From trashed guitars to electric cars, Ash Gupta has blended a life and career that have been equally eventful. He tell us about previous and current ventures, and how he still rocks at 74.
History and Theory of Architecture
|Year of Graduation
At the moment
While most folk my age have retired or are thinking of it, we are about to launch a new market transformational low carbon technology company focussed on mitigating the effects of power quality [PQ] problems using unique, electro-magnetic technology. In 2007 Leonardo published a paper which showed that in the EU alone PQ problems cost €150 billion annually. Our newco will help ensure that power distribution networks can support the proliferation of all-electric vehicles (EVs) and ground-source heat pumps. Without intervention the grid will suffer thermal gain through voltage imbalance.
Your time at the University
I was at boarding school at John Watson’s in Edinburgh from the age of 7. On starting university in 1965 I was playing 9 gigs a week in a band called “The Images” but never missed a 9am lecture. I started by studying Geography. The band played often at Men’s Union bops and Uni-Departmental Balls, but my musical fun came at a cost when I was carpeted by the Dean of the Faculty after second year. I sold my instruments, changed course to an ordinary degree and buckled down to my studies, finishing with a pass with distinction as the first ever student to graduate in History and Theory of Architecture.
I fell in love with Trisha, a lovely, vivacious, blonde, freckled girl from Lancashire on the B.Arch. course, which overlapped with mine. We married, had a baby girl in her year out and I joined Ford of Europe as a graduate trainee, all during 1969! When we first met, we had made a solemn pact to dedicate our entire lives to making the world a better place. I set out to build Ford’s first electric car with the mission to mitigate the damage being created by vehicular traffic to the historic cores of the world’s great cities. 1969 was a bit soon for Ford to mass produce electric cars but I did play a key part in the Project Bobcat Team that created the world’s fastest selling 0-1 Million Selling Car, the Ford Fiesta, which I helped to launch in Monte Carlo in 1975.
The musical component of my life stood me in good stead as did my stint as University Charities Café Entertainment Convener. Much later in life, a ’62 Fender Telecaster that I accidentally trashed on stage after supporting The Who at McGoos in 1966 became famous for its sound after I rebuilt it and spawned my own signature instrument by FretKing which was launched at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) in Las Vegas in 2013 and just discontinued in 2021. I think I could honestly say I worked hard and played hard while at the University of Edinburgh.
Your experiences since leaving the University
My first role at Ford was within the Automotive Safety Planning Office where my task was to ensure that Ford vehicles complied with international safety regulations. I learned about every engineering and design aspect of cars, vans, buses and trucks. I then helped establish the Ford of Europe Transportation Office where innovative transport systems were born and developed. I went on to be part of the Small Car Product Planning team that developed the Ford Fiesta and later joined Ford of Europe Marketing co-ordinating the pan-Europe launch for Fiesta and controlling advertising and sales promotion across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Because of the success of Fiesta, I was offered a fast-track to a directorship of Ford of Britain. The catch was that I had to complete five jobs in five years to plug the areas where I lacked experience and I was initially sent to manage the Scottish west coast dealer group. By then the tensions generated by two, career driven graduates tugged my first marriage apart. Back in Edinburgh I met Christine, also a Geography graduate, and fell deeply in love. She taught me to ski and have fun whereas before I would only strive for corporate success, and we married in 1980.
I chose to leave Ford after my first assignment and was appointed to a senior new business role at a Saatchi owned advertising agency in Edinburgh, Hall Advertising. I was not comfortable there it as it was not a meritocracy like Ford, so I left to set up Ash Gupta Advertising which later became Ash Gupta Communications Group and quickly won the reputation for effective, creative and award-winning work.
Over the years clients began to draw Christine and me into the business of seeding all-new low carbon technologies which could disrupt entire markets. We became the Gupta Partnership which now trades as Gupta Smart Energy. As corporate bridge-makers, we offer brokerage and commercialisation of low-carbon energy partnerships with a focus on power quality.
There is NOTHING in life that you cannot do if you believe in yourself and if you try. I won a recording contract when I was 18, but stopped playing to prioritise my studies, taking it up again after my first marriage broke down. Music gives me a huge amount of happiness. I have played with some of the world’s top rock guitarists and run my own live monthly showcase for musicians at the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh. Don’t be afraid to mix the real you with the business you. My clients love my shows and the fact that I still rock at 74!
The Gupta Partnership (external)
Gupta Smart Energy (external)