restrictions on the number of holidays, fostering a conducive work-life balance. We care about our people and truly believe that a happy team delivers high quality results.”

A chemical engineering graduate from the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, Gurunath also has a master’s degree from the Techni­cal University Delft in the Netherlands. He enjoys writing on various topics, including human evolution, sustainability, de-gro­wth, mental health and contrarian views on almost everything. “I also listen to audiobooks on topics ranging from philosophy to evolution,” he says. “Audible keeps me going during my travels.”