Radha Murthy graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), Chennai, India, in 1971. Her career in banking and education is filled with accomplishments and her life is a tapestry of this career, family life, and educational service to children and adults. Her life is an inspiration to women and girls who, after reading about her, would be encouraged to examine all avenues that are available to them in today’s world.
Radha was born on March 30, 1950, the last child in a family of eight in Villupuram, Tamil Nadu. Her father Sankaran worked for the Indian Government as a Divisional Engineer in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Her mother Visalakshi was a homemaker.
Radha attended schools in New Delhi, Ajmer, and Jaipur during her father’s frequent transfers. She started fourth grade at St. Philomena’s Girls’ High School in Tiruchirappalli and completed her SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) in 1965. She completed the Pre-University Course (PUC) at Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College (SRC), Tiruchirappalli, in 1966.
Radha remembers telling her Hindi language Professor that she plans to study engineering. The Principal of SRC heard about this and offered to keep her a seat in the undergraduate physics program, in case Radha changed her mind. Radha would go against the established family tradition of four older sisters who graduated from SRC undergraduate programs, with one of them securing a gold medal in mathematics. But Radha went ahead and appeared for the test and interview for engineering. Radha remembers three boys in her test group, none of whom got through the tests. She wondered if they needed the seat more than her, but was determined to do her best in the engineering college.
Radha got admission at CEG, but her family wondered if she should go to the local engineering college, Regional Engineering College (REC) (now known as National Institute of Technology) in Tiruchirappalli. After meeting with the principal of the local college who convinced her CEG was a better choice, and realizing that the commute to REC would be long, Radha decided to join CEG.
Radha was spared the ragging at CEG since she joined late. Along with her classmates Rajeswari, Betty Nirmala, and Shantha, she joined the Madras Women’s Polytechnic (WPT) hostel, as there was no campus accommodation for girls at CEG. Radha had never been away from home and it took a while to get used to living in the hostel. When she joined, the WPT hostel was in an old building on the banks of Adyar River. In 1968, a new building was constructed close to the WPT campus, and the hostel moved to Tharamani. Radha’s life at CEG was quite busy. In addition to her classes at CEG, Radha learned to drive a scooter and play the musical instrument veena.
While Radha very much enjoyed the civil engineering survey in her second year, she hoped to get into the Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) program, which she did. Radha enjoyed all the ECE subjects, except for Control Systems. In her final year, she and her classmates celebrated the 175th anniversary of CEG with weeklong projects and various academic activities.
Radha graduated from CEG in 1971 with a B.E. (Hons) degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering.
Career and Continuing Education
In her last semester at CEG, Radha’s Professor, K. Venkatraman, was being transferred to head the ECE department at REC in Tiruchirappalli and invited Radha to join him at the faculty there. Radha joined REC as an Assistant Lecturer in May of 1971, ten days after her final exams were over at CEG. She tutored third-year students in Circuit Theory, assisting the professor with his research, and was soon teaching Numerical Analysis to part-time postgraduate students
In 1972, Radha’s family moved to Bombay and she left the REC teaching position. In Bombay, she joined Bajaj Electronics and was involved in transistor circuit design. At the same time, she was applying to study in the USA and received admission to two universities. She also took the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)’s Indian Engineering Services Examination (ESE). Radha’s mother was not keen on her going as far away as the USA, so she kept applying to places closer to home, such as The Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, and The Asian Institute of Management, Manila. While Radha received admission and even a scholarship, she didn’t take the opportunity. While waiting for the results of her physical exams of ESE, Radha applied for jobs to Bank of India and Air India and joined Bank of India as Probationary Technical Officer in 1973.
Between 1973 and 1986, Radha worked in all the departments of Bank of India except for the dealer room (also called the trading room). Radha remembers the stints at Small Scale Industries Division, Community Banking Department and the Systems and Management Services Department. She initiated the Store and Forward Communications System at the bank for financial remittances. In 1982, she initiated the back office automation of her bank, along with State Bank of India. Radha traveled to all the bank’s training colleges and trained all levels of bank staff and trade unions in the management of automation with assistance from a single Assistant General Manager.
