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As entrepreneurs, when Amar and Ani Kapur reflect on their amazing success story, the Worcester community and Worcester Polytechnic Institute come up frequently.
“We wouldn’t have been successful without the Worcester community,” Amar said on a February afternoon as the two relaxed in Florida with two of their four grandchildren.
And successful they have been, growing a niche medical gas supply company into a cluster of niche businesses with customers around the world and a string of industry awards for excellence.
It’s been a long journey marked by strong family values that extend to employees and customers, plus business acumen, the ability to adapt, and a dose of good fortune.
Amar left Mumbai, India, to study chemical engineering at WPI and pursue the American dream.
Half a world away, Ani’s family had left Turkey for a better life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there, Ani connected with an aunt who was working at WPI and would become her sponsor as she emigrated to the U.S. It wasn’t long before the two met at a WPI party, and they began their journey together.
Armed with a master’s degree, Amar’s career took him to Illinois, but opportunity knocked while he was on an assignment doing engineering work for long-time Central Massachusetts tech manufacturer Digital Equipment Corp.’s new plant in Hudson. He knew DEC needed a supplier of gasses, and he knew how to get that job done.
An idea was born. Ani was supportive; he won the contract; Aimtek was founded in 1973, and the pair went to work building a family business.
That first business operated out of their third-floor Worcester apartment and involved a leap of faith in investing their modest savings in supplying a range of medical gasses to educational and healthcare clients.
There were lots of days when the future looked uncertain, Ani said, but they had a deep belief in each other.
He handled sales and the product; she handled the back office, from billing and shipping to payroll, a role she continues on a part-time basis today.
They’d found a strong niche market and soon expanded to a site in the city, then to a larger site on Washington Street in Auburn. But it wasn’t long before larger competitors encroached.
“When you start losing customers and the commodity end of the products is going to your (larger) competitors, you get the sense that maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy,” Amar told WBJ in 2015.
Finding a niche was still the philosophy, but the Kapurs shifted the product line to metals and alloys.
Then Amar’s contacts led him to a faltering aircraft repair business. From the outside, it looked like a quite different business, but to Amar it was still a business built on combustion, a topic he knew well.
That belief in each other was vital to the decision to make another pivot and in 2003 buy what is now known as Atech Turbine Components, said Ani.
Today, the Kapurs’ daughter Rita heads Atech Turbine Components, which does a brisk business in rebuilding and overhauling engines and parts for Connecticut aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
Their son Jay leads Aimtek. That business now specializes in metals, alloys and parts, largely for aviation and aerospace.
And the business grew to include plasma spray equipment and powders after the acquisition of Bay State Surface Technologies.
Two other children are not involved in the family business.
Over the years, satisfied customers grew as the companies worked trade shows, first across the country, then across the globe. International sales represent 50% of the business, Amar said with justifiable pride.
The companies are two-time winners of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Massachusetts Subcontractor of the Year award, three-time winners of Pratt & Whitney’s Minority-Business Enterprise Supplier of the Year award, a five-time Defense Supply Center Gold Medalist, and United Technologies’ Supplier Gold medal winner 10 years in a row.
Amar’s involvement in the community also grew.
He has served as vice chairman of Worcester’s Zoning Board and as a board member of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. He’s been president of the advisor council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and chairman of WPI’s Venture Forum. He’s a founding life member of the India Society of Worcester.
Peter Hurst, president of Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, has worked with Amar Kapur since taking over leadership of the organization in 2015. He describes Kapur, an early member of the council, as a mentor on the topic of minority purchasing and a shining example of what small business success looks like.
Hurst recalls in 2017, when the now 262-member organization launched an initiative to have its larger members purchase more from smaller minority businesses, Amar Kapur was the first to volunteer.
Amar has a lot of gravitas when he speaks, and his strong ethical compass is always on display, Hurst said.
CORRECTIONS: A previous version of this story contained multiple errors. Ani Kapur was born in Turkey, not Armenia. The proper name of one of their two companies is Atech Turbine Components, not Atech Turbine. International sales comprise 50% of the company's sales, not 35%.
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