Articles
Developing High Technology Small Industries in Bharatvarsh:
Swadeshi in Action


Part 2

SWADESHI IN ACTION:
SOME EXAMPLES OF HIGH TECHNOLOGY IN SMALL SCALE


GARG ASSOCIATES PRIVATE LIMITED:
PTFE Insulated Electronic Wires and Cables


The concept of establishing small-scale high technology enterprises in India was first tried by Sri Jagmohan Garg. Garg Associates was started in 1966 to manufacture high performance PTFE-insulated Electronic Wires and Cables. These wires and cables are used in critical applications in avionics, telecommunication, atomic energy reactors, etc. Manufacturing began by undertaking the last step of wrapping imported PTFE-tape on imported conductors, and sintering and testing the final cable. Within less than 10 years all major preceding steps were integrated, and at every step the necessary machines were developed and fabricated inexpensively, using locally available skills and resources. Today, Garg Associates are in a position to manufacture, starting with copper rods and PTFE granules, PTFE-insulated Wires and Cables conforming to the specifications of any high technology user in the world. The original company has given rise to a number of other units. Products of the company are exported to all technologically advanced countries of the world.

The Background

The idea of establishing small-scale high-technology enterprises within the country was first implemented in the Garg Associates Pvt. Ltd. of Ghaziabad as early as 1966. Since then a number of companies and groups have emerged, specialising in the production of widely different components and equipment, but all of them committed to working with products that are at the cutting edge of technology, and endeavouring to develop and master these products within the country at a small, yet economically viable and efficient scale. These companies, committed as they are to a common methodology and common goals, together constitute the Swadeshi Integration Group for High Technology (SIGHT).

The story of Garg Associates begins early. The atmosphere in the country already in the 1950’s was unfavourable to the development of basic engineering skills. There was a general attachment to giganticism. Efforts were being made to import large plants and large machines without trying to understand much about the engineering skills and technologies required to make and run them. Everyone concerned seemed to believe that the very presence of these large machines shall by itself infuse an engineering and technological culture in the country. But large pre-assembled machines and turnkey plants are essentially huge black boxes from which little technology can be learnt.

Technology is often much more transparent and understandable at the small scale, and it is from that level that larger, more complex and sophisticated machines are evolved. But, small scale enterprises, which should have been looked upon as field laboratories for developing engineering and technological skills, were seen as mere purveyors of shoddy goods which were supposed to require no technological inputs at all. The small scale enterprises in fact soon developed into units that lived on passing on the quotas of various raw products obtained through political and bureaucratic wangling on to the market without hardly any value addition. The technocrats engaged in big technology thus became mere negotiators who tried to get what to them seemed the latest from the world, and those engaged in small-scale technology became negotiators of privileges within the country.

With little use for technological and engineering skills in the field, the institutions engaged in technological and engineering education imparted merely broad theoretical principles of various disciplines. There was little effort to foster basic skills of engineering and even to convey what constituted such skills. The teachers in such institutions, like the technocrats outside, were engaged in feverishly acquiring all kinds of equipment from abroad, about which they knew nothing and had no idea of the use to which such equipment was to be put. The basic engineering workshops and laboratories on the other hand were being looked upon as useless remnants of the past. The students were thus deprived of even the elementary learning of basic skills that used to take place in these laboratories and workshops.

The Early Impressions

While studying Physics at the Banaras Hindu University up to 1951, and later studying for his electrical engineering at Indian Institute of Sciences at Bangalore, Jagmohan Garg felt the vacuity of the engineering education being imparted. He also became aware, from impressions gathered from essentially foreign information and reports in the library, about the functioning of an engineer and especially his role in creating national wealth through development and application of engineering skills. Unfortunately, even in those early years following independence, there was little interest in premier institutions like B.H.U. and I.I.Sc. about acquiring proper skills for nation building. Much was said about the greatness of technology in the abstract, but nobody cared to convey the excitement of using technology for making ordinary things, like, say, paper and batteries, to proper specifications. Nobody told the young students that nation-building after all involved the making of ordinary things well, at prices in tune with the Indian situation, in sufficient quantities and in a large range of types and sizes.

Impression that the engineering education in India is somehow cut-off from the practice of basic engineering skills and technologies was reinforced during four years of studies in the USA The engineering schools there seemed to be in constant touch with the technology and skills being practised in the industry; and the laboratories of the educational institutions seemed to be extensions of the R&D laboratories of the industry.

Efforts to introduce some level of appreciation of basic engineering skills and practice in Indians institutions, for example during a short stint at IIT, Kanpur, led nowhere. And many of the senior scientists and engineers in India felt that it was an error for anyone who was interested in practising engineering and could obtain a position abroad to remain in India. Such sentiments were expressed quite openly.

