Interview: P. Sudhakar,CMD,ECIL, Hyderabad
Commitment and Success
P. Sudhakar, Chairman and Managing Director of Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad, has been with ECIL since 1979. He has contributed immensely towards development of systems for Nuclear, Defence, Aerospace, Security, Information technology and e-governance sectors in the country.
He did his graduation in Electrical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Warangal and post-graduation in Integrated Electronics and Circuits from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He had undergone Advanced Management Training at European schools of Management in France, Italy and Germany.
Sudhakar has specialised in the areas of design, manufacturing, testing and commissioning of Control and Instrumentation systems required for Indian Nuclear program. The systems developed and delivered by him are successfully operating at all the indigenously built Nuclear Power Plants in India. He built the Command and Control systems for BRAHMOS and AKASH Missile Programme in close association with Defence Research and Development Laboratory. He is associated with number of projects of strategic importance for the nation undertaken by ECIL.
Under his leadership ECIL received the prestigious SCOPE Gold Trophy for R&D, Technology Development and Innovation for 2012-13 and INS Industrial Excellence Award for 2013-14. He was awarded as Electronics Man of the Year 2013-14 by Electronics Industries Association. NIT Warangal presented him Distinguished Alumni Professional Achievement Award in 2014. He was honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award by International Society Automation in 2015 for his outstanding contributions to Automation in India.
P. Sudhakar, Chairman and Managing Director, Electronics Corporation of India, speaks to Aeromag Asia about the glorious saga of innovative revolution in the field of strategic electronics spearheaded by ECIL, on the threshold of its Golden Jubilee. Excerpts from the interview:
From developing antenna feed systems for ISRO to producingtransducers and sensors for defence sector, ECIL has even reached out to Antarctic. What is new at the strategic front?
We have always been known as a strategic electronics company. We would like to continue this journey and try to develop critical technologies required for strategic sectors. We were one of the first few people to get in to the aerospace sector from a small suit-case terminal to mammoth 32-mtr antenna we designed, developed and supplied to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). We have been one of the prime suppliers for all requirements of ISRO. Our portfolio includes earth station antennae, small antennae and deep space network antennae. Last year we supplied a data reception centre at Antarctica, for National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC). As spinoffs from aerospace achievements, we have moved on to similar systems required for defence sector, particularly, VSAT solutions. As for small components, we have developed transducers and sensors for DRDO, RCI Laboratories; one of them is the actuator for Astra Missile. Similarly on the sensor side, we have been able to make LVDTs. This is one of the very closely guarded technologies in the world for missile programmes. We have been making the small potentiometers, which we now provide for the indigenous AKASH missile system. The inertial sensors, like gyros, synchros, that we make are now utilised in gun control, battle tanks like T-72 and BMP-II type of applications. We have also developed sensor packages which are very critical for some of our aerospace and defence applications.
How is the progress in ECIL’s missile support systems?
We have been in the Akash missile development program right from its inception. We have developed the command control software required for these applications. There are many new concepts like multi-sensor fusion, and assessment of the threat perception, then the kill capacity. All these things, we need to incorporate in our software and that is what we have done. We have successfully deployed the C4I systems – command control communication, computer and intelligent systems – for the Akash weapon systems for the Air force as well as Army requirements. This is one of the critical equipments, more like a heart of the system for the Akash missile. We also have missile check out facilities for the Akash missile program, both of these things indigenously developed with the support of DRDO.
We have been involved with Brahmos missile too from the very beginning. We developed the entire C4I ground support systems, including Mobile Command Post as well as Mobile Autonomous Launcher, for Brahmos and we have gone into the serial production; we have already supplied for two regiments of the Army and one squadron of the Air force. These are very complex systems involving the VSAT Communication Systems too. We are supplying sensors and actuators for the ASTRA programme also.
Though it is still in the initial stages of development, one of our most recent breakthroughs would be the airborne radar C41 placed on the missile. This is a very high-end technology, which is developed only in a few countries. I am very happy to share with you that this critical technology has been successfully developed in ECIL at lab level; we have completed all tests and met the requisite specifications and very shortly it will be going for the flight trials.
ECIL is well-known for its integrated security systems. As threat perceptions increase what new solutions do you offer?
We have been pioneers and in the forefront in security systems for the past many years. We designed and developed an integrated security system for the Indian Parliament. We continue to support the system and we bring upgrades into it. It is one of the finest systems in operation. We have been supplying such integrated security systems for various important installations in the country like the nuclear power plants, some of the strategic locations of the defence and some key offices and residents like Rashtrapati Bhavan. We have supplied integrated security systems for the Delhi Secretariat and many state legislative assemblies in the country. As the threat perception is increasing, we are able to come up with newer solutions and newer products in the security sector.
ECIL’s Electronic Voting Machines have proved to be simple and very user-friendly. Is there much demand from abroad for these?
We have supplied our Electronic Voting Machines to our neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. We have more demands from some African countries. We had to totally customise those machines specifically for one of the African countries modifying it according to the language and different literal process applicable there. We have an exclusive state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, located in a 40 acre campus; we manufacture the entire voting machine in a most secure environment. We have established special processes and procedures to ensure that whatever we manufacture is technologically up to the mark and at the same time the whole manufacturing process is very secured, transparent and traceable. We have supplied more than 8 lakhs of these machines to the Central Election Commission in India and a substantial number to the State Election Commissions as well. We are in the process of expanding the production capacity for the voting machines.
What are the prospects for e-governance applications?
As we revolutionised the Indian literacy process with our Electronic Voting Machine, we see many opportunities in the e-governance area also. We were first in automating bank operations here. We launched computers in the banking sector and subsequently introduced them in the insurance sector also. We have developed applications for various government departments. For example, the Sales Tax department in Maharashtra uses our applications for revenue collection. Similarly, in Karnataka land revenue records automation was implemented with our technological support. Another vital application was for the procurement market of local farm products. When the farmers go and sell their products in the market, it involves lot of manual processes; we have automated the process, where they can go to a counter, check the current rates, declare what produce they propose to sell and immediately collect the cheque for it. This is a simple application which is very useful to farmers. Like this there are many applications that we have developed in the e-governance sector.
ECIL now has a variety of products in various advanced sectors. Do you propose to venture into new areas of operation or go in for collaborations?
The prime motto of ECIL has always been self-reliance in electronics. So in the earlier days in 1960s and 1970s whatever was required for the country in the electronic field we made it, whether it was small components like a capacitor or resistor or home appliances like Television. EC TV was one of the most popular television sets available in India. ECIL was the first company in India to make digital computers and many applications around the digital computers. We delivered both the hardware and software in large quantities. So for us, Make in India is not a new thing; we have been making in the country right from the inception. But with changing times we have been looking at opportunities for technological collaborations. Today we conceive a product as a judicious mix of both indigenous as well as collaborative technologies. We have collaborated with international firms for many products including defence products and we have been exploring every opportunity that comes and assessing the merits before taking a decision on partnerships. Currently we have very successful collaborations with foreign vendors and we are going ahead. We are not looking for a manufacturing unit as such, we always look at the technology aspects, whether we can get into technical collaboration or bring in value addition to the products.
We have a Joint Venture, ECIL-Rapiscan Ltd. Rapiscan. Rapiscan is a US company that makes baggage inspection systems. Today in every airport in the country you would see ECIL Rapiscan X-ray baggage inspection systems. It’s a profit making company with a turnover of Rs 80 crores. It is one of the successful JVs in Civil Aviation.
Research and innovation plays a crucial role in the development of organisations in your area. How far ECIL has progressed in this regard?
In a field like electronics without R&D it will be very difficult. We need to constantly innovate, bring out new products and keep abreast with the new developments in the sector. For the last 49 years, our lifeline has been research and development. In all these years, we have brought out so many innovative products – from the first digital computer, TV, programmable logic controller, 32-mtr deep-space antenna, which has been successfully used for the ‘Chandrayan’ project, or the C4I systems that we developed for the missile program, to the latest electronics voting machines. These are all fruits of indigenous R&D.
How is the order book position?
Somewhere in the late 90s we crossed Rs 1,000 crores turnover mark and we have been maintaining it ever since with reasonably good profits. Last year we had about Rs 50 crores of profit and a turnover of Rs 1,200 crores plus. We have reasonably good orders; we will be closing this financial year with more than Rs 2000 crores worth of the order book.
How do you propose to celebrate the Golden Jubilee Year?
On April 11, 2016 we will be entering into the 50th year. We would wish to meet all our customers, partners, supporters and reassure them that we would continue on this glorious path of critical technology developments and deployment and let us all make our country proud with all kinds of innovative products.