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Dr F C Kohli: A lifetime of achievements…

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to the granddaddy of the IT industry, F C Kohli (94). The large audience at CII Connect 2018, applauded with a standing ovation.

In his acceptance speech, Kohli described how it all began in 1968. A product of MIT, USA, Kohli was then heading Tata Electric Companies, described installing a computer system to control and monitor power transmission from Mumbai to Pune. With understandable pride, Kohli mentioned that it was the third power utility in the world to use computers for such a purpose. Despite the resistance to the installation of high speed computers at that time, Kohli succeeded in computerising vast range of functions. Tata Consultancy Services he headed innovated in a continuous stream and emerged as the largest Indian software company.

Focus on computer research

A recurring concern of Kohli relates to India not drawing its potential as a leader in computing. He often lamented over the failure to nurture brilliant young minds to research and innovate software and hardware products. Honoured with a doctorate by several countries, Kohli repeatedly stresses on expanding interest to research. Kohli has helped the IITs and other institutions of higher learning on updating their syllabus to contemporary standards. The College of Engineering, Pune, (CoEP) provides the best example. The Maharashtra government invited Kohli to chair the CoEP and gave a free hand to manage the affairs. With a committed team of business leaders as directors in the board of governance, in a very short time, Kohli raised CoEP to the standards of IIT.

Kohli suggests developing computing in Indian languages in much larger measures. Often he says that the vast majority of masses of over 900 million, do not know English; so the benefits of computers are denied to these. Over three decades ago he designed elegant and simple software that will enable an illiterate to read a newspaper in just a few weeks. In his speech, he reinforced the urgency for doing this as also for expanding the use of computing in India. This is of particular relevance: the Indian IT companies are still focused on exports of lucrative overseas contracts.

Interest in agri productivity

Kohli is chairman of the Agriculture Consultancy Management Foundation (ACMF), promoted by IE, to focus on productivity in agriculture in India. When I invited him for a demonstration at the Gemini Farm in Padappai on 10 January 2006, he readily agreed. Several other leaders including  M S Ahluwalia, B Muthuraman, T C Venkatasubramanian, R Thyagarajan, B Santhanam witnessed simple techniques at the farm owned by Gemini S Balasubramanian. Shifting to Le Royal Meridian Hotel, the leaders decided to setup the foundation. Kohli, evinces keen interest in agricultural development and interacts frequently on this. At our Golden Jubilee seminars in March, he presided over the session on agriculture. I am therefore, so happy he made a special reference to this work in his address.
The additional blessing was the presence of Swarn Kohli at the Connect. She was a former President of the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Ahmedabad.

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