THE UNTOLD STORY

A role model in the days of the early seventies of the last century till date of how an innovative technocrat combining a broad spectrum of engineering, scientific management and research skills and knowledge, with an outstanding level of innovative insight and national (India) and international (Indonesia, Sub-Sharan Africa) vision, and an unswerving determination can bring about a quantum developmental transformation both nationally and intranational in the developing world of today.

 

From the year 1956, when he joined the then nascent electronic industry of India, Sandell's clear vision was twofold. First, India should get out of its dependence on foreign technologies and manufacturing know-how and build up her own modern indigenous industry and scientific knowledge base and, second, that there should be an emphasis on the building up of sophisticated technical products and to achieve the objective. The private sector should be organized to advise the government and public on measures, on how to promote rapid growth of self-sufficiency. He became the Editor of Instrument India, India's only instrument journal, a member of various committees responsible for formulating technical standards on nondestructive testing equipment, and TV testing equipment under the auspicious of the Indian Bureau of Standards.  He took over as the President of Non-Destructive Testing Society of India and as the first President of Instrument Society of America India Chapter. Subsequently, Dr. Sandell helped India become self-sufficient for power electronics products by being in charge of research and manufacturing and exports of same in Forbes Lt. (Bombay), a Tata Company, and then as Managing Director of Uptron Powertronics a public sector company of Uttar Pradesh Government which he established from grassroots level to what become later as one of the major producers of power electronics equipment in India. This company pioneered the first export of these products to Nepal. Earlier, Sandell also had got done the developing of the design and manufacturing of heavy power supplies for the Air Force's low altitude radar border network under a contract initiated by Wing Commander Bhola, Indian Air Force. He also initiated a research project for special low-speed level power drives based on optoelectronic in conjunction with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with himself as the DY, Principal adviser. By seventies, Sandell became one of the leading spokespeople for promoting sophisticated and professional electronics sector strongly representing to the govt to adopt measures and steps aimed to ensure both private, as well as public sector, becoming indigenously self-sufficient. At a later stage, when his involvement with the highest levels of management echelons of the corporate world and with national issues kept him away from ground level operations and research and development of professional products. He still endeavored to  start and or promote many new companies for investor Manu Chhabria, such as Himachal Wireless in Himachal Pradesh, for walkie talkies,  Kasmir Magnetics for indigenous production of Colour TV magnetic tapes, New Video in Delhi for professional TV etc.. It was from the late seventies that Sandell got real opportunities, however, for showing the significant innovative endeavors which had a radical impact on the growth of a sustainable development of national modern prosperity of India.

 

From the early seventies, both Indian government and the public realized that to modernize India and ensure it does not miss the 3rd industrial revolution, induction of ICT, information technology, computer and television technologies, and manufacturing would be one of the main drivers. Already in the 1960s, US companies influenced by its Indian managers were outsourcing from Silicon Valley for software application services to Bangalore and the initiative was so productive technically and financially that soon Bangalore was on the road to becoming a world hub of IT outsourcing services apart from similar active centers in Bombay, Hyderabad, and Delhi. The nucleation of the IT ecosystem was followed rapidly by the local development of computer technologies and manufacturing including design know-how with IBM USA's predominance replaced by India's own indigenous knowledge base. It was, however, in the field of Television, that India recorded a remarkable success in ensuring its 600 million population both urban and rural becoming the beneficiaries of a modern lifestyle. This remarkable transformation has been recorded very ably by Dr. D. K. Ghosh in his seminal volume, The Great Transformation, from where we relate the exciting story of how countless developing countries can modernize if the right technocratic leadership is available such as was provided by Dr. Sandell.

 

The events of the 1980s moved India rapidly into accepting many of the compulsions of high technology and consumer preferences though the prevailing political philosophy was focusing investments into what were termed basic needs of the masses. It is fascinating to recall the cavalcade of these events pushing the country along a path which its planners were reluctant to let happen. The first and foremost contributor to the application of ICT was a dark horse—colour television.