Faced with such cynicism, Dr. Jagmohan Garg decided to return to the USA with the determination to quickly gather the necessary information, skills and resources and begin an independent engineering venture in India. This was in the beginning of 1962. The search for a product to develop and manufacture began almost immediately on arrival in the USA.

Selection of the Product

Criteria for product selection began to evolve as the process of product selection proceeded. Thus the idea of making high quality chalk-sticks in India was given up after visiting a chalk-stick making plant and finding that the process would involve no use of the electrical engineering skills acquired so far. Similarly the idea of making high-precision flow valves was given up because it involved unfamiliar disciplines of mechanical and metallurgical engineering. It seemed that for the enterprise to be successful the product had to be from a familiar area of engineering so that at least the basic terminology and techniques were already known. Also the process of production had to be such that it might be implemented within manageable resources and risks. Another criterion that was at the back of the selection process was that the product should meet some critical need in areas of advanced technology and should preferably be such that it would substitute some critical imports in India.

During the process of selection, a chance meeting with W. L. Gore in the summer of 1962, led to the idea of producing Poly Tetra Fluoro Ethylene (PTFE, also known by the trademark of Teflon) insulated wires and cables. These wires and cables had remarkable high temperature stability, could withstand extremely low temperatures, were chemically inert, and offered very low radio-frequency losses. These and a host of other extraordinary properties made these wires and cables of critical use in a number of high-technology applications, for example in the control systems of high technology equipment like aircraft and missiles, and in chemical plants and equipment. The whole of the Indian requirement of such cables and wires at that time was being met through imports. Production of these cables and wires at small scale seemed a manageable.

Acquiring the Knowledge Base

Having chosen the product, an exhaustive study of the technologies involved was begun. Soon a long list of technologies and techniques needed at various stages of production was identified. Thus, working with PTFE insulation required mastering the following skills: mixing and compounding of corona resistant and other types of PTFE, cold extrusion of plastics, conversion of powder to tape, cold rolling/calendering, slitting, wrapping the tape around a conductor, twisting, braiding, and rapid testing of finished wires and cables. All these techniques that seem simple mechanical operations in the case of ordinary materials, become specialised technological activities while working with a difficult material like PTFE.

Making the conductors required the development of skills in wire drawing, electroplating, annealing, twisting and stranding.

Making wires and cables that would work for specific applications required vast design capabilities. Thus, the wires and cables had to be designed for small size and weight, mechanical strength, flex-life and flexibility, geometry and physical configuration. Similarly, the electrical properties of the wires and cables had to be optimally designed for high dielectric break down voltage, for the optimal voltage current and power combinations, and for extra high voltage and corona. And in specialised applications in areas of data and pulsed signal transmission, the wires and cables had to be designed to minimise microphonic noise and cross talk. For applications in the areas of radio-frequency transmission, optimal designs for characteristic impedance, attenuation, capacitance, low radio-frequency leakage and low radiation had to be worked out.

Involvement of specialised technologies and wide design capabilities obviously made the product a specially high value addition product. Use of expensive materials like PTFE, silver and pure copper also made it a high value product. The specialised skills and design capabilities required ensured that competition would be limited, and well-made products, made to strict specifications, would find a market for themselves. All these characteristics made the product highly attractive.

Preparation for Return to India

Preparation for return to India started even while the search for the product was going on. Conservation of time and money, simple low cost living near the work place, limited social life and contacts with like-minded Indians, minimal allocation of time for entertainment and other such activities, remained the guiding principles throughout this second stay in USA, which was undertaken specifically for the purpose of acquiring the necessary skills and resources for developing a high-technology enterprise in India. Collection of professional, industrial and commercial information, and consulting activity to gain industrial expertise, were the obvious priority activities for this period of preparation.

Once the product selection was made, the next step was to enter into consultancy with W. L. Gore, who had invented a special process for PTFE insulation and was the only manufacturer of PTFE insulated wires and cables at that time. This consultancy helped in learning electromagnetic theory in concrete application contexts. It also helped in the study of radio-frequency coaxial cables, dielectric tests and testing equipment, and the setting up of general tests.

Working with equipment in Gore’s facilities provided hands-on experience of the processes involved in the making of PTFE wires and cables, and created awareness about critical equipment design features, operating parameters and safety precautions. The experience also helped in acquiring commercial and applications information about the product and learning about the industry sectors where such wires and cables were used and the advantages these offered over traditional solutions and over similar materials. This hands-on experience in a manufacturing facility also helped in grasping pricing principles and policies, and generated some awareness of the ways of selling and marketing, and coping with competition. Some awareness of the relationship between actual costs and value pricing, and between real and perceived value, also began to arise. And working in an actual production environment of course helped in learning about the management of men, and about managing inventories of raw materials, components and spares etc.

At this stage consultations were held with the Small Business Administration, Dept. of Commerce, USA, and with the Indian Investment Centre. While consultations with the Small Business Administration and perusal of their publications was of some help, consultations with IIC were of not much use. They it seemed were attuned to dealing with only the very large investors.

As consultancy with Mr. Gore continued and a certain level of rapport was established, a memorandum of understanding for a general technical collaboration in manufacturing efforts in India was arrived at. The agreement permitted the manufacture of any of the products developed at Gore’s facilities till then, as well as products that might be developed in future. At the insistence of the Government of India, a clause permitting free export to any country of any of the products manufactured in India under the collaborative arrangement was added to the agreement, and this clause proved useful later. The agreement also provided that capital contributed by the foreign collaborator would not come with any strings attached: there would be no insistence on selling particular kinds of machines, equipment or materials in lieu of the equity. On the part of the Indian collaborator, who was to bear overall responsibility for the running of the enterprise, there was a commitment that no compensation for his services would be drawn till the enterprise began to turn in profits. The collaboration agreement was approved by the Government of India in 1963 for a period of ten years.

Preparatory Visit to India

After selecting the product, studying the technologies involved, obtaining some amount of hands-on experience in the manufacturing process and entering into a largely open-ended collaborative arrangement with the pioneering manufacturer of the product in the world, Dr. Garg began preparations for visiting India to make the preliminary arrangements for setting up the enterprise and sound the potential users of the product. The first visit in this context took place in December 1964.

It was an intensive trip. In about four weeks almost all offices and industries concerned with PTFE wires and cables were visited. And, offices from where the necessary clearances were to be obtained were approached.

Meetings with officers from the ministry of Industry and the Department of Electronics seemed to indicate that there was little appreciation of the product and its potentialities amongst those who were supposed to be planning for and leading the industrial and technological development of India. Officers of the Ministry of Industries were not conversant with the highly advantageous applications of PTFE wires and cables in critical defence and other high technology industries; those in the Department of Electronics were aware of the applications, but their forecasts of the quantum of potential use of these products in India were far off the mark; going by their forecasts no one would have risked manufacture of these wires and cables in India.

Not much help could be obtained from the office of the Development Commissioner of Small Scale Industries. The office had no meaningful information about the availability of the necessary materials and machines in the country, or about the status of related industries. Such information had to be collected later through personal contacts with the concerned vendors and producers.

Meetings with professionals in major user industries, on the other hand, turned out to be very encouraging. Many of them were making equipment and machines of which the PTFE wires and cables formed a critical component, and they had to import these, often under conditions and at prices that they knew to be unjust. Defence laboratories had even greater difficulties: foreign suppliers simply refused to sell them these components. The professional in such industries and laboratories were generally excited when told about the possibilities of indigenously making PTFE cables and wires of comparable performance and at competitive prices. Many of them offered unhesitating commitments to buy the cables and wires from the very first batch manufactured in the country.

Final Preparations

After returning to USA, the next six months were spent in preparing for another intensive and longer visit to India later in the summer. And during this second visit, undertaken in summer 1965, a makeshift work-place was prepared in a part of the old family house; proper industrial power connection was obtained; rules and procedures concerning imports and customs duties were studied; lists of materials, machines and components to be imported were prepared; applications for the requisite import licenses were moved; and application for registration as a small scale industry was filed.

On return to USA, drawings for equipment to be made in India were finalised, operating instructions were worked out, and correspondence with prospective customers and concerned government departments was continued. During the whole of the period of preparation, and especially during this last phase in USA, a continuous effort was made to collect small hand tools, power tools, electrical parts and components and low cost but useful household devices and gadgets which might be used for industrial and experimental work later.

Around the end of 1965, the first major shipment of selected materials, components and machines was made to India. This shipment included the hand-tools, gauges and devices; commercial and manufacturing information brochures and catalogues; and some basic chemicals that had been collected over time. Besides these, the minimal materials and machines required to begin manufacturing in India were also sent with this first shipment. These included conductors of assorted sizes and types; PTFE tapes of various colours, thickness and widths; a tape-wrapping machine; a braiding machine; and a high-voltage test transformer. The total cost of this shipment was around $5000, which amount was not more than one fourth of the total equity of $20,000 which was shared equally between the two parties to the collaboration. And the materials and machines thus procured were sufficient to begin the manufacture of PTFE wires and cables almost immediately.

