A Blend of Business Acumen with a Heart of Gold
By Manu Shah
HOUSTON: When IACCGH member Bal Sareen set out to be an entrepreneur in 1999, his business plan impressed every banker. The hitch: no one would approve the loan. Eventually he acquired IEE, Inc., an engineering plant with an SBA guaranteed loan but it was really in 2002 when ConocoPhillips purchased this plant for its prime land that the Company received a lifeline and found its stride.
Bal plowed this money into building a brand new 100,000 sq. feet manufacturing facility in Sulphur, Louisiana and duplicated it in Pearland, Texas in 2011. Today, the company is one of the leading Shell and Heat Exchange manufacturers in Texas.
Bal Sareen, 72, is a native of Delhi. A third division in his Higher Secondary exam nearly derailed his plans of becoming a mechanical engineer – a decision, he recalls, he took at the age of 10. However, he aced the joint entrance exam for RIT, Jamshedpur and graduated in second place out of 900 students.
This academic success, Bal reflects, made him “believe in himself” and led him to IIT, Delhi for his Masters. While studying, he was offered the position of a Lecturer – an offer he took up as soon as he completed his Masters. Why teaching? Not only is it his passion, but growing up, Bal explains, he saw so many teachers who couldn’t or wouldn’t engage their students. He loves teaching so much that to this day he delivers lectures on Heat Exchangers in refineries across the US and goes out of his way to explain any query from his employees.
In 1974, Bal wound up at McMaster University, Canada thanks to a Commonwealth scholarship where he completed his second Masters. Two years later, he immigrated to the US and worked with several companies like Lepel Corp., Fuller Co. and Ohmstede, Inc. before striking out on his own.
Brask, Inc., named after the initials of his family members, (Bal, Rita, Amy, Sangeeta and Kevin) is a provider of “cradle to grave” services for Shell and Heat Exchangers for the downstream and petrochemical industry. Fair business practices, a competent team and a willingness to go that extra step to ensure customer satisfaction helped the Company record a 20% growth for 15 straight years and clock revenues in excess of $60 million.
Apart from his entrepreneurial success, Bal is also known to rarely turn down a request for sponsorship of community events. This spirit of service, Bal says, is imbibed from his father who was an authority on the Ramayana and lived according to its precepts all his life. The Bal and Rita Sareen clinic at India House bears this out where Bal singlehandedly underwrote the cost to set up a healthcare center providing low cost medical facilities. As IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia puts it – Bal Sareen is a blend of business acumen with “a heart of gold.”
Bal currently serves as the President of the Hindu Worship Society temple where he devotes his time and energy to revive it to its former prestige.