Knowing the Father of Indian Internet, BK Syngal

Knowing the Father of Indian Internet, BK Syngal

Well, the world has witnessed the incredible performance of the digital world in the past few years. Indeed, the global internet market is booming rapidly, and India has crossed the Rubicon regarding internet usage. India is a global leader.

Have you ever given a minute to think about the remarkable personality who made all this possible? The B.K Syngal, the Father of the Indian Internet, connected India with the rest of the world through high-speed digital links. The "Telecom Man" was the only driving force to initiate the emergence of the Indian Software sector, which is now a global player. Let's know the incredible success story of the Father of Internet & Data Services in India and the revolution.

Born in Ambala, Punjab Province, during British Raj, Brijendra Kumar (B.K.) Syngal (1940 – 9 July 2022) graduated from I.I.T. Kharagpur. He held various other qualifications such as C Eng (U.K.), M.I.E.E. (U.K.), and Sr. M.I.E.E. (U.S.A.).

He was an Indian telecommunications executive whose career for over five decades included the honorable position of Chairman and Managing Director of VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam), India’s leading provider of telecommunication services, Chairman of Reliance Telecom, and Vice Chairman of BPL Communications. Apart from his role in India, his foreign affairs included the position of chairman of Commonwealth Telecommunications in London, Governor of INTELSAT Board, Washington DC, Councilor for the INMARSAT Council in London, and a member of the London Court of International Arbitration.

Leaving behind the luxuries of a foreign state only to return to his motherland in 1991 and provide its people the best telecom service witnessed by that generation and laid a strong foundation for future years. He brought the Internet to India, only the third country in the world to have commercial Internet (much before China).

Second Independence Day of India

Over seven years, Syngal transformed VSNL into a nimble new-generation telecom behemoth. Connecting India to the world through high-speed digital links and making the software sector a significant global player. Indeed, it has revolutionized the country and all our lives; he brought the Internet to India in 1995.

As the head of VSNL, a formerly state-owned monopoly for international telecom, Syngal launched the internet in five Indian cities - Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata (then Calcutta), Chennai (then Madras), and Pune - on 15 August 1995. India was among the first countries in Asia to have commercial internet service. Newspapers gleefully called it India's "Second Independence Day."

Syngal introduced Internet services on 15 August 1995 with much publicity. It came with its challenges and ended up in a technological disaster. Technical glitches and consumer dissatisfaction raised questions in Parliament within a month. Syngal took an unmatched step in the history of the public segment; he called a press conference and told the media, “I goofed up. Give me ten weeks’ time and you’ll get a system that India will be proud of.” he stood with his words. There never was a braver man. It also resulted in improvements and the formation of VSNL, leading to a successful story.

A man of words & unofficial “bulldozer”

He is also known for his book with Sandipan Deb, “Telecom Man: Leading from the Front in India’s Digital Revolution.” His role didn’t stop with words. He participated in exposing the 2G Spectrum Scam by pointing out that it must be auctioned.

“I had burnt a lot of midnight oil on this and all the hard work had borne fruit. It is indeed a sad story that ‘coalition dharma’ ruled us—country, industry, and citizen be damned. Is that governance?”

 His marking words to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, “Look at the share price of the companies in 2001 and look at them now and do the calculations, and you will get another big number. If you applied the multiples at which the spectrum was sold, it will take you to Rs12,000 crore at least. That was what took us to the highest number, adding up all the circles to Rs1,76,000 crore,” gave shivers around and is still remembered and used. 

Because of his strong perceptions and fearlessness to overcome administrative roadblocks, he was unofficially called the “bulldozer.” The perks of being a bulldozer resulted in the expansion and exponential growth of VSNL from a $125 million company in 1991 to a $1.65 billion communications giant by 1998.

End of the chapter

A prolonged illness proclaimed the life of 82-year-old internet expert BK Syngal. He would always be honored and remembered by the nation, as every soul praises him while using the fastest internet service he introduced.