Due to the hectic travel schedules, and the arrival of children Radha suffered a health setback and in 1986 decided to take a break from her banking career. But, she continued providing training on automation by conducting various seminars and workshops for Cooperative Banks and Bombay Management Association. She also provided free computer awareness training to children between the ages of seven and seventeen years.
Radha trained on Siddha Samadhi Yoga and Patanjali Yoga. She started teaching the Siddha yoga free to school children, factory laborers, and their families, all over Gujarat and Maharashtra states. Radha fondly remembers the Rapid Comprehension and Review Techniques (RCRT) program she conducted during the summer vacation for school children. This program introduced techniques to improve learning comprehension. The parents and schools gave these programs a great thumbs up with the results that indicated the children improved in their grades by fifteen to twenty percent. Encouraged by this feedback, Radha started a course for medical and law students and practicing professionals. Some of those who participated are still in touch with Radha and recall those fruitful courses. Radha found great joy and enormous satisfaction from these activities, expecting nothing but results in return.
Radha realized she had a natural fascination for finance, law, and computing. This led her to continue her education after CEG in those fields. She obtained a post-graduate diploma in finance along with a diploma in German from Mumbai University, and a master’s degree in Business Laws from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. Various courses in computers from Bharathiar University and Computer Society of India rounded out her post-graduate education.
Radha started a private limited company to provide advice on investments and related legal matters. She became a director in her husband’s company and provided oversight to the personnel and development functions. She traveled to Japan on a technical scholarship for entrepreneurs and to Bangkok and Seoul to represent the company in technical meetings.
In 1996, Radha resumed her career with a project for United Nations (UN) on Capacity building for Sustainable development at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) in Mumbai. This project exposed Radha to a variety of reputed institutions in various parts of India specializing in the study of clean air, clean water, biodiversity and regeneration of forests. Radha got a chance to build a global team and organize a number of international and national conferences. On successful completion of the project, IGIDR offered Radha more work on a World Bank project. This project required in-depth treatment of subprojects from sixty-one academic institutions and universities, which Radha completed in record time.
With these successful projects under her belt, Radha took on the post of Registrar in the management institute IBS, Mumbai, which then led to the position of Controller of Examinations (COE) at D Y Patil University (DYP), Mumbai, in 2005.
During her eleven years as COE, Radha was responsible for conducting professional examinations for various courses in medicine, dentistry, nursing, physiotherapy, Ayurveda, management, biotechnology and bioinformatics, hospitality and tourism studies and education. As COE, Radha was a member of the Academic Council and Board of Management of the University as well as the Member Secretary of the Board of Examination. The University was accredited with a score of 3.35 after two National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) inspections.
Radha introduced online evaluation as part of examination/evaluation reforms, which was proving to be tough for even established universities such as Mumbai University. DYP began declaring the results within eleven days after the examinations, down from the twenty-one days prior to the introduction of online evaluation.
Under Radha, question banks, which are collections of potential examination questions, were introduced and she organized a number of workshops for the faculty members to understand the technicalities by working closely with various Boards of Studies in DYP. She also participated in the curriculum revision committees.
In the faculty of medicine, she introduced the foundation course and soft skills development during clinical postings. To encourage faculty members’ research, especially in clinical areas, Radha organized workshops on pre-Ph.D. Coursework with very good feedback. This resulted in her starting the Ph.D. entrance exams for all the faculties and the first fifteen faculty PhDs were granted during her tenure.
Dr. Vijaya Badhwar, former Dean of the Medical College in DYP had this to say about Radha:
“Radha was a very efficient and sincere COE, who adhered to rules and performed to her own expectations of perfection. All her colleagues appreciated how cooperative and considerate she was. She was very good at retaining her staff, and even when she was about to lose someone, she persuaded them to stay on until the examinations were over. She had a good rapport with outside examiners. Her department was considered one of the best run in the university.”
