Even in the midst of a busy day, Lalit Chordia, CEO of Thar Energy, a company that focuses on green energy solutions, finds time to visit the Blue Elephant Café at the far end of his company headquarters. “It’s a fun thing to do, and I’m trying different things,” he said.
Mr. Chordia added the small bistro in 2012 after he bought the O’Hara complex in 2010 because he didn’t like the fact that he or his employees always had to leave the office to grab a cup of coffee. “It’s a vegetarian concept because it’s more sustainable from an energy point of view than the regular foods, so that’s really what I’m trying to go after,” he said. “We practice what we preach, in short.”
Mr. Chordia, 55, moved to Pittsburgh from Chennai, India, when he was 22, to go to school. He had received his B.S. from I.I.T. Madras in 1980 and earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1985. Though he originally didn’t plan to stay in the area, he now lives in Fox Chapel.
He advises others not to give up on their dreams even if it takes time to achieve them.
“I started my company Thar with no funding. I’m not going to tell you that was the easiest thing, that’s not the advice I would give to people today. For seven years, we struggled. For a number of years, I did not have a salary,” he said. “It was really not easy to do, but that’s the way I wanted it. I didn’t want to raise any funds, I did not want to get diluted, and I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.”
Q: Why did you decide on Pittsburgh for the location of your company?
A: I started a company while in school (Suprex Corp.). It literally was a spinoff from Carnegie Mellon University so I’ve been here and I haven’t left the place. I think Pittsburgh is a great place from a technical side but Pittsburgh also has its negatives. In a sense, if I want to raise money, it’s a lot easier in California than in Pittsburgh. But from a lifestyle point of view, it’s a great place to live.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories from CMU?
A: I had a lot of fun. I was enrolled in a lot of different activities and I met a lot of people. And everybody was kind to me. I came to the department on a Ph.D. thesis and I created my own project. Usually what happens is you have to go have it funded. I was lucky enough that the department liked what I suggested and the department funded me.
Q: Tell me about the last person who really impressed you.
A: Katie McGinty is one of the four people who stood for the Democratic nomination [for governor] and she lost. I did not expect her to win. But now that she has lost, I can see this very well … she is very well put together, articulates very well, presents very well … I think one of the smartest people I have seen on that side of the business. She’s reasonably technical, worked with the Clinton Administration … she always impresses me anytime I meet her.
Q: Do you have a motto that you go by?
A: For me, hard work is important, attitude is important, honesty is important and loyalty is important. I’m very loyal to my people. I think everybody needs to work hard.
By Madasyn Czebiniak: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak