Aerospace engineering and music are contrasting verticals in which Bengaluru-based Radel has proven its might.
Radel Advanced Technology (P) Ltd manufactures hi-tech indigenous electronics for the Indian aerospace and defence sector and has etched a niche in the aerospace sector with its in-house design and manufacture of cutting-edge equipment and systems design. Radel Electronics (P) Ltd makes electronic Indian instruments and has pioneered path-breaking inventions like the electronic Shruti Box, the Talometer, the electronic Tanpura, the electronic tabla, the electronic Veena and the DigiVeena synthesiser amongst others.
G Raj Narayan, Founder & Managing Director of the Radel Group
Radel has and will continue to usher in a modern era in the field of Indian electronics, be it through one-of-a-kind musical instruments, or avant-garde defence equipment. Innovation is our lifeblood- G Raj Narayan, Founder & Managing Director.
The dual passions are perfectly natural for G Raj Narayan, Founder & Managing Director of the Radel Group. As a young lad, he trained in Carnatic music, all the while dreaming of designing aircraft. He grew up to become an expert flutist and an electrical engineer, “constantly motivated by my father’s zeal for radical problem-solving and resourcefulness.”
After acquiring a Master’s degree in electronics from IIT-Madras, he joined the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s design department where he learned about high tech integrated circuits. It was while working on an aircraft simulator project, where he used electronics to create ambient noise, that the idea of creating sounds by using electronics, was born.
“Initially, my need to invent purely stemmed from the need to practice,” Narayan recalls, explaining, “Musicians face a lot of limitations due to the erratic availability of accompanists. I wanted to ‘engineer’ a sustainable solution.” The electronic Shruti Box launched at the Karnataka Gana Kala Parishat in Bengaluru in 1971, was the first of its kind and paved the way for an unprecedented era of electronic musical instruments under the banner of Radel Electronics Pvt Ltd.
The electronic Tanpura, introduced in 1979, disrupted the performing music field and Raj Narayan credits the popularity of the instrument to the distinguished vocalists, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, who was the first musician to use the electronic tanpura in a live concert, and Prof. TR Subramaniam, who used it while performing in the US. “These revolutionary, radical musicians realised that we needed to accept technology,” he says.
The electronic tabla, Taalmala, launched in 1987, was the first to use software and microprocessors and was, in Narayan’s words, “a quantum jump.” Microprocessors were also used in the electronic lehra machine, Sunadamala. Capable of playing 200 ragas in 20 different taals, it helps tabla players practice on their own. It was launched by the musical great, Pandit Ravi Shankar in 1993.
After the introduction of the original electric veena in 1971, and the subsequent launch in 2002 of the electronic Veena, that has adjustable frets and built-in amplifiers to enhance the sound, Radel’s DigiVeena synthesiser is the first Indian electronic musical instrument to have been patented in 2002, and is the first synthesiser in Indian music that can be used to generate sounds of instruments like the Tanjore veena, mandolin, saxophone and flute.
Radel’s list of prestigious customers include almost all the legends of Indian music: Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Dr. L Subramaniam and Shubha Mudgal, amongst others. With such great testimonials and a track record of reliability, Radel soon scaled up from manufacturing less than half a dozen instruments initially to producing 3000 instruments a month.
Raj Narayan forayed into the aerospace sector in 2005, when the Indian government opened the defence industry to the private sector. He saw a synergy in the company’s work in micro-processors, signal conditioning and detection techniques in digital instruments with future indigenous design for aerospace and defence equipment. Soon, Radel Advanced Technology (P) Ltd introduced its first product, the fully solid-state distributor, which fires the rockets carried by the Jaguar fighters of the Indian Air Force.
Despite the obvious hurdles that came in making headway in a historically public sector-dominated industry, Radel successfully executed the design and manufacture of 20 separate indigenisation projects for the IAF and the army, and their products fly on the Jaguar, MiG-29, Dhruv Helicopter and AN 32 aircraft. Radel remains one of the few domestic players certified by CEMILAC (Centre for Military Airworthiness Certification).
Raj Narayan says that his “biggest concern was the lack of capable engineers produced by the outdated education system in the country,” and it spurred his next big initiative. Fuelled by his love for teaching, the veteran technocrat established Drona, a school of engineering practice, which seeks to make budding professionals industry-ready through short ‘Campus-2-Career Apprenternship’ (apprentice-intern) programmes, especially for the sunrise industries of aerospace, defense and electronics.
As a visionary who has veritably transformed the arena of Indian electronics over 40 years, he has been bestowed with multiple honours such as the Government of India Special Recognition Award for R&D 2009 (MSME), the Karnataka Kalashree Award of Govt. of Karnataka 2001, the Rajyotsava Award of Govt. of Karnataka 1996, and the Surmani Award of Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai 1987, to name a few.
Radel Advanced Technology (P) Ltd