Due to Radha’s initiative, twenty endowments and merit scholarships were established. Radha’s awareness of emotional anxiety and helplessness that failed students feel led to her grievance redressal mechanisms. She initiated a policy of repeating exams in forty-five days in order to remove the impact on the failed students’ internships, particularly in the Medicine, Ayurveda, Nursing and Physiotherapy disciplines.
Radha retired from her job in 2015.
Radha lost her father in 1960 and her mother passed away in 1982. Her sister Savitri lives in California, USA. Another sister Uttara lives in New Delhi and sister Jamuna lives in Mumbai. Her brother Narayanaswami lives in Chennai. Radha’s older sisters Dharmambal and Prema and brother Muthuswamy all passed away by 2008.
Her marriage to Ramamurthy took place in 1979. Ramamurthy is a graduate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, in Electronics and Electrical Communication. After a few years in the private industry, he started a small scale industry producing process control, telecommunication and office automation products and ran it for over twenty-five years. A recipient of Hindu-Hitachi scholarship, he learned manufacturing methods at Hitachi, Japan. In the last twenty years, he has been advising and counseling Indian companies on quality improvement methods including Total Quality Management.
Radha’s children Ramya and Vivek were born in 1980 and 1983.
Radha’s daughter Ramya has a master’s in English literature from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and a Diploma in broadcast journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. An award-winning TV producer, she has also directed many shows, including the National Geographic documentary on the 26th November attack in Mumbai called Inside Mumbai Terror Attacks. Her first book on the business of brands and marketing called Rebuild has just been published by Hachette India. Her husband Jagannathan works with Siemens Industries Software in India as an Enterprise Account Director.
Radha’s son Vivek is a graduate of IIT Bombay in mechanical engineering, he did a double master’s in statistics and operations research (OR) and completed his Doctorate in OR from University of California, Berkeley. He currently works in the industry in the USA in the areas of data science and machine learning.
Radha’s parents encouraged their children to learn many different forms of arts such as classical music, veena, violin, stitching, embroidery, tatting, and crochet work. These come in handy for Radha in her retired life. Following this example, Radha insisted on both her children pursuing at least one fine art and one form of martial arts in addition to the mandatory skills such as swimming and driving.
Music has always been a big part of Radha’s life. During CEG days, she used to sing during Ayudha Puja day of Navaratri at the college labs, and prayer songs during college functions. Her interests in music were global and included Abba and Beatles. At Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, during international conferences, she used to sing for special guests. When she was in her early twenties, she was singing her favorite song by Latha Mangeshkar one afternoon. Her neighbor’s ten-year-old son walked in and Radha stopped singing. He started looking around for a transistor radio and asked Radha why she shut off the radio. Radha teased him, saying she would have married him if he was older just for this compliment, which thoroughly confused the child, and he ran away. Radha still has a laugh thinking about it.
Practitioner of Best Practices
Radha leveraged the analytical skills she gained in her engineering education at CEG in her successful banking career. She took a break to bring up her children. She continued her education throughout her life and applied what she learned in the traditional Indian yoga to help children and adults perform better in studies and work. Her passion for best practices propelled her into a second career as Controller of Examinations, responsible for ensuring the professional quality of students before they get out into the real world. Radha’s motto is quite succinct: “Accept life’s opportunities and challenges with grace and do your best.” Words all of us can take to heart.
Radha was kind enough to provide me the details of her multiple careers, and her family life in several emails, and supplied the images that make this story come alive.
My sincere thanks to Dr. Vijaya Badhwar, who accepted my call and spoke to me about Radha.
This is story number twenty-four in my ambitious journey of chronicling the life and work of the early CEG alumnae. If you like what you read, please “like” and share.
My goal is to encourage more girls to study engineering and science, enter the workforce and be equal partners with men in shaping the future of our world. Women face a lot of critical moments in their lives that make them want to leave the workforce. I am hoping the stories of the CEG women will inspire them to stay in it.
I will be writing more such posts here and will be collecting them into a book for publishing.
If you have information about CEG alumnae from the 1940s to the 1960s, please contact me to help make these posts complete.