By Sharon St Joan
To read part one first, click here.
Four bids had been submitted. One of the bids was from a company that had been around for 90 years and was known as one of the world’s finest engineering companies.
Another was a company based in Gujarat that had a fantastic reputation and specialized in building small aircraft. Also submitting a bid was the same company that had just failed to complete the job on time and had missed the deadline by many months. And then there was Aspick, the small unknown company, started just the year before.
The space agency was legally obligated to award the contract to the lowest bidder – because all the bidding companies had been pre-qualified.
The bids were opened one by one. Aspick’s was opened first and read out. Dr. Krishna recalls that he “put on a poker face” — not wanting to look too amazed or surprised.
When his bid was read out, the whole room turned around and looked at him. His bid was only a small fraction of the other bids. Amazingly, the unknown company, Aspick, had just won the contract to build India’s first space communication antenna.
Even Dr. Krishna was a little dumbfounded at this outcome. He went home and spent several hours re-doing all the calculations to be sure he had everything right and hadn’t made any mistakes. There were no computers in those days.
The space agency may have had second thoughts too. The next morning he received a telegram asking him to reconfirm that he actually could meet all the requirements of the project. He replied that yes, he definitely could.
The antenna was meant to be finished in thirteen weeks. During that time Colonel N. Pant, the Director of the Space Applications Center in Ahmedabad, practically lived in Dr. Krishna’s factory. The purpose of his job was to put scientific technology to work for the common man. A number of the drawings were modified, yet even with all the changes, Aspick still managed to deliver the perfect, finished antenna in fourteen weeks.
When assembled, the antenna was 33 feet across, with 64 panels and one center panel. It was disassembled and sent off in three government trucks to Delhi. Packing it took a long time since each panel had to be packed separately with shock absorbing material.
The communications satellite program in India was a huge success. 600 villages all over India had TV sets connected to small dish antenna pointed towards ATS-5. The information that was picked up related to monsoons, market conditions, and when to harvest – the kind of practical knowledge that was immensely helpful to small farmers and villagers; it aided in the planting of crops and school education.
In other areas of his life, Dr. Krishna has applied the same level of positive intention. As the Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, and a lifelong advocate for animals, he has contributed to India having the world’s most enlightened system of animal welfare laws. From his days as a young man, when he, along with his parents, Usha and Captain Sundaram, became the founders of the first and largest of the modern Indian animal shelters, Blue Cross of India – following in their footsteps, he has spent his life dedicated to the well-being of animals.
In 1973, when Aspick began, on the property at the Guindy Industrial Park, in Chennai, Dr. Krishna soon noticed three or four street dogs living in the area. He invited them in, fed them, and made sure that all his workers welcomed them warmly. After a rescue at the Chennai airport, the numbers of dogs at the factory grew to around twenty. Some of the dogs went on to live at home with him and his wife, Dr. Nanditha Krishna; some found other homes or stayed on at the factory. Now there are seven dogs living at Aspick – all contributing to the peaceful, yet industrious atmosphere – possibly the only factory anywhere with welders’ torches lighting up the air, palm trees waving gently just over the factory walls, and a line of dogs stretched out happily in the shade.
© 2015, Sharon St Joan
Top photo: Courtesy of Aspick Engineering
Second photo: Sharon St Joan / Dr. Chinny Krishna.
Third photo: Sharon St Joan / A puppy with a young volunteer at Blue Cross of India.