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Wednesday, January 08, 2014
"We didn't realise then that we were world leaders in computer making"
~~Ajai Chowdhry, co-founder of HCL Infosystems
It was 1976 that we started HCL. Six of us left DCM (Data Products) to start HCL. We were in the electronics business at DCM and were toying with the idea of launching a microprocessor that would make it easier and cheaper to make a computer. Those were the days of the licence raj, so we formed a joint sector undertaking with the UP government, which had a licence for manufacturing computers.
That is how Hindustan Computers Ltd was born. It later became HCL Infosystems.
We first picked a 4-bit microprocessor and fabricated a scientific computer. Then when Intel released the 8-bit microprocessor, we made our first commercial PC computer around the same time as Apple. We didn't realise it at the time that we were world leaders in this area.
Around 1993-94 things changed. Rajiv Gandhi introduced the new policy of computerisation, prompting us to introduced an IBM-compatible PC as we could now import technology. Earlier, we had to design our own operating system, hardware, and the other accessories. That PC, which we called BusyBee, became the first in our journey. BusyBee is the longest surviving PC brand of India and continues to exist. Those days there must have been a total of 100 computers in the country. Therefore, to go and sell computers to the public was very tough - we had to sell the whole concept of digital life.
IIT Kharagpur was our first customer in the scientific area. In the commercial space, our first computer was bought for a legal firm by somebody called Jyoti Sagar. Now, that person runs his own company called J Sagar Associates. I cannot remember exactly, but the first computer we sold was priced somewhere between Rs 80,000 and Rs 1,00,000.