Borrowed from SAMPADA old editions – for the 10th Anniversary Special Issue – Interviews section. This one is of Sundar Ram P Reddy, 1957 EEE.
Team Sampada: Sir, please give a brief introduction about you for our readers.
Sundaram Sir: It is a pleasure to answer the questions for the benefit of the magazine Sampada-100 edition. My name is Sundar Ram P Reddy, and I belong to the Electrical Engineering, 1957 batch. I was from a family of agriculture in a rural village in Bangalore. I got admission into UVCE, but Govt. of India came to my rescue with a full scholarship to last all four years and beyond. Later, I got admission into High Voltage Engineering; I had to discontinue the studies after 9 months to take up the employment at Kolar Gold Mining Undertaking.
Since the gold mining was depleting, l left the country for USA in 1976. Seeking a job in USA during a recession was a unique experience. Although I had impressive credentials from India, they did not care; they would rather prefer an American degree. At the age of 46, I attended part time evening classes for Master’s Degree in Engineering, just to secure an American degree. For Engineering and construction jobs, it was required to pass an exam to certify as a professional engineer, and certified in six states in USA. As a senior member, and presently Life member of IEEE, presented a few technical papers at IEEE seminars, at one time conducted chair of IAS power distribution subcommittee. In the year, 2000 received the Meritorious Engineering Award.
TS: What are your fond memories here at UVCE?
Sundaram Sir: The location of the college, with large shady trees, adjacent to famous Cubbon Park to enjoy the music on Sunday evenings. The Library was unique to read newspapers outdoors, follow the news on Queen Elizabeth II coronation. I am now wondering the Queen has survived 75years, and enlarged the Royalty, where as our college is in a dilapidated condition. During 3rd and 4th year, participated in the tours to visit hydro electric and thermal Power Plants, steel Mills etc. Those were not only for learning, but also about comradeship, and social interaction. The professors and lecturers were great, learnt a lot from them, Specially the Machine Design by BRN. Even now, whenever I travel in a bus, while the windshields working in parallel, my memory goes back to BRN, who taught us the simulation of parallelogram.
TS: What were the hardships you had to face during your time when it came to finding jobs and career? Also, please share your experience at work with us here.
Sundaram Sir: After independence in 1947, our government embarked on five year plans to build infrastructure projects, manufacturing industrial Equipment, etc,. New universities and IIT colleges were popping up. In 1957, we had just passed ten years from independence, very short time for development Compared to 200 years of destruction to catch up. However, the employment opportunities were opening up, especially more in civil engineering.
The Kolar gold mining company, owned by John Taylor and sons of Britain for more than 100 years, had employed about 200 key employees from England, and about 13000 local labourers. All this time they extracted tons of gold and exported to British exchequer. Fortunately, this company was nationalized in 1956, opening opportunity for Indian engineers to replace the British engineers, and I was in the first batch as trainee.
The job involved was mostly servicing and maintaining the electrical systems. Under the five-year plans, the power distribution system was upgraded by replacing the overhead power lines by cable systems to provide reliability for the safety of thousands of people working underground.
During early 1970, since the mining was depleting, the management was planning to diversify the activities by introducing manufacturing the equipment for other mines in the country. In addition, the company has been importing battery locomotives from Britain, causing depletion in much needed foreign exchange. I was asked if these could be manufactured in our workshops, and if possible to complete them in a year. In view of the damage already done to our country, I said yes to both, without thinking the enormity of the project to design, develop, manufacture in a period with untrained workers. I started figuring out the magnitude of the task: New machinery, Floor space, Manpower
Fortunately, I was asked by the Chairman/MD to report to him direct. He approved the purchase orders on the spot without any questions. All the dead floor spaces were identified, and some of the activities were grouped. The worker efficiency for maintenance and repairs was below 30%, but improved to 95% or better by introducing incentive scheme. In addition, the employees were encouraged to have Pride in replacing the foreign equipment. It was amazing to see the hidden talents surfaced for better production, and the workshops were brimming with activities. The employees and their families were very pleased and happy with increased salaries.
Finally, the units were delivered as promised. In 1976, I left the country for USA, after spending my happiest last three years with friendly workers who were able to fulfill my dreams. In 1977, I received, by mail, Shram Vir National Award from the Government of India for increasing industrial efficiency and saving the foreign exchange for the country.
My experience in USA in general, the companies employ more people when the economy Improves, and lay off people when the Economy goes into recession, with no regard to the welfare of the families. However, the companies in USA have been impressed with the Indian engineers for their culture, sincerity, and high efficiency and the companies think twice before they lay off an Indian. For lack of space, I stop at this point, from expanding into my experience, hardships/successes in USA.
TS: How do you comprehend the opportunities in the present time to that in your time?
Sundaram Sir: In my opinion, India has tremendous potential for growth, developments, and opportunities compared to any country on earth. When we secured independence in 1947, the population was about 330 million, now it is about 1320 million, about 4 times more. The average age of 50% of the population is only 25 yrs, the start of earning age, resulting only few people will be dependents. Where as in USA, it is the reverse; more population will be dependents, in future. Our younger generation has great opportunities anywhere on earth since they are smart, intelligent, hardworking, and creative, and above all, they have culture of honesty and respect. We observe the Indian community in USA excel in all fields, but especially in technology, and they have more opportunities popping up in robotics, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing etc.
TS: We are trying our bit to our college, helping in any way possible, any suggestions you would like to give us.
- Alumni: UVCE has produced thousands of engineers who are spread all over the globe. It would be very advantageous and helpful to reach out everyone, if possible. Alumni may start contributions to the scholarship fund to help the students, and boost their morale.
- Management: To consider establishing a Research Department to include new field of education such as Space Technology, Bioscience, study of our ancient heritage and culture. We have observed that the professors and teachers were very efficient and hard working with loving and caring, and it would be appropriate to compensate them adequately. It is the general practice in other countries to provide opportunities in part timework for the students to earn to supplement their finances.
- Students: Keeping good health is as important as getting good grades. Continuing to Practice honesty, and respect to teachers and elders is as important as keeping good health. The students need to remember that they are the best in the world and are the future of our country. The best way to take control of their future is to exercise their right to vote and take control of the politics and eliminate the corruption prevalent in the country.
I would like admire and pay tribute to one of my best friends Mr. MC Uthaiah. He was 57 batch, electrical, NCC under officer, Airforce to Air vice marshal. He had so much love and affection for his friends in our batch, defended and served the country well.
– Sundar Ram P Reddy, Sampada-101