 

Significantly India has been one of the pioneers of using television in enhancing public education and awareness, it was one of the aims of the space program that a vision­ary scientist, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, drew up in the 1970s itself. TV was introduced for rural education with UNESCO help in the 60s. The SITE (Satellite Instructional Television experi­ment) program with international help that used for the first time spacecraft to beam educational and public aware­ness programs to select 2,400 villages in six states on an experimental basis, was declared a great success? The government, however, did not allow television which was declared a government monopoly, just as broadcasting, to be used for purely entertainment, much less commercial entertainment, purposes. Colour TV was also kept out of the country as the emphasis all along was on first meeting the basic needs of the masses.

 

Attitudes changed dramatically when people had a brush with TV as an entertainment medium. This again is a fascinat­ing chapter and enlightens us on how in a democracy people could compel governments to dump dearly held ideology in response to popular demand.

 

Though colour TV was barred from the Indian scene in the context of the socialist and Gandhian outlook of the long-time ruling party for a simple life and the need first to meet the basic requirements of the masses, since 1980 there was a growing demand from the electronic industry and vocal public opinion that CIV was in the public interest. The big push for CTV came with the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Vasant Sathe himself voicing this demand. One of the many arguments he marshaled in favor of CTV was that it would enable India "to be seen in all its colorful diversity." The electronics industry and its spokesman Electronic Component Industries Association (ELCINA) strongly pleaded for CTV hoping to boost the demand for a large number of electronic components and kick-start India's long-delayed electronics revolution. The Central Government soon after Indira Gandhi returned to power with a big majority in 1980, appointed a committee of secretaries of different Ministries to deliberate on this demand. It came to the conclusion that the cost of a CTV would not be less than Rs. 13,000 and therefore beyond the reach of the common man. It did not recommend CTV use.

 

By 1981 the Asian Games fever had begun to grip the country. The Prime Minister had taken a keen interest in these Games as it would add to India's prestige as a preeminent country in the region. Preparations had started in right ear­nest with new stadia being built and new roads, flyovers, and bypass being constructed to enable the smooth functioning of the Games.

 

Even though the country did not have color television transmission, this was necessary to cater to a large number of foreign TV channels that wanted to take the clips from the government-owned Doordarshan which had the monopoly for the TV rights to the Games. Temporary arrangements were made to cover the events in color and transmit the color images using outdoor CTV transmission vans. That raised the question why Indian audiences should be denied the color transmission since it was taking place anyway. While the government could not have approved of large-scale import of CIV sets for use by the Indian elite, it was decided that kits would be imported for Indian TV manufac­turers and ETTDC, a govt. of India company, would arrange to train Indian engineers to assemble them in Indian factories. It was a great challenge to be met 250000 kits with the best world class technology suited for small scale manufacturing to be identified, with indigenous components substituted wherever possible, kits imported, checked and then supplied to local manufacturers,ensuring they assimilate the technology capability, all to be done within less than six months time. The government-owned ETTDC under the leadership of its Chairman and Managing Director P.K.SANDELL met the challenge By the end of the year 1982 before the Asian Games started the sets were out, and not only that Sandell ensured with the support of the then LT.Governor Mr. Jagmohan for large screen projection of the color programs for the public.  ETTDC was a government of India company with international offices for the introduction of electronic technologies in India and promotion of exports of Indian electronic products. This company under the leadership of its then Chairman Dr. P. K. Sandell apart from ensuring sure availability and future manufacturing of colour tv sets for India was also the primary driver for induction of colour TV transmission itself  At this point of time, the govern­ment leaders, particularly Prime Minister Indira Gandhi while being  keen that not only the urban viewers but the rural people must also have a chance to see the Games in colour. were all facing an impasse.The responsible govt agencies, Doordarshan and ISRO were asking for two years time and more than 500 cores rupees to meet  PM's desire.  With hardly eight months to go, an innovative effective solution had to be found and Precisely this solution was innovated by the electronics profes­sional P.K. Sandell, Chairman and Managing Director of ETTDC. He had it conveyed to the Prime Minister that using low power transmitters (LPT) and satellite-based S Band tran­sponders, the terrestrial transmission of Doordarshan could be stretched to cover more points in the interior and also many small towns. , Facing strong opposition from the traditional cynical establishment he arranged to give a demonstra­tion of his innovated system  to Mrs. Gandhi who just prior to leaving for her Moscow trip, sanctioned the setting up of the first 20 LTPs in as many cities of India particularly in Northeast and entrusted minister Pranab Mukherjee to ensure that ETTDC under Sandell gets full government support to import, assemble and set up the system under the overall  I&B Secretary Mr. C. Lal. Once the rural folk, rather some of them, as well as people in major metropolises and cities got a taste of such color transmission, there was no stopping of color TV. The powers that be also realized how useful such LPTs would be to reach out to rural voters at low cost compared to the cost of setting up terrestrial HP transmission stations. Almost overnight the color fever had taken over the country with government leaders being pressed for setting up LPTs or HPTs to enable more and more remote areas to get TV signals. .By 1984, govt announced in the Parliament the setting up of 500 more relay stations to cover the entire country. The extended reach of Doordarshan created a new demand for content.IN 1982, to help in program generation, Sandell signed a local manufacturing collaboration between Pye of Cambridge. UK and ETTDC and had delivered to Doordarshan India's first indigenously assembled four TV OB vans.

