Ad Here  
KB Sir for all... When SPIC spawned star managers... Transport S Narayanan R Desikan – the crusader of consumer interests is gone This trendsetter is no more Brilliant Saeed saab Father of German unification no more... A statue for RV, at last! Dada of drip irrigation... Centurion ‘Leo’ rests in peace Scientist and leader of educational reforms Endearing Aachi... How to build a nation He took Kone to great heights… M Subramaniam Bal Thackeray Tribute – Ja Ra Su A honest bank executive... ‘Mandolin’ stops playing... A welcome biography on a towering CA Justice Iyer, 100 Missile Man takes flight Master of strokes Cement, calcium carbide, shipping… TSN turned these and more into gold A Gandhian breathes his last on Gandhi Jayanthi He breathed transport development The motor sportsman is no more The ‘Q’ factor cost him Cabinet Secretary’s post The Hero of bicycles rests in peace Honest civil servant A versatile legend moves on A genius civil servant fades The scientist-engineer who lucidly explained economics Saeed Jaffrey New team at the helm at TANSTIA Question on Operation X The Rajha of Rajapalayam... Tribute: Dr. Krishnamoorthy Srinivas Dr M G K Menon Tribute – Baldev Raj Big ideas, not big words, are important... He took space science to such great heights! Jeppiar calls it a day ‘Hero’ rides into the sunset If only he had fastened the seat-belt... Remembering Chariji He elevated B&C to its best... MSV – the King of Light Music VV Goes... Remembering I K Gujral… He contributed so much to the telecom revolution Sivaraman, 100 Colour-Chem's colorful personality Another Leo of real estate and education is no more A multi-faceted leader rests in peace A multi faceted prince is no more... He was the greatest. Samskrt loses a passionate exponent... Flute falls silent India’s Master Builder… Tribute - R K Baratan Music Samrat!!! - TMS Music loses a maestro KP is no more Deora – the best networked politician.... ‘Sai’ Srinivasan no more Fighter-pilot turned monk... A versatile, humane and efficient administrator/litterateur The honest Sardarji
He contributed so much to the telecom revolution
S Rajagopalan was a tall personality both literally and figuratively. S Rajagopalan (SR) headed MTNL with distinction contributing immensely to the spectacular expansion of telecom in Delhi and Mumbai.

I remember a scintillating discussions we had over breakfast  at my residence. He had brought along his illustrious sibling S Rangarajan (Tamil writer Sujatha) and we discussed subjects ranging from philosophy, literature, politics to science and technology.


When MTNL was at its peak...

Rajagopalan took telecom in the two large metros to great heights in the 1990s. When other infrastructure sectors, including power and transportation languished, the telecom sector recorded spectacular growth! At the swanky office of MTNL, one could feel the corporation catching up with state-of-the-art. I interviewed him during April 1998. MTNL was then at its peak performance. On a turnover of Rs.4500 crore, it earned a net profit of Rs.1000 crore.  MTNL then accounted for 20 per cent of total telephones, of around 180 lakh lines  in operation, with 90 per cent digital. MTNL truly set the pace for the telecom revolution. The long waiting list that extended to 15 years, vanished and a telephone was made available on demand!

S Sundaresan who worked as  Director Finance, at that time recalls: “SR set the pace not just for expansion; but also for improving efficiency and performance all around. He adapted the CDMA technology for mobile phones. The ensuing competition resulted in the crash of cell-phone charges and made it accessible by the masses. He also initiated steps to list MTNL in the New York Stock Exchange.”

IE invited SR as the chief guest at the annual function to present the IE Business Excellence Award 1998 to TVS Suzuki Ltd. SR presented the IE annual lecture on Growth during a period of instability and slow down. He traced the changes in the economy over the previous 50 years and the evolution and the future of the telecom sector.  It further kindled interest in the inequity of keeping Chennai and Kolkata telephones outside MTNL.

Empower and recognise the performer....

SR was prophetic in his reference to empowerment of staff and recognition to performance: “if you are not going to do this,competition will do this.” The present mind set and behaviour of front office personnel in most telecom systems do not make for business sense. The customer will just walk out if he has a choice. “A system of incentives for performance needs to be placed in position. The government is impersonal and almost inhuman. The role of a good performer is unappreciated and unrecognised. This needs to change and change fast.” (IE 15-20 May 1998).

Sadly, this warning went unheeded. There was the added factor of the political class making unreasonable and perhaps unethical demands. SR stood firm and resisted it. The Minister was vindictive. He planned to suspend this upright technocrat on the day of his retirement on 30 June 2000.

Another upright officer who was closely involved in telecom development, N Vittal, who was then the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, alerted SR and advised him to hand-over charge ahead of the suspension order.

This brilliant technocrat opted to settle down in Srirangam where he was born and grew up. His services and leadership were not utlised in the crucial years when the telecom policy went through a series of abuses cumulating in a mega scam. Yet another sad instance where the state leadership which had such an important part in the national government, did not bother to assess and appreciate the massive contribution of one of its tall technocrats. 

Author :
Reported On :
Sector :
Shoulder :
IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
Read more
Economist Communications Ltd is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected.
Read more
You agree that your use of this Website and the purchase of the magazine will be governed by these terms and conditions.
Read more
S-15, Industrial Estate,
Chennai - 600 032.
PHONE: +91 44 22501236