Beginning Production at Ghaziabad

By the end of March 1966, the stay in the USA was wound up. Selection of the product and preparation, including both the technological and financial preparations to begin manufacturing in India, thus took just about 4 years. After returning to India, basic fabrication and shop equipment were procured within a week from the local market for engineering goods. Work benches, take-up and pay-off stands, frames and supports, spooling and winding machines, sintering oven and testing tank, etc., could all be obtained or fabricated from components available in the local markets at very low cost. Setting up of the shop and the work-place, installation of the imported equipment and fabrication of the other machines and equipment required took only about 3 months, and an investment of about 10,000 rupees. With this the shop was ready to implement the last value-adding stage in the manufacturing process. This required wrapping the insulation tape on the conductor, sintering, and final testing the completed wire. This last step itself added around 100 percent value to the cost of the intermediate products, with which the manufacturing was begun.

The first shipment had included a small supply of various types of fully finished, tested and ready for sale PTFE insulated wires and cables. Some quantity of finished but untested wires and cables had also been imported. Almost the whole lot of finished and tested wires imported were used to serve as reference for setting-up and calibration of the test equipment. The untested wires were used to initially provide for the sizes and types that could not be immediately produced, and to complete the range for the home market.

The first batch was produced in about 4 months, and the first indigenously produced PTFE cables and wires were sold in July 1966. Total sales for the first year of production, April 1966-March 1967 amounted to around Rs.60,000.00 on an investment of less than Rs.35,000.00 inclusive of imported equipment and materials.

This quick commissioning of production and sales became possible partly because of the decision to begin production from the intermediate finished products, and initially implementing only the last value added step. Even more important was the fortunate coming together of a team of committed and skilful workers, who included an expert welder and fitter, a couple of young diploma engineers, and two student engineers who joined the facility for their summer training. It was only because of the dedicated hard work of this team that production could be started and the first sales made within three months of starting work on the shop.

Regressive Integration of Conductors Technology

Regressive integration of preceding steps in the production process began almost immediately. Integration proceeded in two parallel streams. On the one side efforts were made to integrate the process of making finished conductors, and on the other to integrate preceding steps of the process of PTFE insulation.

The first step in the regressive integration of conductors was to set up a simple facility to test these against the ASTM standards. This facility required only an accurate balance and easily available chemicals, and cost almost nothing. As soon as the facility was set-up it was found that at least some of the conductors that had been imported from the USA and were guaranteed to conform to the ASTM standards did not actually do so. The test facilities were reliable enough to support formal claims upon the conductor manufacturer, who finally accepted the claims.

The second step was to begin stranding the conductors. Initially, stranded conductors were imported. But a simple stranding machine, designed originally from first principles, was fabricated within a few months. The machine was a rough and ready construct, and was fed manually, but it was good enough to perform the task of stranding the conductors in the quantities and up to the quality that was required. This machine cost only a few hundred rupees to make. Ready-made machines to perform the same task cost between $15-20,000 in the international market at that time. Instead of relying upon imported stranded conductors, lower-cost plated single-end conductors could then be used. The stranding machines were perfected in a couple of years, and soon machines that could strand up to 37 conductors together were fabricated inexpensively in the same manner.

Efforts were then made to substitute the imported single-end silver plated conductors by conductors from Indian sources. The traditional Indian zari bazaars in Delhi, Benaras and Surat were explored, and soon a zari-maker in Surat could be convinced to produce silver-plated conductors to the desired specifications. He also agreed to take back the lots that failed to pass the specification tests. This source continued to supply a part of the conductor requirements for about 6 to 7 years, before the process of making the conductors could be fully integrated.

Meanwhile, drawing and annealing capabilities were developed so that instead of importing the final conductors, large diameter electroplated wires could be imported and then drawn and annealed to the requisite size and quality. Drawing and annealing were perfected in about 2 years, and this considerably reduced the import cost of conductors, and correspondingly enhanced the value added in the manufacturing process.

The final step in regressive integration of the conductors, that of electroplating, took somewhat longer to develop. A separate company to make the conductors was set up in 1973. An electroplating bath was designed and fabricated and various steps in the electroplating process were perfected by 1978.

Learning and implementing the process of nickel-plating of conductors took longer. It was only in 1985, after intensive development effort of about 8 years, that this technology could be adequately developed. But once this process became available, nickel-plated conductors could be produced at a fraction of their world-price, and this in fact helped in putting downward pressure on the world-price of such conductors.

Regressive integration of the conductors thus took about 25 years to complete, but, as we have seen, major value-adding steps were getting integrated from the very first year.

Regressive Integration of PTFE-insulation Technology

Regressive integration of PTFE insulation proceeded simultaneously. The first step in this direction was the fabrication of slitting and calendering machines. A rough and ready slitting machine was fabricated within a year, the calendring machine took about two years to make. Once these machines were ready, it became possible to import the PTFE tape in thick, wide and large rolls and calender and slit it to the desired sizes. Given the low volume of production required in India, and the extreme flexibility of the calendring and slitting machines, it became possible to import and use partial rolls and left-over lots of PTFE tapes, which would not have worked on the automatic machines elsewhere in the world, and therefore could be bought at very low costs.

Extrusion of tape beginning with PTFE powder was perfected in about 5 to 6 years. For this purpose also simple machines were designed, and in the early stages mixing and colour compounding of the powder was done even by hand. With acquisition of the capability to extrude tapes from powder, and to calender and slit them to the desired sizes, the whole of the PTFE insulation process was integrated.

Thus beginning with the import of only wrapping and braiding machines, and small quantities of finished conductors and PTFE tape, almost the whole process, except for the electroplating of the conductors, was integrated within 6 to 7 years. Value added production thus could start almost immediately, and the value addition went on increasing from year to year. This incremental value-addition protected the enterprise against rise in the price of semi-finished products and raw materials in the international market. The international prices indeed kept rising, but continuous regressive integration ensured that the overall costs of production in India did not rise. In fact, the Indian facility became the price setter in the world, and the question of banning the import of PTFE wires and cables to protect the Indian industry, which was studied by the Department of Electronics, became infructuous.

At the end of this process, this facility, created through minimal capital investment and capital imports, became one of the rare facilities in the world where the whole process of making PTFE wires and cables was integrated in a single facility. The advantages of such integration were so high that even the foreign collaborator wanted to be a part of this expanding integration process, though the negotiations for expanding his stake could not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

The regressive integration undertaken at Garg Associates succeeded mainly because of the expertise in final testing of the finished product. Because of the confidence it testing procedures, different steps in the process could be experimented with and altered in parallel without degrading the final product.

Sharing the Experience

Having succeeded in setting up a high technology enterprise in India with small investments, Dr. Garg decided to share the experience with Indians abroad. Dr. Garg visited USA in 1973 and spoke about his experience with several hundred Indians in more than a dozen cities across the country. This visit enthused at least two Indian engineers to return to India and start high technology enterprises on similar lines. Their story is briefly recounted in the following chapters. They became the nuclei of technology incubation at Ambala and Mysore.

Towards Positive Balance of Payment

Having developed the technology to a level where the most exacting demands of professional users all over India could be satisfied, it was realised that negative balance of foreign exchange incurred in importing copper, silver and PTFE was unsustainable. Efforts were therefore made to export finished wires and cables, to at least offset the import requirements. Exports began in a small way in 1983. By 1986 net export earnings were enough to clear the whole of the foreign exchange deficit accrued by the enterprise till then. Since then the Company has been a net foreign exchange earner. The Table below lists the turnover and export performance of Garg Associates and its associated Companies in the PTFE Wires and Cables business, Sukriti Vidyut Udyog, Dhruv Electronics and Sight Electronics, during the last five years.

 

Year

Turnover
(Lakh Rs.)

Exports
(Lakh Rs.)

Investment
(Lakh Rs.)

Debt/ Equity

1993-94

280

83

50

0

1994-95

300

119

55

0

1995-96

363

121

55

0

1996-97

354

119

65

0

1997-98

347

122

60

0

 


Initial exports were undertaken through the foreign collaborator. Since 1986, the Company has been undertaking direct exports without any intermediary. Developing foreign high technology customers has been a rewarding experience technologically and financially. Meeting the strict and customised specifications of foreign customers in defence, aerospace and atomic energy applications has helped the Company widen its manufacturing and testing skills. The ability to offer customised products to strict technical specifications and delivery schedules has helped the Company make a name for itself and for India. The products of the Company are being exported to Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, South Africa, Thailand, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Garg Associates were the first to build low-investment high-performance industry in India. Since then many other companies have followed the path, to produce a great variety of high-technology products of international quality. A list of these companies, which together constitute SIGHT, and the products they make is given at the end of this guide. Experience of some of these companies follow.

As would be noticed, all the companies have been performing well even during the last five years during which there has been a world-wide industrial downturn. Particularly, South-East Asian countries and India have been suffering a major crisis. The high performance of the SIGHT members in international markets in this period is a testimony to the soundness of the principles and methodologies described here. Not only the export performance but also the inherent financial health of these companies is noteworthy. The debt-equity ratio of almost all the companies is near zero, and in all cases turnover is many times the investment.

CRYOGENICS INDIA, GHAZIABAD

Cryogenics India Limited was started in 1974 to produce industrial gases. The Company soon diversified into Aromatic Compounds and Fine Chemicals. The technology for the production of these products starting from indigenous raw materials of natural organic origin was developed by the Company. Emphasis was placed on developing and fabricating the necessary machines in-house. This helped the Company keep the investments and product costs low, and allowed the Company to export without any price-support or subsidies from the government. Exports of the Company were preferred all over the world because of the natural organic raw materials used. The products of the Company are being exported to Germany, Spain, UK and USA. The Table below summarises the performance of the Company during the last five year.

 

Year

Turnover
(Lakh Rs.)