 

The rapid expansion of color tv transmission and the fast expanding base of viewers both rural and urban created a demand for content.The runaway success of the first such content, Hum Log was followed by the serials Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two epics so dear to Indian hearts. Doordarshan also gave in for commercial sponsorship looking at the huge audience for the two epics. The availability of  CTV transmission with popular content generated demand for more and more color TV sets, which in turn helped support setting up of the assembly of same. By the end of the 80s, before the nineties began, the manufacturing base created just before the Asian Games expanded rapidly and India was manufacturing over one million CTV sets.The obses­sion in government policy to license only small capacities forced the spread out of manufacture and could have led to higher costs. To help small scale manufacturing and yet ensure lower cost of tv sets produced,indigenously, Sandell innovated the ETTDC scheme whereby complete kits as per design and quality control from ETTDC technical team would be supplying from its joint venture operation in Bangalore to small scale entrepreneurs all over the country who were further offered free training to assemble them locally and provide service support  at low regulated costs level to the aam admi.

 

The multidimensional dogged effort of Sandell with his team heralded and set in motion one of the most important drivers for sustaining the future growth of India the dark horse color television.

 

By 1984, Sandell left for another challenge. He was invited by UNIDO. Vienna. to join and help their project as an expert for development of small scale electronics industry of Indonesia.The country's SME units not only were facing open competition from large scale foreign technology backed large competitors but also from foreign imports without any tariff protections, access to any modern manufacturing practices,  following age old primitive technology and suffering from eternal capital inflow problems. Sandell realized that to bring about immediate radical change in the complex scenario requires the implementation of multidimensional support inputs, technological human resources, financial support, and then to sustain the momentum of the  growth, a model of sustainability should be developed in conjunction with local institutions and talents, both in the government as well as with the public. He realized that building appropriate institutions which will continue to deliver even after he leaves is the right answer. Accordingly, a package of multidimensional  holistic support inputs were designed and deliverables initiated  in conjunction with the National Electronic Research Institute of Indonesia(LEN), the engineering department of the local technical University in Bandung,other National Research organisation, the development officers of the ministry of small industry department in Jakarta, Indonesia and the other state capitals such as Bali, Yogyakarta, Sumatra, etc. The deliverables were affordable industrial engineering practices, simple enough for the understanding of the poorly educated small scale entrepreneurs, quality control technologies involving equipment  specially customised ,costing less than $100 each, as substitute for the imported  equipment the only available in the market, simplistic product design techniques, fund and cash flow control methodologies, marketing know-how required for facing competition from cheap foreign imports, particularly cooperative marketing concepts and over and above all, the most important support input was a comprehensive free training program for all small and micro-level entrepreneurs, in a language and style understandable by them. He himself led the training program after learning the local language and lectured together with local senior experts. The director general of small scale industries while inaugurating the series, told the provincial officers assembled "Why you had to wait for the last 40 years for such a training program til Dr. Sandell came to join you". The results were dramatic. The national government owned TV channel in 1985 broadcasted a program confirming that the small scale electronic transformer manufacturing sector's growth during the last 2 years have jumped up by 300% during a personal interview of Dr. Sandell, detailing  the multi-dimensional support which the government of Indonesia with his help have introduced for the small scale industries in the country. Minister Hartato and Director General Trisura Suhardi of the department of the small-scale industry of Indonesia requested Dr. Sandell to modernize other small scale sectors such as forgings, the metal sector, wood handicraft industry of Bali the food-processing industry in Bogor, etc. He took over as the Cheif Technical Advisor for the UNIDO project. By the time his assignment ended, while leaving Indonesia, Director General Suhardi by letter(394/DJIK/III/87) wrote "During the first year of your stay in Bandung in 1984, we saw the modernization of the traffo sector  which subsequently continued and we agreed with the appreciation of the approach of your project activities in 1984 of the systematic approach of your project activities in Bandung, together which various institutions such as LEN, MIDC, etc. and their confirmation of "Bandung Model" as good." He concluded his thanks by recording: "As we we continue to modernize the small-scale sector of Indonesia in the coming years, we will not forget the contribution you have made towards the same goal." From Indonesia, Sandell's expertise in addressing issues of development of small-scale industries successfully therein, made UNIDO to request him to visit the Sub-Saharan countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania to introduce the technology and local manufacturing of the low-capacity telephone main exchange switches,, the 156 and 258 capacities switch modules are developed by  government of India's CDOT. With the help of Dr. Bishnu Pradhan, then director of CDOT, he visited each of the Sub-Saharan countries and initiated efforts for their absorption of India's technological innovation in their telecom networks and local manufacturing of same. UNIDO also assigned him the task of reporting on the poor implementation of their massive project to set up the African Advanced Telecommunication Training center in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

