In February 2018, our students had the chance to attend a career talk conducted by Bir Mehta, a TUM Asia alumnus who is now working at BASF Asia Pacific. The DIGEST team speaks with Bir to find out more about his views on the chemical industry.
Please tell us about yourself
Bir: Hi everyone, my name is Bir and I graduated from the third batch of Industrial Chemistry Master program in TUM Asia. Since graduation, I have been with BASF for the last twelve years and my job scope involves various roles from research, technical marketing, business management & corporate strategy. During this time, I have had the privilege to live abroad in various countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, and presently China. I head the Hygiene Products Business of BASF in Asia Pacific, which is based in Shanghai, China.
What convinced you to pursue your Master’s degree?
Bir: After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Chemistry from St Xavier’s College, moving on to pursue my Masters before entering the industry was ideal for me to prepare myself for the working world. One of the reasons that convinced me to choose TUM Asia was because the degree would be conferred by two world- renowned universities, NUS and TUM. However more importantly, I would have the chance to experience living in two different countries while pursuing my studies. Germany is well-known for its universities and chemical companies and thus having a German degree would greatly enhance the basket of opportunities after graduation for either PhD studies or a career in the industry.
Looking back, how would you describe your education journey at TUM Asia?
Bir: We were able to learn soft skill modules such as Chemical Marketing, Cultural Aspects, Business & Project Management, which complimented the academic modules that we learnt. These skills helped me understand the key requirements of the industry and it has immensely helped me in my career path. TUM Asia also constantly invites its industry partners for talks, which helped to build a relevant window into the industry.
Putting academics aside, I am glad that I was able to interact and work with students from various countries. This aspect of enriching one’s cultural experience is a very important part of business life today. I fondly remember back when I was in Germany to conduct my Master’s thesis and internship, I had the chance to work in a completely new environment and make new friends. It was really fun and memorable!
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual current career path?
Bir: Chemistry is everywhere. With an expected global population of 10 billion people by 2050, the need for food, housing, energy, consumer goods, transportation, among others, will rise exponentially. Chemistry will be a key enabler to meet current and future needs of the world and the chemical industry will play a vital role in solving various global challenges. In my daily role, I develop new products & solutions for the marketplace with the goal of making our everyday lives easier. Giving back to the society gives me great job satisfaction.
With years of experience in the Chemical industry, how do you think one can stay relevant to the evolving demands of the industry?
Bir: The chemical industry forms a basis to serve many other industries such as the automotive, construction, food & nutrition industries, among others. It is important for us to understand the developments in other value chains to identify areas where chemistry can add value. Besides that, we should seek to understand developments which will impact our industry, such as the impact of digitization and how the manufacturing industry could leverage its benefits. It is also important to foster close collaborations between academia and industry. With new tools available, industry could act as a catalyst to commercialize innovations from academia again making the world a better place.
TUM Asia turns 15 this year! Do you have anything you would like to say to your fellow alumni?
Bir: First of all, heartiest greetings to all my fellow alumni! Congratulations to TUM & its alumni towards reaching this goal. As one of the first alumni from TUM Asia, I can only say let’s all keep in touch, expand our networks, and re-live the enriching experience from our days at TUM Asia. Looking forward to meeting you all sometime soon.
Bir Mehta is a graduate in the joint TUM-NUS Master of Science in Industrial Chemistry programme