Exports
(Lakh Rs.)

Net F.E. Earned (1000 US$)

Investment (Lakh Rs.)

1993-94

69

2

7

38

1994-95

61

14

39

37

1995-96

86

56

148

37

1996-97

173

128

320

48

1997-98

200

160

378

48

 

GLOWTRONICS PVT. LIMITED, MYSORE

In 1986, Bharat Electronics was looking for some enterprise to take up the challenge of manufacturing Heaters and Cathodes, which are the life-giving hearts of TV Picture Tubes and which were being entirely imported at the time.

Alok Gupta took up the task and set up Glowtronics in 1987. Initially, Cathode making technology and equipment were purchased from a USA company. Heater making technology was developed in-house. When the first Cathodes were delivered to Bharat Electronics in 1988, the quality was found to be not up to the mark, even though the U.S. collaborator had found the Cathodes fully acceptable. The Indian companies had set up their quality standards based on the more stringent Japanese specs, while the U.S. producers were then behind time. The U.S. collaborators threw up their hands saying that the Japanese specs were unrealistic and undesirable, and they did not know how to meet those unnecessary specs.

Glowtronics were thus left in the lurch, and had no option but to delve deep into the basics of the technology and improve the product on their own. It took another 6 months before a product meeting the stringent Japanese specs could be developed. From then onwards, Glowtronics became the indigenous supplier for Cathodes and Heaters, a very high technology product, to the Indian TV Tube makers.

Over the years Glowtronics have continuously improved the processes, equipment and the product, so as to meet the demands of all types of customers in India and abroad. There are regular exports to China and the USA. In fact, Glowtronics now design new systems for customers in the USA and is currently working with a customer in France to develop new type of Cathodes and Heaters.

In the recent past Glowtronics have developed Dispenser Cathodes which are used in Xenon/Krypton Lamps, Radar Tubes, Transmitting Tubes, etc. Glowtronics are only the seventh manufacturer of Dispenser Cathodes in the world.

Glowtronics are also developing the basic material Heavy Met, which is an alloy of Tungsten with Copper/Nickel/Iron. This alloy has strategic importance apart from uses in EDM-machining, Gyroscopes and Aircraft parts.

The company works on Swadeshi principles in all respects in high technology areas and continues to contribute to the prosperity of the country.

The following Table summarises the performance of the Company for the last five years.

 

Fixed Investments

Year

Turnover
(Lakh Rs.)

Exports
(Lakh Rs.)

Land & Building
(lakh Rs.)

Plant & Machinery
(Lakh Rs.)

Debt/ Equity

1993-94

462

22

35

192

0.46

1994-95

617

22

63

243

0.19

1995-96

718

95

74

399

0.48

1996-97

505

74

74

415

0.36

1997-98

589

36

74

430

0.09

 

Countries exported to: China, USA, UK, Russia

AVASARALA TUNGSTEN LTD., MYSORE

The story of this endeavour goes back to 1975, when Dr. Jagmohan Garg was visiting the USA and Europe talking to Indian engineers to think about returning to their motherland. Alok Gupta was one of the young Indian engineers, who came in contact with Dr. Garg then. Alok Gupta was working in the field of Tungsten Powder Metallurgy in the USA. Ever since returning to India in 1979, Alok Gupta kept alive his dream of starting a powder metallurgy unit for manufacture of Tungsten in India. This basic material, which forms the heart of all lamps, was being entirely imported at that time.

In 1977, Mishra Dhatu Nigam (MIDHANI), a public sector company located at Hyderabad, tried to set up a powder metallurgy unit for manufacture of Tungsten, based on know-how and technology purchased from a French company. Unfortunately, the equipment and technology transferred by the French were not up to the mark, and the efforts of MIDHANI failed. In 1985, another attempt was made by Mysore Lamps to set up such a unit, based on the technology and equipment purchased from a Japanese company. However, the devaluation of rupee that occurred in the early nineties made the project financially unviable, and the effort had to be abandoned.

Alok Gupta realised that the dream of setting up a powder metallurgy unit for manufacturing Tungsten could be fulfilled only through an entirely indigenous effort. In 1992, the Avasarala Group, which had expertise in manufacturing equipment, came forward to take up this effort. Mr. Mangapathi Rao, Chairman of the Group, decided to allocate the necessary funds for development of the technology. This is how Avasarala Tungsten Ltd. came into being.

It took the company 4 years to develop the process; design, build and install the necessary equipment; and to fine-tune the process up to the level that the first ductile 0.5 mm wire could be drawn from semi-processed ore containing Ammonium-para-Tungstate. Thus this high temperature refractory material was finally tamed by a totally swadeshi effort, in which not only the process was indigenously developed, but also all of the components and equipment were fabricated within the country. The total project cost up to the production stage, including development, came to only Rs. 6 crores. The proposed project costs with foreign plants was 24 crores. The Company achieved sales of Rs.85 lakhs in the first year of production.

Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India recognised this swadeshi effort by conferring the National Award in R&D for 1998 to this unit.

At present, this unit is producing Tungsten wire rod of international quality, reducing our dependence upon imports. The Company propose to enhance the capacity, so as to be able to soon begin exporting this high technology product.

MYSORE WILFILTRONICS, MYSORE

Dr. Krishna Rao, a Urologist, working in the Mission Hospital, Mysore approached Alok Gupta in 1992, with a problem. He had been using imported TURP (Trans Urethral Resection of Prostrate) loops for prostrate surgery. Each of these loops cost Rs.3000; Dr. Rao could use the loops for about 10 surgeries each, bringing the cost down to around Rs.300 per patient. He, however, felt that the cost of Rs.300 for just one of the items used in the surgery was too much. If the loops could be manufactured indigenously, the cost of prostrate surgery could be brought down substantially.

Wilfiltronics was set up to indigenously develop and manufacture these surgical loops. The materials used in the imported loops had to be analysed, critical parameters in the materials and the loops had to be identified, sources that could indigenously supply the requisite materials had to be located, and the equipment for processing the material into the required loops had to be fabricated. It took about 13 months of work, before the first prototype TURP loop could be delivered to Dr. Krishna Rao. It was indeed heartening, when Dr. Rao reported successful use of the prototype in early 1994.

It took another 6 months of development and trials before various minor problems and snags could be sorted out. Only then could the Company acquire the confidence to start marketing the product to other Urologists, first in Mysore and Bangalore, and later in other parts of India.

The Wilfiltronics loop was priced at rupees five hundred. This reduced the cost of the loop component in prostrate surgery from rupees three hundred per patient to rupees fifty. Same price is being maintained till today.

In mid-1995, Dr. Krishna Rao and Alok Gupta began to think about integrating the cutting and coagulating operations in a single loop. Till then urology surgeons used a cutting electrode for removing prostrate chips and changed to a separate coagulating electrode to stop the bleeding if any major vessel was cut. The changing of electrodes prolonged the time for which the patient had to remain under anaesthesia, which is always undesirable. Dr. Krishna Rao and Alok Gupta tried a new concept of coiling the wire in the loop, which would allow the same loop to be used both for cutting and coagulating. This electrode was named “Kriloktrode”. Preliminary patent application for this device was filed in February 1996, and the final in December 1996. This new electrode is slowly becoming popular amongst urology surgeons. It has been successfully tried by surgeons in U.K. and USA.

In the meanwhile, many more modles of loops have been added to the product. The quality of the product has been brought up to international standards. The Company has started exporting these loops to developing countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and to developed countries like UK.

This is the story of a high technology endeavour based on the principle of swadeshi, which has given fruitful results all around. The following Table summarises the progress of the Company.

 

Fixed Investments

 

Year

Turnover
(Lakh Rs.)

Exports
(Lakh Rs.)

Land & Building
(lakh Rs.)

Plant & Machinery
(Lakh Rs.)

Debt/ Equity

1993-94

-

-

7.83

5.93

2.39

1994-95

0.73

-

11.93

8.29

1.49

1995-96

10.16

-

13.53

9.72

0.32

1996-97

6.63

0.17

13.54

10.77

0.17

1997-98

6.68

-

13.54

10.86

0

 

Countries exported to: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and UK.

ADVANCED MICRODEVICES PVT. LIMITED, AMBALA CANTT.

Advanced Microdevices is the story of another unusually high and complex technology being mastered in India by starting from scratch, and with little investment.

Sri Nalini Kant Gupta, an electrical engineer from the Panjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, came in chance contact with Dr. Garg, while working at American Microsystems at Santa Clara, California, in 1973. Nalini Kant almost immediately decided to build a high performance venture in India on the lines Dr. Garg had been propagating. He had the urge to do something worthwhile in India; discussions with Dr. Garg showed him a practical way of going about it.

Nalini Kant came to India in 1975 with a tentative plan to manufacture semiconductors here. He studied in depth the state of semiconductor industry in India, and after personally visiting the semiconductor facilities in India and meeting the officers in-charge, he came to the conclusion that everything connected with the industry was being imported. He then returned to USA to prepare himself for a significant venture connected with the semiconductor industry.

He took up no job in the USA, and devoted the whole of the following year in absorbing all published scientific and commercial information concerning the materials, consumables and equipment used in the semiconductor industry. During this study, one of the materials he came across was porous membrane filters used for producing ultra-high purity/sterile fluids required in the processing of semi-conductors. Having decided upon the product, he studied about it in depth and returned to India, with the essential knowledge resource and financial reserves, to begin developing the technology for making these membranes. Within a few months of his return, he started experiments to make micro-porous membranes.