 

Back in India, Sandell realized that to meet India's ambitious national telecommunication plan, the entire country is dependent heavily on importing virtually more than 80% of the targetted hardware requirement, To promote local manufacturing  he organized the local manufacturers and the intending network investors to get together and form TEMA, telecommunication equipment manufacturer's Association, to advise the government on measures to substantially step up local manufacturing of all types of professional and consumer equipment. The first committee of TEMA elected Sandell as the Founding President and consisted of members, all of whom became prominent figures in the telecom fraternity of India today such as Sunil Mittal, Mr. Rajiv Chandrasekar, both were vice presidents, as well as Rajiv Malhotra and Mahendra Nahata, who were members, are all leading the industry.today. Reporting on TEMA's formation, Business India Magazine mentioned it as a very significant step. Simultaneously, Sandell noticed that the burgeoning IT industry of India, destined to deliver 18 billion dollar exports by 2008 consisted 80% of small and medium IT companies whose interests were not being holistically addressed by the powers that be. He organized and became the Founding President of NASMIT, National Association of Small and Medium IT companies of India, which again helped the government introduce many promotional supports for the said sector.

 

Not content with quiet retirement, Sandell has now embarked on what he feels would be the major contribution to national welfare, a project for inculcating the culture of yoga and meditation in the national corporate sector of India with the help of the 3 main yoga gurus of the country (whenever possible): Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, and Sadguru. The ambition...let Ancient India's wisdom strengthen Modern India.

 

Sandell represented the government of India in the Ancient Electronics Councils Conference, an intergovernmental organization where he was elected as vice-president of the above body at their annual meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in 1982. He also was the Indian representative in the 1st International Consultation on Electronics organized by United Nation International Development Organization in Malta in 1999. He was invited by the government of Tunisia to address the world on the occasion of World Telecommunication Day Celebration in Tunis, where he presented a format of a paper on the impact of convergent telecommunication technologies in developing countries. He was also invited by China India Software Association (CISA) to address the international software conference in Guangzhou. 

 

He has been the recipient of many awards. As the chairman of Electronic Software Export Promotion Council of India, he was given the award of the outstanding exporter by The International Management Department of Amity University. The same department gave him another award for outstanding management soon thereafter. The Scotch Foundation awarded Sandell for lifelong service to the small-scale IT industry of India. Finally, in the year 2001, United India gave Dr. Sandell the award of Bharat Gaurav. 

He has a happy married life with one daughter, Raka, and 3 grandchildren who live in Austin, TX, USA.

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© 2023 by Prabir Kumar Sandell.

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