ISRO's commercial arm Antrix gets new chief

Madhumathi D. S. Bangalore | Updated on March 12, 2018

Dr K. Radhakrishnan, ISRO Chairman, greeting Dr V.S. Hegde (left), a veteran remote sensing applications scientist, as the Chairman and Managing Director for Antrix Corporation, during a press conference in Bangalore on Saturday. To the right is Mr R.R. Navalgund, Director, SACAhmedabad. — K. Murali Kumar

10-member board to be reconstituted in about a month

National space agency ISRO began the first shot at corporatising ‘mini ratna' commercial arm Antrix Corporation by naming a full-fledged Chairman and Managing Director to the body.

Dr V.S. Hegde, Scientific Secretary, ISRO, becomes the first official to hold the post in the relatively independent corporation; and the first non-Chairman of ISRO to head it. The new CMD will also reconstitute the 10-member board in about a month, ISRO's Chairman, Dr K. Radhakrishnan, announced on Saturday.

The board would continue to have a mix of members drawn from ISRO, industry and academia but the private sector directors would have fixed tenures, he said. The board has Mr Ratan Tata of Tata Sons; Mr Jamshyd Godrej, MD of Godrej & Boyce Ltd; and Mr P. Ravindra Reddy, MD of MTAR Technologies Ltd, as industry representatives. Their companies also supply hardware for ISRO's satellite and launcher programmes.

Sources familiar with developments told Business Line that Antrix was now mandated to give quarterly reports; and annual reports to the Space Commission. Its non-official members had largely remained unchanged for 15 years.

Ever since Antrix was formed in 1992, successive ISRO Chairmen, who are also Secretary of the DoS and Chairmen of the elite Space Commission, have headed Antrix. It functioned under an Executive Director [there were three EDs so far]. The previous one, Mr K.R. Sridhara Murthy, was promoted as Managing Director until he superannuated in September 2010.

Dr Hegde, an ISRO veteran and remote sensing expert, is also Director, Earth Observation Systems, at the Bangalore headquarters of the Department of Space; he would relinquish both the posts shortly to two other senior officials, Dr Radhakrishnan said. It would continue to be an ISRO subsidiary and report to or consult the parent on important commercial matters. The two would have a co-ordination committee that includes the chairpersons of ISRO and Antrix and senior directors of ISRO. It would “ensure the right kind of allocation of resources,” Dr Radhakrishnan said.

Around June 2010, months after taking charge as ISRO head, Dr Radhakrishnan proposed to separate the ISRO-Antrix chairs. Antrix had just then come under a cloud for its role in a preferential, extraordinary and irregular allocation of S-band spectrum on two of ISRO's future satellites to start-up company Devas Multimedia — headed by a former ISRO senior official. The finer details were unknown to the Space Commission and the Prime Minister's Office under whose purview ISRO/DoS functions.

“For over one year, we were seriously considering the need for a full-time Chairman for Antrix. In September, there arose the need to replace its MD, who superannuated. In July 2010, we initiated the process of restructuring and in February 2011, we the Space Commission started the process for finding the CMD,” he said.

The issue of reforming Antrix was tasked to a committee under the IIM-Bangalore Director, Dr Pankaj Chandra and including Indian Institute of Science's Associate Director and aerospace expert, Dr N. Balakrishnan; and DoS Member (Finance), Mr V.V. Bhat. Dr Radhakrishnan told the news conference the search for a new head began in February this year. Dr R. Chidambaram, Principal Adviser to the Prime Minister; Dr Radhakrishnan and Mr V.V. Bhat were in the committee. Dr Hegde, it is learnt, was picked from among half a dozen contenders from within the organisation.

Dr Hegde, who took charge at Antrix on June 7, briefly said later that in fiscal 2010-11, the company made a turnover of Rs 1,020 crore, 70 per cent of it from leasing transponders on its INSAT satellites to private domestic broadcasters. It sells Earth imageries from remote sensing satellites or IRSs; bids for global satellite building contracts and offers launch services to small foreign satellites and consults - all of which provide some revenue. As a ‘mini ratna' Antrix also can take certain investment decisions on its own.

Published on July 10, 2011

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