A telecommunications entrepreneur on the lure of industry
I joined the Department of Electrical Communication as a research student in January 1965 after completing my MSc degree in Mathematics from Mysore University. During my PhD, I worked on a problem that drew heavily from a subject I loved, mathematics.
Like many, I did not know what to expect when I joined the Institute. But I was in awe of it! Familiarity definitely changes perceptions: we went through some good and some not so good experiences. People did great work at the Institute. However, I have not met many who could give a usable practical solution to a technical problem. Having said that, I believe, amongst the alumni, I have met many outstanding working engineers.
I worked towards my PhD under the guidance of the late Prof SK Chatterjee, who was a pioneer in the microwave field. What an unusual man he was! I grew up without a father; I was five when my father left us. Prof Chatterjee was virtually my father. In 1965, he taught us satellite communications – we earn our bread and butter through this field now. I worked towards my PhD under the guidance of the late Prof SK Chatterjee, who was a pioneer in the microwave field.
I worked towards my PhD under the guidance of the late Prof SK Chatterjee, who was a pioneer in the microwave field
After completing my PhD, in 1971, I took up a job as a scientist at the Microwave Antenna Systems Engineering Group of ISRO, Ahmedabad. I thoroughly enjoyed understanding and working on all aspects of satellite earth station antennas. After a year, quite reluctantly, I joined the Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) as an engineer in its Research and Development Division and continued working there for 20 years. I was reluctant to leave ISRO because I was happy there but the thought of returning to Bangalore kept luring me. At ITI, I was soon engrossed in industrial work and did not for a minute regret quitting ISRO. Our department was called the Bell Labs of India – the department was then headed by an alumnus and a brilliant student of IISc, DK Sachdev. Taking voluntary retirement in 1993, I now work for our own company which is involved in satellite earth station installations all over the world. This is a lot of hard work, but for someone like me, it ’s totally enjoyable.
Many might wonder why I left IISc because the general perception was that one could become a member of the teaching staff, if one stuck around long enough! The reason I left IISc had nothing to do with the institution. This is a fabulous place. My restless nature needed constant activity. Academic life was too placid and laidback, especially for someone who wants things to be happening all the time.
My restless nature needed constant activity. Academic life was too placid and laidback, especially for someone who wants things to be happening all the time
Why did I not choose academia? My restless nature needed constant activity. Academic life was too placid and laidback, especially for someone who wants things to be happening all the time. Even the late Mrs Rajeswari Chatterjee, former Professor at the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering, used to get quite annoyed at the number of calls I made and received on my mobile whenever we travelled together in a car!
The other reason was that I didn’t consider myself an intellectual. I was not satisfied just with ideas. I rather enjoyed seeing tangible results of my endeavour – hundreds of pieces standing in a row, to be equipped into systems that helped communication somewhere.
That I played a part, however small, in establishing networks is what has kept me going for years!
Rajeswari Chattopadhyay was a PhD student at the Department of Electrical Communication, IISc, from 1965 to 1971
This is an edited version of Chattopadhyay’s account in “Down the Memory Lane”, published by IISc’s Alumni Association in 2009. For more stories in this series, follow these links: