The Water Guardian
Safeguarding the world’s most precious resource has never been more important, and Trident Water Systems is determined to impart sound, sustainable practice into industrial wastewater activities across Asia
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: David Knott
“It is critical that proper wastewater treatment is implemented in every country and every industry to prevent pollution of our precious waterways, rivers and water bodies. Clean water is a finite resource, but with innovative technology and proper management and enforcement, it is a resource that can be rejuvenated and kept in abundance.”
Theron Madhavan and his company are on a mission to safeguard the world’s most precious resource – water.
As Founder and CEO of Singapore-based Trident Water Systems (TWS), the entrepreneur is emboldened and determined to play his part in ensuring that industrial wastewater is managed responsibly for the betterment of the planet.
It is a big responsibility, Madhavan all too aware of the size of the task at hand.
“The industrial wastewater sector is highly fragmented and enforcement and corporate compliance is still something that needs improvements,” he explains.
“However, it is heartening to see many initiatives and the adoption of UN’s Global Compact Network and the Sustainable Development Goals by many industry players – it’s a good start and I believe that much more is to come.”
So, how is TWS positioned to help?
Established by Madhavan in 2017, the company today stands as a reputed specialist in industrial wastewater treatment, with more than 150 of its systems installed across a range of industries, including oil and gas, textiles, electro-plating, food and beverage, fungicide, palm oil and ground water treatment, among many others.
This equates to a geographical footprint that spans Asia and Latin America, specifically Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, China, India, Bangladesh, Colombia and Peru, its 60 employees spread between the first two countries.
Madhavan himself has been in the business world for around two decades, although not from a background that would suggest he was in line to set up his own wastewater treatment business.
“I started late in the commercial world,” he recalls. “My early years were spent in the Air Force as an Air Defence Artillery Officer.
“When I left the service at the age of 31, I joined an engineering company that provided various services to the oil and gas industry. I learnt a lot there – how to manage projects, how to handle staff from workers to managers. The time I spent in the military was useful in that respect.”
In 2003 he left Singapore to design, build and manage an oil sludge and slop reception and treatment facility in Indonesia, an experience which offered a valuable insight into how to commercially operate abroad. In Bangladesh, Madhavan was a key driver in the development of the country’s first central effluent treatment plant based in Dhaka, the capital.
“I stayed on with that company until 2017 when I decided to branch out on my own and founded Trident Water Systems,” he continues. “By then, I had already built up a vast network of contacts as well as a deep knowledge base on wastewater treatment technology. It was an easy transition.”
The crux of TWS’s wastewater treatment offering centres around its own inhouse technology, known as the Electro-Contaminant Removal system, or ECR for short.
It is a chemical-free treatment process which utilises direct current and metal electrodes to trigger the coagulation and flocculation of contaminants from wastewater, a system which Madhavan proudly believes is the best available on the market.
“It is a superior technology that is also cost effective,” he adds. “The tech is extremely effective in removing colour, breaking oil emulsions and removing heavy metals like chromium, nickel and arsenic. It’s what makes us the default choice for many customers in the textile, oil and gas, and plating industries.”
The ECR technology is housed in various products and models, including the Mobile Effluent Treatment System (METS).
These are 20-foot containerised units capable of deployment in remote areas in quick time, onshore Indonesian oil and gas drilling operations being a prime example of its use. “Any wastewater generated from the drilling operations are treated to meet the national discharge parameters,” Madhavan says. “Or the water is recycled for re-use in areas where a clean water supply is scarce.”
It is a highly innovative and practical solution, the result of a concerted and dedicated approach to research and development within the organisation.
“Innovation and technology is critical,” the CEO continues. “We are constantly investing in developing new technologies and enhancing the ones we already possess.
“A key partner of Trident is Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute, known as NEWRI. It is one of the top research institutes in the world specialising in water and wastewater, and we collaborate with them to develop suitable and promising tech for commercialisation.
“For example, we are in the midst of rolling out an Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) and ECR-Fenton. These are really promising techs that are robust and will be able to handle a wide spectrum of wastewaters.”
This highlights the importance of collaboration with other organisations to TWS.
As a relatively small operation, the company relies on third parties in many areas, especially where it has to integrate other equipment into its own process solutions. Madhavan identifies South Korea’s CYAG as an example, the company supporting TWS with its OH-Radical Micro-Nano Bubbler technology that has been successfully deployed in several installations.
Powered by people
Although the CEO recognises that TWS is currently a small outfit in terms of its own number of staff, he is quick to state just how critical they are to its success.
“We want to go beyond just core competency,” Madhavan explains. “We want to achieve core ingenuity. The industrial wastewater sector is an immensely diverse area. We have to deal with SMEs that may need our help to meet discharge specifications, and also with MNCs that may have extremely stringent demands. Not just that – we operate around the world and have to deal with different cultures, languages and norms.
“Our people must be able to navigate these diverse and disparate facets. They have to be able to meet the client’s expectations through innovative and sometimes out-of-the box solutions.”
This means that academic credentials alone are not enough when it comes to recruitment at TWS. Attitude and mentality is equally if not more important to the CEO, the ability to think independently and the gumption to take on responsibility being key characteristics the company looks for.
Once onboarded, staff are provided with in-depth training, upgrade courses and mentorship from leadership. Crucially, TWS tries to employ locally wherever possible, helping to build up skills within communities and stimulate local economies.
Moving forwards, ensuring the right people are in the organisation will be critical to TWS realising its ambitious plans for expansion.
As the conversation comes to a close, Madhavan outlines his plans for the future, reinforcing the company’s mission as a water custodian.
“We are in the midst of a capital raising exercise to build up a war chest that will enable Trident to leverage on its position as a premier wastewater solution provider,” he says. “We will be increasing our bandwidth significantly to move into new markets and also into the build, own, operate segment, which requires substantial up-front investment.
“Just as important, we will be investing in our people and R&D to further the vision of the company, which is to be able to provide a Trident solution for every drop of contaminated water in the world.”