Interview Technocrat K.G. Girish Babu has built up organisations that have put Kerala on the IT map. An ardent ham and photographer, he is a multi-tasker who effectively juggles his work and his hobbies, reports Athira M.
K.G.Girish Babu is a master of multi-tasking. He is currently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Technopark, Managing Director of Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd, (the apex company to promote Information Technology infrastructure in Kerala) and CEO of Cyberpark Kerala (meant for the promotion and development of investment in IT and ITES industries in Malabar region).
He can hold forth on business development, having built many ventures/organisations from scratch in Kerala, both in the industrial and Information Technology (IT) sector. Amidst all that he has remained an active ham (amateur radio operator), for the last three decades.
Girish was among those who set the IT movement rolling in Kerala (1999-2000), “in the team led by Aruna Sundararajan, which also had M.Sivasankar, and Sasi P.M. ” By then he had a successful track record with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Limited (KSIDC) and erstwhile Kerala Hitech Industries Ltd (now BrahMos Aerospace). Although Girish left the team after a year, he returned to the Kerala State IT Mission as the CEO – IT Parks.
He had to plan and implement new IT parks in Kerala. His primary responsibility was to “position Kochi on the global IT map. Today, I have the satisfaction of making the first IT Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Kerala, that is Infopark in Kochi, and the first IT SEZ in Malabar, the UL Cyberpark, Kozhikode.”
The Infopark journey wasn't easy at all. “Accent neutralisation was one issue. We launched the ITES Habitat, a first-of-its-kind in India by a State Government, to create an employable pool of professionals. Interestingly, the teachers who came as trainers endorsed that it is easy to work with our students on accent neutralisation. We needed the right kind of land, which we eventually got at Kakkanad,” he says.
Great days are in store for IT in Kerala, he affirms. “Regarding Cyberpark Kerala, the first building will be ready in 18 months. Technopark is moving into a decisive stage, Phase III, which will be unique in many ways. Things are picking up in the case of Technocity too. TCS and Infosys have already come in. It will soon be an SEZ and the Phase IV of Technopark will come inside the Technocity,” he explains.
“I hate it when people say Kerala has little prospects of growth, since working days are lost because of hartals and strikes. But, I've confidence in the State. It's only that we need a controversy with our morning tea,” he quips.
Being a ham isn't just a hobby for Girish. “I treat it like a service, which makes it thrilling,” he says, referring to how hams play a vital role during disasters and national emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, and bomb blasts, by providing voluntary emergency communications in the affected areas.
“Hams volunteer to offer help as and when needed,” he adds, making special note of the train mishap at Perumon (“I was the first one to know”), and the Gulf War, when the hams could take out many stranded Indians out of the war zone.
Wireless communication always fascinated him. He made a wireless transmitter while studying in class eight, for the science exhibition. “Thanks to my teacher Rajan and the wonderful chemisty and physics lab at our school (Government HS, Chavakkad). He always encouraged my experiments and brought me copies of Science Today magazine.”
While in college, (St Albert's, Kochi), “I, along with a friend, rigged up a wireless transmitter. We didn't know that it was illegal. When some issues came up, we hid the equipment,” he remembers.
In 1979, he cleared the examination to obtain his licence as an amateur radio operator with a Grade I. VU2KGB is his callsign. [VU2 is the callsign prefix for general (formerly the Advanced Grade and Grade I) licence holders and the suffix KGB is his personal identification.]
He is one of the first Indian radio amateurs to “get on to Internet email over the radio link through the amateur gateways. The King of Thailand opened his mailbox for me, followed by the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, and Manny, a priest in Pretoria, South Africa, long before Internet services were made available in India,” he says.
“We amateurs aren't restricted like the professional radio operators. Also, we launch our own satellites, which last longer than the ones sent by space agencies. Some 15 satellites are active now,” he adds.
Girish's wife Maya is also a ham.
“She gradually took interest in this. My call sign is VU2KGB, so a friend said hers should be VU2CIA!” he says, as he signs off.
Time off with
* Photography, which he nurtured while studying at NSS Engineering College, Palakkad.
* Computerised antenna design and building for VHF and UHF wireless communication. He helped his son Rahul make an antennae, the largest in India, which can track amateur radio satellites. He says he has also designed and manufactured the entire ground station antenna and structures for the experiments jointly conducted by the German Aerospace (DLR) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).