Redefining Engineering Design – Rathi Perumal

Behind every new venture there is a compelling “why,” an animating spirit entrepreneurs bring to every new challenge and opportunity. For Rathi Perumal, founder of Uyir Engineering, the answer lies in the name. Uyir, Tamil for “life,” is what she brings to each project, and what distinguishes her from the pack. It’s a thoughtful, philosophical point of difference, yet fundamentally practical. Contemporary engineering design is people-focused: creating a well-designed space imbued with energy and spirit pays endless dividends for all who use it. Rathi has seized on this concept and made it her business: Uyir Engineering is a life-centric engineering design firm and declaration of her helping-hand worldview.

Rathi, who holds an M.Eng. in Electrical Engineering, formed Uyir in 2020, seeing an opportunity to make a difference in the building construction industry, and willing to do anything it took to achieve success, “I don’t believe in safety nets. I never have,” she says. “It truly meant starting from scratch, from finding clients to learning back-office finance. It also meant sorting out which projects to accept, resulting in times where reluctantly saying “no” took precedence over compromise. Clarifying her firm’s brand and values to the market makes finding and working with clients simpler and more rewarding given their shared outlook, “I have beautiful clients. I love them, and I would do anything for them.”

We’re specialized in creating open office workspaces that have a modern touch. Our clients are willing to be creative, willing to take that step into the future.

The road less traveled might be the character-forming one with the greatest rewards, but it’s less traveled for a reason. Rathi arrived in Canada from India in 2010, immediately tackling her Masters. After graduating, Rathi worked in the tool and die industry in Detroit, Windsor, Michigan and Tennessee, her career then taking her across south and central Ontario to Leamington, Chatham, London, and Brampton. Some of the less appealing realities of her engineering field began to reveal themselves. Despite abundant opportunities to make it so, the work often wasn’t creative or fulfilling. But it wasn’t until 2017, and arriving in Kingston, that founding her own firm began to take center stage. Family, from her parents back in India to her brother in Philippines, were supportive but worried: Rathi being the first to tackle entrepreneurship. Further increasing the degree of difficulty, engineering is a highly regulated and male-dominated field. Carving out a niche for a life-centric engineering design firm that develops “conscious engineering designs through our intuitiveness, expansive creativity and robust skills” took next-level tenacity. It is therefore little wonder she says, “I am learning important lessons through it all, learning very important things about myself. I believe I’ve grown spiritually through this process.”

Kingston resonates with Rathi, making her feel at home. That happiness and contentment – which she also feels every time she walks into her home – is perfectly balanced by professional opportunities: Kingston is less well-served by the bigger engineering firms, offering an opportunity to provide services without big-city overhead. Her recommendations for newcomers to the city form an astute list: stay true to your values; prioritize mental and physical health; be open to learning; seek community and mentorship; be resilient and patient; and embrace uncertainty.

I’ve found mentors who make me feel valued. I’ve never met such gracious women: Having a network like this lets me see what I want to grow into. 

Rathi is making it all work: business is strong and revenue is up. Uyir Engineering is established as “one of Canada’s first women-owned global engineering consulting firms.” A Top 40 under 40 Kingston Young Professional, she has built a people-first company from the ground up based on a clear philosophy and set of values. Her creativity and willingness to find answers make her a well-deserved Startup Newcomer Entrepreneur Award winner, and ideally positioned for long-term growth and success. Rathi Perumal is bringing life back to engineering.