Chang­ing the Tele­com Ball­game!

Voice&Data - - SPECIAL REPORT -

One of the found­ing pil­lars of In­dian tele­com, Tirunelvel­i Viswanatha­n Ra­machan­dran is cred­ited with set­ting up a reg­u­la­tor, re­vamp­ing of cel­lu­lar mo­bile li­cens­ing, in­puts for the world­class Na­tional Tele­com Pol­icy (1999) and most im­por­tantly mak­ing COAI the ac­cepted voice of the in­dus­try. Voice & Data hon­oured him this year with the ‘Life­time Con­tri­bu­tion Award’ at its an­nual Tele­com Lead­er­ship Fo­rum in March for his high im­pact con­tri­bu­tion to the in­dus­try. In an in­ter­ac­tion with him, we got to know more about him and his ‘young at heart’ spirit.

He might be 69, but his zest­ful­ness shows the spark in him to bring in the sec­ond wave of dis­rupt­ing change into the tele­com sec­tor, where he spent al­most two decades nur­tur­ing the in­dus­try.

Tirunelvel­i Viswanatha­n Ra­machan­dran, pop­u­larly known as ‘TV’ in his cir­cle is still young at heart and wishes to be 30 years younger to con­trib­ute more to the tele­com in­dus­try.

He is cred­ited for his role as the Direc­tor Gen­eral of COAI for 12 long years, where he fought for the in­ter­est of the telcos. He played an ex­tremely im­por­tant role since its birth to the stage of es­tab­lish­ing it as In­dian tele­com’s most cred­i­ble and re­spected, pro­fes­sional body that gained high in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, too.

His con­tri­bu­tions were also crit­i­cal in set­ting up the reg­u­la­tory body TRAI, in the re­vamp­ing of cel­lu­lar mo­bile li­cens­ing, for­mu­la­tion of NTP’99 and many such event­ful hap­pen­ings.

Sip­ping his masala chai, Ra­machan­dran rec­ol­lects walk­ing the cor­ri­dors of the tele­com depart­ment, the TRAI and many courts on a trot to bring in tele­com lib­er­al­iza­tion dur­ing the 90’s, which paved the way for mil­lions to dream big and have a mo­bile phone in their hands.

Though chal­lenges were aplenty, but he moved on and car­ried the onus to take this in­dus­try for­ward, “Peo­ple In Septem­ber 1994, he was the first CEO of Ster­ling Cel­lu­lar (one of the two par­ents of what is Voda­fone In­dia to­day. The other par­ent was Hutchi­son Max of Bom­bay) In Septem­ber 1997, he set up and man­age the in­dus­try body Cel­lu­lar Op­er­a­tors of In­dia (COAI) as its Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man. The so­called ‘dep­u­ta­tion’ from Essar for two years, went on to be­come a per­ma­nent as­sign­ment with COAI as its Direc­tor Gen­eral. In De­cem­ber 2014, re­tired from full time ser­vice with Voda­fone as Res­i­dent Direc­tor, Reg­u­la­tory Af­fairs & Govt Re­la­tions but con­tin­u­ing with them as a Con­sul­tant for Pol­icy & Reg­u­la­tory Af­fairs. used to say ‘ TV is crazy’, but I per­sisted be­cause I loved the sec­tor,” Ra­machan­dran says.

For Ra­machan­dran, the tec­tonic shift in his ca­reer from tyres (as he spent 25 years with Dun­lop) to tele­com (he says both rep­re­sent mo­bil­ity and both start with the let­ter ‘T’!) was a very chal­leng­ing task. Tele­com was at its nascent stage when TV joined it and peo­ple hardly used to know any­thing about mo­bile tele­com although Na­tional Tele­com Pol­icy (NTP)’94 was in place, but he han­dled this new ball game with fi­nesse and kept mov­ing for­ward.

Early Life

Ra­machan­dran was born in Chen­nai on Oc­to­ber 16, 1945, in a fam­ily of two sis­ters and one younger brother. His fa­ther be­ing a rail­way of­fi­cer, had a trans­fer­able job and that’s why Ra­machan­dran’s early up­bring­ing took place in dif­fer­ent places in north In­dia as he stud­ied ju­nior level stud­ies in Gu­jarat, Ra­jasthan, UP and then moved on to Chen­nai for high school in Hindu High school.

“As I did my ju­nior school in north so Hindu High school was the only school where Hindi was a sec­ond lan­guage. I couldn’t pass in Tamil, so I was put into that,” he quips.

Af­ter com­plet­ing his school­ing, he moved on to Vivekanand­a Col­lege for grad­u­a­tion and then in 1966, he passed out from the Madras Chris­tian Col­lege af­ter study­ing MSc(Physics), with spe­cial­i­sa­tion in Wire­less and Elec­tron­ics.

Physics was his first love as he wanted to be­come a physi­cist or en­gi­neer; sec­ond to that was Armed Forces. “I wanted to join Air­forces but that did not work as no­body would have ap­proved that in my house...any­way my eye­sight was also a prob­lem,” he says.

How­ever, Ra­machan­dran re­calls his grand­fa­ther ad­vis­ing him to be­come a lawyer as he was an em­i­nent judge in Madras High Court and later in the Supreme Court. “My grand­fa­ther was quite a ded­i­cated jurist. He is used to ad­vise me when I was a small boy...’please come into law af­ter me. Do take over my prac­tice

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.