The Mining Escapades: D. B. Sundara Ramam

The Mining Escapades: D. B. Sundara Ramam

Team MM | Nov 30, 2015

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Graduating from NIT Rourkela with a degree in Mining Engineering, D.B. Sundara Ramam has come a long way since his days at this institute. Currently, working as the Executive-In-Charge of Ferro Alloys & Minerals Division, Tata Steel, we got the privilege to interview him regarding his fond memories of this institute and take a glimpse at his journey so far.  

MM: Going back to your beginnings, tell us something about your life before NIT Rourkela (the then REC). Any childhood memories that you will always cherish?

SR: I spent most of my child hood in my native place, Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh, where I completed my studies till Intermediate. I was very naughty during my school days. I enjoyed watching Telugu movies regularly and also pursued ball-badminton and chess and represented my school in these events. I was also a cadet of NCC.

Since I completed equivalent to B.A in Hindi simultaneously through Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Samiti, I never faced problem in communicating in Hindi at Rourkela.

MM: How was life at REC back then? Share with us your experiences of your times at REC. How has life at REC changed you?

SR: I had come from Telugu medium and it was a daunting task for me to learn every subject in English. I had to struggle a lot in the first two semesters but could cope with the studies from the third semester onwards. Though interaction with seniors started with some amount of ragging, but I saw a lot of learning during interaction where they never ever allowed us to feel nostalgic. We always sought and got good guidance from seniors.

I was also a member of book bank, thus, interaction with students of other branches as well as batches automatically gave me high level of confidence.

Apart from the above, hours spent in the Canteen, AV Hall, Sector V, Aam Bagan and above all, Back-post were memorable.

MM: You are an alumnus of the Department of Mining Engineering. What was the scenario of the department during your time? Any specific reminisces that you would like to share with our readers? 

SR: The Department of Mining Engineering started in 1980 and the first batch was out in 1984. Compared to many other Institutes, the Mining discipline of REC Rourkela was practising ‘baby steps’ during that time.

But I remember the relentless guidance of Prof Nalini Kumar Pattnaik, the then HOD, Mr V M Gupta, Prof Pani, Prof Prusty of Geological Department, Prof Sharma, Prof B K Pal, Prof Guin and Prof Nayak who brought laurels to the Department and from a batch of 24, almost all of us were selected by Coal India and two of us were selected by Tata Steel.

We also had guest lectures from renowned professors like Prof G B Mishra from IIT, Kharagpur etc. which has placed our Department at par with any other Mining Institute.

Apart from the above, practical training in Open cast mines, U/G Coal as well as Metal and the survey camps/ study tours we had, had given us an enormous practical knowledge about Mining and its environment.

MM: Engineering is a course which proves to be a stepping stone that opens up a multitude of opportunities in vast domains. We would be amused to know the journey that you have undergone after graduating from NIT Rourkela.

SR: Prior to the completion of my final exams, I had two opportunities in hand, one in SECL, Coal India, and the other being West Bokaro Coal mines, Tata Steel. I was in two minds and sought the guidance of our HOD, Prof N K Pattnaik. He told me that choice of my joining would depend on my ambition, whether I would like to continue as a Mining engineer throughout my career or would also like to be seen as a Generalist after some time and in the latter case, Tata Steel would be a better choice.

I joined Tata Steel, West Bokao in 1990 as a Graduate Trainee and worked in various capacities from Shift In-charge, Excavation In-charge, Mine Manager, Mine Agent etc. During this period, I got a lot of opportunities to implement a lot of initiatives encompassing quality, productivity, cost reduction etc. I was part of the team that implemented both Operator-dependent Truck Despatch System as well as GPS based TDS at West Bokaro. The new project of South Eastern Block at West Bokaro was also commissioned with a lot of world benchmark practices like 7-day working, Full Maint contract etc.

After that, I moved to Noamundi, Iron ore Division of Tata Steel and served as Agent and General manager of Ore, Mines & quarries (OMQ).

During this period, I had an opportunity to enhance production level of Iron ore from OMQ from 9 MT to 17 MT in line with the expansion of Jamshedpur Steel plant from 5 Mt to 9.7 MT.

Presently, I am working as Executive-In-Charge of Ferro Alloys & Minerals Division, Tata Steel.

MM: You presently serve as the Executive-in-charge (EIC) of the Ferro Alloys and Minerals Division at Tata Steel. How has your work experience been so far? Our readers would love to know the line of work that you encompass. 

SR: Ferro Alloys & Minerals Division (FAMD) is one of the biggest Profit Centres of Tata Steel, next only to Steel Business. Apart from Tata Steel, we also serve domestic and International markets with the products of Ferro Chrome, Charge Chrome, Ferro Manganese, Silico Manganese and Dolomite.

It’s a value chain from Mine to Market where in FAMD has Chrome Mine in Sukinda, Ferro Chrome plants at Bamnipal, near Cuttuck and Gopalpur. FAMD also has Manganese mines in Joda area with Ferro manganese plant at Joda. Dolomite mines are situated in Gomardih.

FAMD has Marketing & Sales set up at Kolkata, serving markets like China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, US & Europe through marketing agents as well as offices at Hong Kong & Shanghai.

To give an example, any Gillette blade used anywhere in the world consists of Chrome ore of Sukinda, so as every fourth utensil being made in India.

Time to time inputs/ training programmes being sponsored by Tata Steel transform us in to very confident and forth looking leaders leading businesses independently.

I have taken both Technical as well as Managerial training from Institutes like SMI, Queensland University, XLRI General Management, INSEAD, CEDEP, FRANCE etc.

MM: Alumni are an indispensable facet of any reputed institute. Cordial relations should be facilitated between the institute and the alumni for the betterment of both. What can be done in this front to enhance the alumni relations of NIT Rourkela?

SR: I feel the intensity of relations makes a lot of difference and can be strengthened by deeper interaction between the Institute and the alumni.

I agree that given the busy schedules, there may be less initiative from alumni. But it has to be reinforced through Institute by reminding them of their responsibilities.

MM: You have reached the pinnacles of success in all spheres of your profession. Have you ever felt, having missed out on the personal front? Do you have any regrets on retrospection?

SR: I measure success as a balance between work as well as family. If one ignores any of the two, then he/ she may not reach to the defined success.

While joining Mining discipline and also after completion of my course and prior to joining a Mine site, I had a little apprehension of my personal development. But, when I look back after 25 years of my career, I feel completely satisfied with what I am today and all of you would be surprised to know that it was a “no regret” decision both on professional as well as personal fronts, also largely because of well supportive and accommodative better-half.

MM: A man in your position would definitely look amusement at the end of a tiring day. Any hobbies that you might have taken up during your college days that you pursue even today?

SR: Yes. I do play Badminton, Football and Chess. One hour of daily brisk walking has become a part & parcel of my routine. I am fond of watching news analysis on various current topics. I spend time with my family members for at least for 1-2 hours a day. I am also active on Facebook.

MM: Our readers would definitely like to know what inspired you to reach the position you are at right now. Please share your words of inspirational wisdom.

SR: I feel one must be sure of what he /she wants to achieve in life given his/her strengths and opportunities of improvement.

Life is full of roses as well as thorns. One must be prepared to enjoy/ face both with equal courage and confidence. At end of the day, contentment is the one which makes one’s life happy and joyful which is a bit different from complacency and satisfaction.

I wish all of you the very best in your careers and pray to the Almighty that all your dreams come true.

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