XCELIS™ CHAMPION: Dr. Ritu Bhalla, Regional Application Development Lead, Grain Processing – Asia-Pacific
For as long as she can remember, Ritu Bhalla wanted to be a scientist because of their power to positively impact many lives through inventions—something she read about in books at an early age. Joining DuPont as a research scientist in 2008 gave her the opportunity to experience that excitement firsthand as part of the company’s emerging biobutanol program.
But it was a desire to connect more closely with customers—and take on new challenges—that led to her current role in application development in 2016.
“The economics of the ethanol industry are ever-changing, and very dependent on feedstock prices. That presents some challenges, but also new opportunities to innovate,” Bhalla notes. “Ethanol plants in the Asia-Pacific region are diverse, from the types of feedstocks they use to their process conditions. We have to continuously stay ahead of the curve to help them become more cost-competitive and maximize the potential of their feedstock.”
"We want to understand what our customers are doing and where their pain points are, so we can create a plan for them, rather than just selling them a product."
Doing that means a lot of hands-on problem-solving: going into a plant, examining its operations, and looking for ways her team can help. The results can be dramatic. In one recent example, a potential customer was frustrated with their plant’s performance and skeptical of the value of changing enzymes. An in-depth review of their process revealed a surprise twist: due to their process conditions, they were actually destroying a high percentage of the enzymes they were using.
“We explained that if you change your process, you will actually be able to see the benefit enzymes can have,” she recalls. “We then provided them with training in enzymes. That’s how we work with our customers: we want to understand what they are doing and where their pain points are, so we can create a plan for them, rather than just selling them a product.”
For Bhalla, it all comes down to partnership.
“Getting direct feedback from our customers is the most rewarding part of my job,” she says. “When they face any issue—whether product-related or not—we are there to help them. That is a chance for us to try new approaches and develop even better solutions for them.”