Telics plans foray into PC manufacturing, SW development

CIOL Bureau
New Update

R. Sreekumar

THIRUVANTHAPURAM: Long before venture capital funds caught the fancy of the knowledge industry, Kerala had tried as far as early 1970s a co-operative model for promoting electronics industry. The saga of Keltron has now been well chronicled but not that of Telics Ltd (Trivandrum Electronics Industrial Co-operative Society) which was started in 1973 by one of the team members that originally promoted Keltron. Over the years it has budded several entrepreneurs in the electronics industry. Dogged by financial and infrastructure problems, Telics continues to function in the liberalised competitive milieu with monopoly products and very soon plans to get into software development and PC manufacturing arena.

Not many know that leading organisations including Indian Railways, Airports Authority of India, Indian Telephone Industries, Central Public Works Department, State PWDs and KSRTC are sourcing many niche products from Telics. Ferro Resonant type voltage regulators, tri-colour torches, track-feed transformers (for track changing) are some of them. "For a long time we had the monopoly for these products and we continue to get orders from railways for electronic and electrical items," said Telics Executive Director K. Prabhakaran Nair.

It continues to maintain cutting edge in niche products. Recently, the company installed an automatic electrical bell system for Kendriya Vidyalaya, Thiruvananthapuam that enables the institution to re-deploy peons for more useful activities. "First they approached many private firms but they awarded the contract to us," pointed out Nair. Telics now has plans to diversify into application software development, manufacture and assembly of computers.

Many leading voltage stabiliser and UPS manufacturers had their training and apprenticeship at Telics. Some of the leading names include Kochouseph Chittilapally of V-Guard and MR Narayanan of Transmatic Systems. Vigil and Transtab are two other leading brands nurtured in Telics, said Nair proudly. The range of products developed by Telics include invertors, UPS, battery charger, emergency lamp and voltage stabiliser, electronic choke, TV booster, demonstration kit for solar panel voltaic (SPV)--most ideal for demonstration of working of solar panels in schools and colleges.

Telics was started under the sponsorship of the Department of Industries and Commerce, Kerala Government under the `half-a-million job' scheme of the Union Government in 1973. The objective was to provide employment to engineers, diploma holders and ITI certificate holders. Telics had taken 320 people for 18 months training. After training the aim was to form 14 production units under the control of 32 engineering entrepreneurs for manufacturing electrical and electronics products. Nair who has been associated with the unit since inception took a trip down memory lane.

Telics was to market the products produced by the 14 units. And 14 buildings were constructed in the present Keltron complex in Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram for the purpose. However, due to pressure from the government the buildings were handed over to Keltron. Subsequently, Telics had to move to a rented building. The trainees were assigned to develop 14 products including eco-cardiograph, audio, video products, transformers, cabinets etc. The team was given three months leave after training under the agreement that they would be given employment later. "But due to financial problems only four units could function with 60 employees," said Nair. The other trained entrepreneurs started their own ventures or joined Keltron units. "Due to financial, infrastructure and HR problems the project got stuck," rued Nair.

The Trivandrum District Co-operative Bank (TDCB) gave a loan of Rs 3 lakh in 1975 and Telics started importing 2-in-1 tape recorders, clock radio etc in semi-knocked down condition from Hong Kong. The sale of these products in Kerala enabled Telics to earn some profit. It had also developed the full range of voltage regulators, battery chargers, radios, tape recorders, emergency tube lights etc and could capture the south Indian market. It also opened offices in Bangalore, Goa, and Mangalore.

The company also undertook social activities. "In 1980 Telics trained scheduled caste/scheduled tribe people for production of TV, video, and audio products. Till today we have completed training for 62 batches from all the districts in the state," he said. During the six month training, accommodation and stipend were given to the beneficiaries. They were also provided with tools and test equipment after completion of training. More than 60 percent of them are working under the self-employment scheme by availing loan from banks.

Telics started production of black and white and color TVs using this manpower and could sell it in the market at a reasonable price. In 1982, Telics was the first to introduce invertors in Kerala which till today is an important requirement in homes and industry.

Soon the fame of Telics spread and by mid-eighties it had become the authorised vendor to leading utilities in the country. It also undertakes contract manufacturing for leading brands such as Keltron. It provides stabilisers for Otis Elevators, 50 V invertors for tower lighting system of BSNL, etc.

Now with just 32 employees and annual sales of Rs 60 lakh, Nair who was a junior official in Telics at its inception, is sad that its ambitious objectives could never be attained. At its small office in the state capital he continues to grapple with labour and financial, lack of government support and still continues to keep the organization afloat. "Ours is the only electronics co-operative in Kerala to survive 30 years while all our contemporaries closed down." No wonder certain orders are reserved for Telics alone, the automatic electric bell system being the most recent.

However, according to industry analysts, without adequate dose of modern management skills, marketing effort and upgradation of technical know-how, Telics may not achieve much in the globalised environment.