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Smart grid will modernise Bangladesh’s electricity system: John Sakhawat Chowdhury – The Business Standard

September 24, 2022
John Sakhawat Chowdhury, founder and managing director of the US-based NKSoft Corporation, is leading the automation and smart grid conversion of Bangladesh’s electricity distribution system. Founding the company in the USA in 1997, the entrepreneur has already gathered experience in electricity automation in many countries around the world including The US.
With offices in eight countries including Bangladesh and representatives in 14 countries, the company has so far worked with more than 13,00 companies around the world. The asset value of the company is now around $45 million which started its journey with an investment of $25,000.
Currently, the company is working with two local companies – Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and West Zone Power Distribution Company (WZPDC) – to develop smart grid technologies for the first time in Bangladesh.
In an interview with The Business Standard, John Sakhawat Chowdhury talked about NKSoft’s projects in Bangladesh and its involvement in the electricity sector in some other countries of the world.
Will the electricity consumers and companies in Bangladesh benefit from the smart grid?
The main problem in the distribution grid of Bangladesh is quite old. That is, the automation system has not been integrated into the distribution grid of Bangladesh. That is why we are working on automation so that power losses can be reduced and power can be supplied as per the demand in all environments at all times.
Now, under the smart grid, the engineers and officials of the company will know instantly any kinds of disruptions in the power generation line through the central monitoring centre. It will also identify in advance many problems such as weak lines, weak transformers, weak poles, voltage generation etc.
In case of any problem, the customers concerned can be excluded from the main transmission and the rest of the customers can be connected to another substation to supply electricity. The unused electricity can also be sent to other places where it is needed.
At present, many customers of the entire feeder line of the area face power cuts even for a small problem in the line of a single customer. For this, the company has to bear losses.
In the current system, a customer has to report any problem manually or make a phone call. But in the case of the smart grid, no one has to call to report a problem, the customers will know about the issues from the electricity office.
Which companies are going to apply the smart grid for the first time in Bangladesh? When will customers enjoy this facility?
NKSoft started working on a smart grid in Bangladesh in 2021. We are working on a smart grid for two companies for the first time in the country – Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and West Zone Power Distribution Company (WZPDC). The first project is funded by the Agence Française de Développement/French Development Agency (AFD) and European Union (EU). The second project is funded by KfW Development Bank. 
We are working as the main consultant for the entire system (integration design) for DPDC. On the other hand, we are involved in creating the whole system with software and other tools. The customers of these two companies will be able to enjoy the benefits of smart grids within three years.
Who else is involved in developing smart grids in Bangladesh with you?
A smart grid involves different kinds of tasks, many software, hardware etc. The main software is supplied by NKSoft KEMA Corporation. Several big companies in several countries of the world including Esri, Schneider, E-tabs etc are working under our consultancy.
Has any company so far come under smart grids with the support of NKSoft? Who are your customers?
NkSoft is an international grid modernisation consultancy firm. We have experience in energy management, microgrid, distributed energy (DER), efficient transmission and distribution grid planning, renewable energy generation planning, and smart city planning. The company’s full name is NKSoft KEMA Corporation USA. It was established in 1997 with its main headquarters in Dallas, Texas, USA.
We have offices in every city in the USA. We have representatives in 14 countries of the world. We also have offices in eight countries including Bangladesh.
Currently, 1,356 big companies from different countries of the world are our customers. We have worked on making the entire electricity distribution network automatic and smart in the USA and some other countries. In Brazil, we created smart grid cities. We have converted five of the 13 major companies in Brazil’s entire electricity system to smart grids. 
We have more than 50,000 corporate customers including American Airlines and Coca-Cola. They are also using our other software.
How much did you initially invest to start NKSoft?
After finishing my studies in America, I worked as a consultant in several international companies in electrical and information technology. At that time, I was developing a special piece of software to reduce power system losses. Later, I started NKSoft with $25,000 in 1997 for marketing that software. I was the main founder of the company along with three American co-founders. Within the first year, we had a profit of $5 million from software sales. We became a sensation across the USA with our innovation. Many American media outlets have published news about me. 
The current asset value of NKSoft is $45 million. At present, we are dominating the modern electricity distribution system market of the world.
What does smart grid transformation mean?
A smart grid is a distribution network monitored constantly to ensure that power lines from transmission to substation and the customers are working properly. Many types of software and hardware are used for this.
The main task of implementing a smart grid is to determine the geographic information of the locations of power stations, substations, transmission lines, poles and customers. We are setting up a geographic information system (GIS) for the two companies we are working for in Bangladesh through Esri, the world’s best GIS assessment company.
There is also a mechanism called ADMS which works as the main brain that makes all the software and hardware work together in the smart grid. With the help of ADMS, everything in the grid is monitored in real-time. All the information will be in the cloud-based data centre.
Can you convert the Palli Bidyut into a smart grid?
Yes, of course. Palli Bidyut (Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board) has delivered electricity to a lot of houses in the country. Now, it must be ensured that the electricity reaches directly to the consumers without any system loss. For this, Palli Bidyut will also have to come under automation. We are interested in working with Palli Bidyut.
What are you doing for the smart grid other than setting up networks in Bangladesh?
Our future plan is to completely modernise the power supply system of Bangladesh. It requires a lot of skilled people. For this, we are planning to conduct a boot camp with engineers to create such manpower in the country. We are doing the same thing in other countries of the world.
Apart from load shedding, we are going to solve all the problems of electricity through a smart grid. Besides, we want to prepare the large population of the country for this. If the engineers in our country take training from us, we will be able to export skilled manpower to other countries too.
How did you get such recognition all over the world after going to the US from Bangladesh?
After passing the HSC exam, I went to the US in 1981 to pursue an undergraduate degree in Petrochemicals. I went there and enrolled at Tulsa University, Oklahoma, where I majored in electrical and computer engineering. After graduation, I joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as a consultant. I became a senior programme manager in that company. Then I joined IBM. 
I have worked in many companies worldwide as a consultant. Then I established NKSoft in 1997 after creating that electricity software. And now I am here.
Tell us about your family in Bangladesh.
Our ancestral home is in the Motbi village of Lakhsmipur sadar upazila. My father had a bus company called Manzoor Morshed Transport before the independence of the country. The buses of that company used to travel from Raipur upazila of Lakshmipur to Chattogram. However, I grew up in Chattogram in my childhood with 11 siblings. We have many relatives in our village. I still love to go to the village house whenever I have time.
Bangladesh / Electricity / Power and Energy / electricity coverage
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