Kerala’s yesteryears tech icon KPP Nambiar passes away

Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015,21:26 IST By metro vaartha A A A

Bengaluru | Renowned technocrat and founder chairman of KELTRON in Kerala KPP Nambiar (86) is no more. He breathed his last at his residence here today evening.
KPP Nambiar was known for his work in the field of industrial development and technology. He was awarded Padma Bhushan by Government of India for his contributions to the field of technology in 2006.
Kunnath Puthiyaveettil Padmanabhan Nambiar was born in a middle-class family in Kalliassery, Kannur in North Kerala to PP Chindan Nambiar and K. P. Madhavi Amma.
His early education was at Taliparamba’s Moothedeth High School, 8 km away from home which he walked every day. From there he went to Pachayyappa’s College in Madras and graduated in Physics. In 1951, he got his first major break and joined the Imperial College of Science & Technology, University of London for higher studies in Transistors and Semi-Conductors.
Nambiar started his career as a research scholar in semi-conductor technology at Imperial College from 1954 to 1957 and moved to Texas Instruments, USA. 1963 saw him leaving his job in Texas Instruments to come to India, as Scientist Pool Officer under the C.S.I.R, to teach modern semiconductor electronics in the Electrical Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, as a part of the Scientist pool scheme initiated by Late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to bring back talented Indians working abroad.
Nambiar stayed there till 1964 before joining Philips India as Manager of Projects. In 1967, he left Philips and joined Bharat Electronics Limited as Joint Head of the Piezo Electric Crystal Division in Bangalore, where he set up the first communication crystals factory in India during his brief stay there.
Towards the end of 1967, Nambiar joined Tata as the general manager of National Radio & Electronics Co. Ltd., (NELCO). In two years with the company, he set up the first applied Electronic Research and Development Centre for industrial electronics in India. He was also instrumental in introducing a number of new products under NELCO banner such as speed control for AC and DC Motors, Static Inverters and Converters, Calculators, Electronic Clocks and Display Systems.
Silicon transistor Radios were introduced for the first time in the country in 1968 by NELCO during this period. That was when he received an invitation from Kerala Government to set up an electronics manufacturing firm in Kerala. Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (KELTRON) was formed in 1973 with K. P. P. Nambiar as its first chairman and managing director.
He remained in that position till 1983 when he was made the Executive chairman till his retirement in 1985. In 1985, Nambiar was appointed as the chairman and managing director of Indian Telephone Industries Limited, the largest Public Sector Company in Telecommunication.
In 1986, K.P.P. Nambiar was appointed the Secretary, Department of Electronics of Government of India (now the Ministry of IT) by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He retired from Government service in 1989.
Kerala Government, in 1989, appointed him as the Honorary Special Advisor and that was when he drew up the blue print for Techno Park in Thiruvananthapuram. The Park came into existence on March 31, 1991.
When acting as the Special Advisor, Nambiar set up a private company in Bangalore, Namtech Electronic Devices Limited, for the manufacture of Fail Safe Gas Discharge Tubes used as Surge Arresters in Electronic and Telecommunication equipment. Namtech is also involved in the manufacture of quartz crystals, crystal oscillators, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and LED Displays.
In February 1995, Nambiar launched an INR 15 billion project to generate 513 MW of Power under the name of Kannur Power Projects (P) Limited in his native Panchayat of Kalliasseri in Kannur District in North Kerala. However, the project ran into political and supply issues and had to be abandoned.
He was also instrumental in the launching of a joint venture company Bowthorpe Thermometrics India (P) Limited, with Bowthorpe of UK and Namtech Consultants (P) Limited to manufacture Thermisters (a temperature dependent Resistor) in 1996. Bowthorpe has since transferred its ownership to GE in October 2001.
As the Secretary, Department of Electronics of Government of India 1986–89, Nambiar was successful initiating and implementing several new policy initiatives in Research and Development, specifically manufacturing and application of electronics throughout the country.
He played a major role in developing the Indian Electronics Industry including the establishment of C-DAC, STPI, CEDTI and VLSI laboratories. In the 1980s, the import of hardware or software systems was nearly impossible due to heavy taxation. Understanding that such products would help build a better India, Nambiar was instrumental in orchestrating the necessary government approvals.
During his stint (1989 to 1991) as the Special Advisor to the Government of Kerala on Industries, Nambiar set up India’s first Electronic Technology Park (Techno Park) in Trivandrum to provide infrastractural support required to set up high technology electronic units in the State. He also set up a chain of Electronic Industries in different parts of Kerala from Trivandrum to Kannur in the major areas of electronic components, industrial electronics, consumer electronics and telecommunication between 1973 and 1984.
He was responsible for expanding Palakkad unit of Indian Telephone Industries Limited from a INR 40 million unit to an INR 2 billion enterprise. Nambiar is credited with evolving a new concept of consortium of ancillary industries by mobilising all the 41 ancillary industries of Indian Telephone Industries in Bangalore to form a consortium company to manufacture plan 103 telephone instruments with a turnover of more than INR 200 million.
As the Founder Chairman of Keltron, Nambiar was instrumental in taking electronics to the villages by setting up 50 women’s co-operatives that produced most of the consumer products sold by Keltron. He also developed the R&D Center for Keltron, the Electronics Research & Development Center, which was later taken over by the Department of Electronics and has now been brought under C-DAC. KELTRON, was the first autonomous Corporation in the State sector in India, an example later emulated by several state Governments in the country.
During his tenure in Keltron, he set up the Electronics Research and Development Centre (ER & DC) as an autonomous society at Trivandrum in 1974 for application oriented electronic research and development which is now a national centre for excellence in Applied Electronics.
During his stint as the Honorary Special Advisor to Government of Kerala on Industries, Nambiar influenced Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Industries, to invest in Kerala, resulting in the formation of Taj Hotels and Resorts, Kerala and Tata Ceramics (Kerala) Limited.
From his marriage to Marjorie Agnes Nambiar in London (1953) he has two children – a daughter, Sarojini and a son, Padman. He has five grand children -Mrinalini, Arjun, Aneil, Daniel and Kimberly – and one great grandson. In the 1980s, Nambiar married again, to Uma Devi of Calicut. They have one son, Kiran.

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