Don Worthington

Rock Hill company counts on its lighting for a bright future

The bulb on the top is an ARVA LED. The bulb on the bottom is a traditional incandescent bulb.
The bulb on the top is an ARVA LED. The bulb on the bottom is a traditional incandescent bulb.

The walk down the darkened hallway is eerie. The only light comes from windows, revealing the cubicles where chemists and the staff of Bluestar Silicones once worked to make silicones for automotive, aviation and sticky label businesses, among others.

Before Bluestar Silicones, the building was part of the Highland Mill complex on the south side of Rock Hill.

Today, the building houses the offices and distribution center for ARVA, a lighting company that bills itself as environmentally friendly.

At the end of the hallway is a right turn and a metal door. Open the door and you are overwhelmed by light. So bright, in fact, that it seems you have walked into daylight.

The daylight brightness is one the selling points for ARVA, says the company’s director, Shahil Amin.

The bright lights are LEDs produced by ARVA. The company’s technology produces a product that not only results in a safer environment, Amin said, but one that is environmentally friendly and cost efficient.

There are no heavy metals or mercury in the LED lights, and 98 percent of an LED light is recyclable.

The LED technology produces a bulb that gives the brightest light for the fewest watts. To get the needed brightness, the wattage of traditional incandescent lights ranges from 60 to 1,000. For CFL – or compact fluorescent – bulbs, the range is from 23 watts to 300 watts. The same range of brightness for an LED bulb is from 8 watts to 120 watts, saving on energy costs, Amin said.

The LED bulb also has a longer life expectancy. With up to 60,000 hours of operation, an LED light could burn for up to 12 to 15 years before needing to be replaced.

And with LED lights there is no need for the ballast, the component in a light that usually fails first and needs to be replaced.

ARVA’s LED bulbs are being made in Taiwan and China. Just five people work at the company’s Rock Hill office and distribution center.

But it is the kind of knowledge-based company that Rock Hill is trying to recruit or help grow. ARVA may be the best kind of tech company because it uses its technology to make a product.

ARVA began as a way for Harry Amin to create a business for his three children. His ideal was to make a solar, wind-powered light that could be used to illuminate some of the world’s darkest places, such as his home country of Tanzania.

His HypoSys is a viable product where there is no electric grid. But in the United States, ARVA looked for a different product. The company wanted one that would be marketable but still environmentally friendly.

About eight years of research and development led to their HyLite line of LED lights.

“There are so many competitors and it’s a race to the bottom,” Shahil Amin said. Everyone wants to make an LED product that is more efficient than other bulbs for the least cost.

Being cost competitive means finding the right mix of suppliers for the computer components that are the basis of an LED. “It’s a huge puzzle to find things that work in sync,” Shahil Amin said.

To find the right component makers, ARVA has a network of “mad scientist” suppliers who eat, breathe and sleep their product, Shahil Amin said.

The company also must find the the right markets. ARVA is concentrating on the retrofit market. ARVA officials used the services of the Technology Incubator at Knowledge Park to help them connect with possible clients.

ARVA has done some work for Rock Hill schools, relighting the band rooms at Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools. The company also recently announced a contract with city of Georgetown, S.C.

Georgetown has upgraded 600 of its 150-watt high pressure sodium lamps with 36-watt HyLite lamps. During the next five years, the LED upgrade will reduce Georgetown’s energy usage by 1.3 million kilowatts, saving the city more than 76 percent in energy costs, according to ARVA estimates.

In addition to the financial benefits, the upgrade to LED lights will offset up to 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to planting 1,828 trees or eliminating 2.1 million auto-miles, ARVA estimates.

Shahil Amin said the Georgetown contract is huge for ARVA in creating marketing credibility. Previously, most of the company’s work was the result of word-of-mouth advertising.

It’s also a big step for Shahil Amin, who at 25 is just a few years removed from the University of South Carolina, where he studied marketing and management.

In the race to the bottom against competitors such as General Electric, Sylvania and Phillips, Shahil Amin wants to make sure that ARVA secures its niche in the market.

“They have the bigger name, I have the better product,” Shahil Amin said. “What drives us? It’s fun. We love being competitors.”

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 •