The Hindu | Kochi, August 18, 2015 | |
Louis and Kuruvilla J. George, who founded a firm that supplies cutting-edge antenna equipment to high-profile clients, began humbly by dabbling in mechanics as a hobby. Photo: Thulaki Kakkat
The duo, who designed the antenna for the country’s first indigenous aircraft, are now flying high. And guess what? Their story began in a cowshed!
It was 1997. Louis and Kuruvilla J. George — brothers and, more importantly, men with scientific temper — hurriedly set up a makeshift lab in the cowshed of their 300-year-old ancestral house in Kochi. They had received an order to make an airborne antenna for the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) — the country’s first indigenous aircraft. Both thrilled and nervous at the prospect of designing “antenna for something that flies,” it took the brothers a week to firm up their conviction. A year-and-a-half later, they found success as the vendor, NPOL, cleared the prototype. And with that the first indigenous aircraft had its antenna.
Since then, Verdant Telemetry & Antenna Systems, the company founded by the duo, has been supplying cutting-edge antenna and related equipment to DRDO, HAL and BEL, to name a few of their high-profile clients. Many a time, their exported antenna comes back to the country integrated into a system. Their biggest clientele is Indian defence and, internationally, the U.S., Europe and Israel. The brothers began humbly by dabbling in mechanics as a hobby. The two would tinker endlessly with the lathe and tools at their father’s engineering workshop. At home, they had access to journals such as Popular Mechanics and Science Today. Their mother’s neatly labelled and filed botany drawings were another source of inspiration. In school, they studied pure science, and later Louis specialised in Composites technology. Kuruvilla was the “geek,” who developed a sterling engine powered by an external heat source. His ‘sitting bicycle’ was another smart innovation. His interest in Ham operations enabled him to chip in during disaster relief operations. Their friends, who often met the two for a game of badminton now and then, often found the things that preoccupied them a bit odd. After the first order, things changed. The sanctions imposed after the Pokhran blasts brought a deluge of orders and Verdant scaled new heights. “We noted an unhealthy thing and proved that the belief that the West is better is wrong,” says Louis, adding that they made all attempts to manufacture a product, from beginning to end, with materials available in the country. Going against the tide of reverse engineering that aims at matching imported products, the brothers began designing and modelling to specifications. “In due course, you won’t find the components. It is always better to innovate,” says Kuruvilla.
Constant innovation is Louis’ trump card. The candidates they select for their company are people who think out of the box. Once, they chose a candidate who compared the antenna to a tyre that could not be changed mid-air “as there’s no parking.” The brothers are now inundated with requests for design solutions in communication and navigation from companies facing design and engineering challenges. “The Make in India future is all about creating the right environment for technology to grow and an ecosystem to safeguard IP,” says Louis. “A lot of shift has happened but toward software development. Hardware and metallurgy start-ups are being ignored.” Success has given them much and now, they can afford to take some time off to go back and play badminton, which they enjoyed playing near the cowshed in those early days of tinkering with machines.- Courtesy