Nalini Kant began the development process by dissolving cotton in nitric acid, polymerising it and casting the resultant solution in a ordinary kitchen dish. Surprisingly, he was able to obtain a porous membrane. Then began a series of experiments, which ran into thousands and took two years of single-minded hard work, before any worthwhile membrane of uniform structure and pore-size could be obtained. Developing a repeatable process for obtaining membranes of desired uniform pore-sizes took several years. Testing procedures, test-equipment and manufacturing-equipment evolved along with the development of the process.

Saleable production began in the first year of development, in 1976 itself. But the long and arduous effort of developing a repeatable process to control membrane characteristics and the associated development of test procedures, test equipment and manufacturing machines, gave such a high level of insight and control, that today Advanced Microdevices probably know more about micro-porous membranes then anybody else; and they have the competence to quickly and cost-effectively develop membranes for extremely difficult newer applications.

Advanced Microdevices developed a strong home-base in the face of stiff competition from the multinationals operating in India. There was almost a price war launched by the established multinationals, but the grasp of the technology and low-cost self-made machines of Advanced Microdevices allowed them to compete at any price. And, having built up the domestic base, they began to explore the high technology world market for microporous membranes.

Close interaction with the users world-wide led to the development by Advanced Microdevices of special membranes for immuno-diagnostics. In this field they have now become the acknowledged world leaders. Their products are being exported to 31 countries world-wide.

The enviable growth in the physical facilities, turnover and exports is tabulated below:

 

Year

DomesticTurnover
(Lakh Rs.)

Export Turnover
(Lakh Rs.)

Investment
(Lakh Rs.)

1993-94

67

6

49

1994-95

69

27

54

1995-96

97

42

62

1996-97

149

68

67

1997-98

177

142

84

1998-99
up to Dec.98

181

211

-

 

Countries to which Advanced Microdevices products are exported: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Botswana, China, Canada, Cuba, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Israel, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Morocco, Norway, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, UK, USA.

SIGHT: Swadeshi Integration Group for High Technology

 

Sl

Company

Year

Products

Application Areas

1.

Garg Associates, Ghaziabad

1966

PTFE Wires & Cables Professional Electronic Equipment

2.

Navyug Electronics, Mumbai

1971

Computerised Process Controls Electronic Control Equipment

3.

Sukriti Vidyut Udyog, Ghaziabad

1972

Plated Conductors High Temperature and R.F. Equipment Wires

4.

Micromatic Machines, Ghaziabad

1973

Cylindrical Grinders Precision Machining of Automotive Parts

5.

Parishudha Sadhan Yantra, Ghaziabad

1973

Cylindrical Grinders Precision Machining of Automotive Parts

6.

Cryogenics, Ghaziabad

1974

Aromatics and Fine Chemicals Health Care Products

7.

Advanced Microdevices, Ambala

1976

Microporous Membranes Sterile Filtration, Immuno-Diagnostics

8.

Glowtronics, Mysore

1976

Heaters & Cathodes Electron Tubes

9.

Rockwin Flow Meters India, Ghaziabad

1976

Flow Meters Chemical & Mechanical Engineering Equipment

10.

K. V. Microwave, Ghaziabad

1979

Microwave Absorbers Anechoic Chambers, Comm. Antennas

11.

Dhruv Electronics, Ghaziabad

1984

PTFE Cables & Sleeves Professional Electronic Equipment

12.

Micro Instruments, Ambala

1986

Sub FHP Appliance Motors Instrument Cooling Fans, Refrigerators

13.

Sun Reprochem, Ghaziabad

1990

Photoresist Films and U.V. Curables Printed Circuit Boards, Reprographics

14.

Sight Electronics, Roorkee

1991

Plated Conductors High Temperature and R.F. Equipment Wires

15.

Sealed Energy Systems, Ambala

1992

Maintenance Free Batteries Oil Pumps, Remote Electronic Equipment

16.

Avasarala Tungsten, Mysore

1992

Non-sag Tungsten Wire Light bulbs and Electron Tubes

17.

Wilfiltronics, Mysore

1993

TURP Loops and Krialoktrodes Minimum Invasive Surgery

18.

G. B. Technology, Gurgaon

1995

Microwave Compo-nents and Antenna Civil and Defence Telecommunications

19.

Advanced Sensor Systems, Ambala

1997

Programmable Strip Cutters Diagnostics Machines, Filter Integrity Testers

20.

Microphoto Films, Ambala

1997

High Resolution Photo Films Semiconductor Processing

 

Acknowledgement: SIGHT members are grateful to Dr. J. K. Bajaj of the Centre for Policy Studies for immense help in compiling and editing this preliminary guide.