Bengaluru based aeronautical entrepreneur and aficionado par excellence of the traditional Bharateeya music rolled into one, 67 years old G Raj Narayan has found a perfect balance and harmonious poise in turning the Radel Group he founded in 1979 as an industrial power house that caters to the needs of both the musical world and aerospace sector with an equal gusto.
On the face of it, the Bharateeya classical music and aerospace technology appear to have very little in common and could be considered mutually exclusive areas to be on a common platform of an industrial enterprise. Yet, Bengaluru based aeronautical entrepreneur and aficionado par excellence of the traditional Bharateeya music rolled into one, 67 years old G Raj Narayan has found a perfect balance and harmonious poise in turning the Radel Group he founded in 1979 as an industrial power house that caters to the needs of both the musical world and aerospace sector with an equal gusto. His robust, childhood passion for classical music as well as aerospace technology continues to drive the all round growth of Radel, ideally situated in the sprawling expanse of the Electronics city on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Belonging to an accomplished family of musicians, Narayan did also notch up the sterling distinction of performing musical concerts on the national stage. By all reckoning, his splendid mastery of classical music as well as academic and professional expertise in electronics and aeronautics, nudged him to create Radel as a vibrant venture that continues to forge ahead by setting new records in giving a magical touch to classical musical instruments with technological up-gradation besides providing unique and innovative solutions to the aerospace and defence sectors of the country.
Upon completing his Bachelor of Engineering degree from BMS College of Engineering in Bengaluru, Narayan had made up his mind to pursue Masters course in aeronautical engineering from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), a leading centre of excellence in aerospace. But as the destiny would have it, he could not make it into the aeronautical course at IISc. Luckily for Narayan, Prof Satish Dhawan, an internationally aeronautical engineer and the then Director of IISc, advised him to take up a suitable assignment at the public sector defence and aeronautical outfit, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
As per the advice of Prof Dhawan, Narayan joined HAL as a management trainee in 1970. Here he served as the leader of the Avionics and Instruments team of the HPT-32 project. While serving at HAL, he managed to complete Masters in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. Restless to blaze a new trail as an entrepreneur with innovative and pioneering ideas, he left HAL after an achievements studded decade. Immediately after leaving HAL and as a stop gap arrangement, he had dabbled in sub-contracting for the public sector enterprise, BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited).
And in 1979 he launched Radel Systems that was subsequently renamed as Radel Electronics Pvt Limited with a strong focus on producing a range of technologically enabled classical musical instruments including electronic Sruthi box, digital tambura, digital tabla and digital veena The electronic, classical Bharateeya musical instruments with Radel emblasoned on them, were the first products of Radel that made waves in the musical world. His firm ground in electronics and an insight into the intricacies of integrated circuit and miniature high reliability design, led Narayan to design and engineer an electronic Sruthi box as the first offering from Radel. Today the musical instruments featuring technological innovations constitute the economic sinew of Radel.
A professionally competent engineer, Narayan would write the software code going into the microprocessors forming part of the musical instruments. As the business started looking up Narayan deemed it fit to recruit engineers to boost the design and production of new electronic musical instruments.
After pulling off success in marketing the microprocessor based musical instruments, Narayan realised that the same embedded software, microprocessor and digital technology could be fine -tuned for engineering precision hardware and high tech components for use in defence and aerospace sector of the country. With the Bharateeya Government deciding to free the defence and aerospace sectors for private participation in 2001, Narayan made it a point to diversify into defence and aerospace design and manufacturing Thus was born Radel Advanced Technology Pvt. Ltd in 2005.
But then Radel’s forays into defence and aerospace sectors were far from smooth. To begin with, access to the testing facilities was difficult to come by and ban funding was a big problem. In addition, the economic viability of the enterprise was overshadowed by the problems of low volume of orders and a long gestation period. Surmounting all these initial hiccups, Radel Advanced Technology won a contract from the Indian Air Force (IAF) for indigenisation of the ‘Distributor,’ a unit that fires rockets of the Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force(IAF).
These units were used to be repaired and reused by the IAF for long. However, when it came to a point where it could no longer be repaired, serviced and reused, IAF decided to adopt the route of indigenisation. And much to the delight of IAF, Radel succeeded in designing a completely Form, Fit and Function equivalent unit using maintenance free modern digital circuits The solid state Distributor designed and engineered by Radel, has proved its mettle during successful flight tests carried out by IAF. Yet another accomplishment of Radel was the successful design and development of the ‘Auto-Selector’ Bomb release controller of the Jaguar, which is awaiting the final flight tests. Indeed, Radel Advanced Technology’s achievements stand out as a tribute to the Make in India campaign spearheaded by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Other achievements of Radel include engineering and manufacturing of GCPU for Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, the flagship programme of HAL On another front. Radel has developed and supplied Intercom Test Jigs, RMI Test Rigs and Vertical Gyro Test Bench to HAL for ALH bay servicing besides the fuel flowmeter test rig of the Su-30 fighter.
Incidentally, Radel is one of the few domestic aerospace enterprises to be certified by CEMILAC (Centre for Military Airworthiness Certification) as a design organisation in the area of “avionics equipment”. Radel Advanced Technology has a strong research and development base that continuously focuses on engineering multi-layer printed circuit board, ground testing of airborne devices, electric harness for defence applications as well as repair and improvement of avionics modules. Technology up-gradation with a focus on overcoming technology obsolescence is an area where Radel continues to forge ahead.
With the objective of creating a pool of technically sound engineers with an excellent understanding of the core engineering industry, a School of Engineering Practice named DRONA has been set up under the aegis of Radel Electronic Pvt Ltd. . According to Narayan, the ultimate objective of Drona is to help create a pool of skilled engineers who would drive the engine of ‘Make in India’.
Narayan drives home the point that the current ruling dispensation is fully well committed to Bharateeya defence self reliance. In this context, he has appreciated the efforts that drastically reduce the import of defence hardware by encouraging the Bharateeya domestic industry to take up the challenge of meeting the diverse and growing requirements of Bharateeya defence forces. He wants the Bharateeya Government to come out with a slew of pro active measures aimed at creating a Bharateeya aerospace eco system that could encourage Bharateeya defence self reliance. No wonder, Narayan is eyeing the export potentials of Radel and turning it into a globally competitive aerospace venture.
Radhakrishna Rao (The writer is a freelance journalist)