How BKT is incorporating both science and art into its research and development
Leading BKT's R&D work is a man of science, Dilip Vaidya, president and director of technology at the company. First and foremost he is a researcher, but he is also someone with a sense of curiosity who manages to draw inspiration from the colour of his paintings, because as he puts it, "Science and art are not contradictory, they both rely on creativity."
Get to know Vaidya better in this Q&A interview.
Q: Mr. Vaidya, what is your academic background and what is your specialization?
A: I first graduated in Science at Mumbai University and then I attended the University Department of Chemical Technology to complete my B. Tech in Polymer Technology, again in Mumbai. Although my specialist field was plastics, I joined the tire industry in 1976.
Q: And your memories of university? Was there someone who inspired you, who - we might say - perhaps put you on the path of research and innovation?
A: Our Technical Institute, the UDCT, was just like a company: we were dealing with seven different technologies and so it was like a real job. My final-year project was to produce acrylic latex through a laboratory-based polymerization process in order to use binding agents in coating paper. That experience probably directed me towards research and innovation.
Q: How would you describe your presence in the company, on a personal level, compared to the role as head of R&D?
A: Obviously, I cannot completely separate myself from my role. Research & Development is the backbone of every innovative process. Besides its care and concern for people, BKT, which I consider my family, has a long-term focus and is committed to quality. I feel that my day to day work is appreciated and has great backing from management - not only with the major investments in our division, but also with the very positive and open atmosphere which welcomes innovation. This lets me and my team get ahead of technological trends - the real key to innovation.
Q: So do you consider yourself more of an innovator than a researcher?
A: In my opinion research is a tool, an essential tool. But no one does research just for the sake of it. The general goal is innovation and this means a continuous learning process. Also a good dose of natural curiosity is essential. I definitely consider myself an innovator.
Q: I spoke to some of your colleagues and you are considered to have an exceptional mind. What is your secret?
A: This is a very difficult question to answer. There is no button to press to help you come up with an idea. Brainstorming is certainly important. Somehow ideas emerge from our brains and help us fulfil our task. Sometimes you have these ideas when you are at work, when you are immersed in your hi-tech world and speaking with your colleagues.
But to be honest, I feel that most of my ideas usually emerge when I am relaxing. It might happen when I'm at dinner with my family or watching a film, when out for a walk or doing some other activity in my free time.
Q: Mr. Vaidya, speaking of free time, I know that you have a particular hobby...
A: I love doing pencil portraits and painting. I started doing pencil portraits when I was 17. At that age I was fascinated by portraying movie stars. But recently I started painting again during the pandemic and now I love doing landscapes.
For me painting is also a way to combat stress. I love using lines, points, smudges and colors to create something that I can see in my mind and set it down on canvas. When you create a small work of art, it is as if you put everything else on hold. Art encompasses beauty and meditation.
Q: It is great to discover that a scientific mind like yours is also the mind of an artist who shares their emotions through their paintings.
A: I don't find this so surprising. There have been many great scientists who were also inspirational artists. Just think of Leonardo da Vinci and his famous painting Mona Lisa. Samuel Morse, the inventor of Morse code, was a painter. Albert Einstein played the violin. You can also go back in time to Isaac Newton or even to Socrates.
To be honest, I didn't intend to compare myself to such extraordinary minds. I just want to say that science and art are not opposed, because it is always a question of creativity.
Q: Let's move on to our final question which is obligatory in all our inspiring talks: painting aside, what is your greatest passion, Mr. Vaidya?
A: I love exploring new paths. That is how we launched radial tires for agriculture, then for mining applications and finally also solid tires. I'm also very focused on perfection in whatever I develop. The result must be the best possible. I want my junior researchers to follow this road too, so I like teaching and explaining things to them in detail, until everything is absolutely clear.