Santhosh Eapen, whose company maintains 8500 mobile towers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, talks about the pluses and minuses
Photo of Santhosh Eapen by Albin Mathew
By Shevlin Sebastian
The question is asked so many times to Santosh Eapen that he is ready with the answer before the query is over. So here is the question: Are mobile towers a radiation hazard?
“For every 15 kms of this city [Kochi], a technician is working on a tower,” says Santhosh, the managing director of Unitac Energy Solutions India Pvt Ltd. “He goes to the tower many times each day. There is a 300 sq. ft. room, where the batteries and other equipment are located. They do preventive maintenance. And in 16 years, nobody has suffered from the effects of radiation. My first employee, Binter, is still working for the company and has no health problems whatsoever.”
He gives another example: in remote areas in Karnataka, many eagles and monkeys, bees in honeycombs live on these towers. “But they are all alive and kicking,” says Santhosh. “Nothing has happened to them.” (At the same time, there is also no doubt, that if you use any device, like a mobile or radio, or at the tower there is radiation.)
His company maintains 8500 towers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. “Next April, we will have another 2000 more,” says Santhosh. “A tower has different heights. If it is on a rooftop, it will have a height of 9-27 feet. If it is at ground-level, it will reach a height of 120-150 feet.”
Of course, as is well known, when we speak into a mobile phone, it is picked up by the receiver and the voice is distributed through several towers before it reaches the person called. “But it just takes seconds,” says Santhosh. “At a time, a tower can handle 52 calls.”
The biggest problem is during the rainy season when there is a shortage of power because of lightning strikes. “When the tower ceases to work you will get the message that the caller is out of range,” says Santhosh.
But another reason for the interrupted coverage is the low number of towers.
Kerala, with an area of 40,000 sq kms, has 12,000 towers. “For a population of 3.25 crore, of which 70 per cent have mobile phones, we need a lot more towers,” he says. “But then the fears of radiation among the public is preventing us from setting up more.”
Santhosh, who grew up in Kochi, went to the United Arab Emirates and worked there for a few years. But owing to his ageing parents, living alone, he returned in 1998. His first business was running a car agency. Then, in 2000, mobile service provider Airtel came to Kerala. “As a supplier of vehicles, I began interacting with Airtel managers,” says Santhosh. “Slowly, they began to entrust technical works to me. In short, I was the right person at the right time.”
He has an office strength of 1100 and also runs a successful real estate business called Unitach Villas and Apartments. They have six ongoing projects: five in Kochi and one at Tripunithara.
Asked the secret of his success, Santhosh says, “God has to smile at you. Of course, you also need hard work and dedication and a very good team.”
But for his team there are no fixed working hours. You work as and when is it required. “That is because we are in the essential-services category,” he says. “Plus, I offer merit-based promotion. Staffers, who joined at the start, have become directors of the company.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)