Childhood Wonder Inspires Professional Passion
When Ravi Talwar (MSIE ’69) was eight years old, he saw a high-speed industrial clothing mill in operation. The scene sparked a curiosity for how machines and systems work and foreshadowed a lifelong career spent making them work better.
“I saw things moving so fast and was fascinated,” Talwar says, remembering the school field trip in his home country of India more than 65 years ago.
While studying science at the University of Delhi, India, Talwar took the advice of a cousin studying in the U.S. to come to America and do the same. Talwar then got credit for his Indian studies toward his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Fort Wayne’s Indiana Institute of Technology. During a visit to Purdue, he had the chance to talk with faculty, and the experience convinced him to pursue his master’s degree in industrial engineering.
Choosing Purdue And Industrial Engineering
“IE was recommended because of its focus on the process,” Talwar says. “There were a lot of assembly lines in the ’60s — and people assembling small components. IE looked at simplifying processes, making them less expensive and more efficient.”
With his Purdue master’s in hand, Talwar landed a job at General Electric Co. “It was a turning point for me, because my master’s helped me get the right job,” he says, recalling his GE interview. “I went to the shop and I was able to explain how, if I joined them, I would be able to help them on the material flow and improve their processes using less equipment.”
“I was able to envision the bigger picture, and in a very short period of time I articulated how I could help. That was my ‘aha!’ moment. I found my passion.”
Talwar pursued that passion for 18 years at GE, the last three of which were as managing director for a joint venture assembly plant, JEDAC in Saudi Arabia — now Gedac Electric. About his time at GE, he says: “It was great. I was given challenging assignments that included work improvements in the shop, product development, quality assurance, facilities and plant maintenance, and manufacturing plant management. My IE education played a key role.”
“Ravi has been an untiring supporter and inspiration to this school. Be it with his time, his talents or his resources, Ravi Talwar always stands tall for Purdue IE when called upon.”
The GE experience, Talwar says, paved the way for his next big professional step, entrepreneurship: “GE had given me an open book in Saudi Arabia. I learned every aspect of the business — marketing, sales, accounting and financials, and diplomacy. With all of those skills, I felt ready to take off on my own.”
He took off, and so did his businesses. When Indiana Bridge, a structural steel plant based in Muncie, Indiana, was about to be shut down, Talwar bought it. Success there led to involvement with two startups and the subsequent acquisition of Gate City Steel Inc. in 1993.
Headquartered in Indianapolis, the steel fabricating company made reinforcing steel used in concrete construction, such as rebar, wire mesh, and various reinforcing accessories used in building highways and bridges.
“At our peak, Gate City Steel had nine fabrication plants in five different states — and three detailing offices, including one in Pune, India,” Talwar says.
Talwar has since sold Indiana Bridge and Gate City Steel. These days, he commutes once a week from Indianapolis to St. Louis, the headquarters for his current company, Tishler Industries, which builds heavy transformer casings for power plants.
Support For Rising Stars
Despite his ongoing professional obligations, Talwar shares both his time and resources with Purdue Engineering students. He shows just as much passion for cutting-edge educational strategies as he has shown for streamlined industrial production practices. One clear indicator of that enthusiasm is the recent donation of $500,000 to a “Rising Star” professorship in IE by Talwar and his wife, Eleanor. Endowed professorships enable schools to recruit and retain mid- to early-career faculty members who show great promise.
“One cannot put into words just how much Purdue IE values its relationship with Ravi Talwar,” says Abhijit Deshmukh, the James J. Solberg Head and Professor of Industrial Engineering. “Ravi has been an untiring supporter and inspiration to this school. Be it with his time, his talents or his resources, Ravi Talwar always stands tall for Purdue IE when called upon. He is a shining example to all Purdue IE and College of Engineering alums, and we cannot thank him enough for what he has done for the school.”
“Looking back, the IE disciplines have played a big role in developing my way of conducting business,” Talwar says. “Establishment of in-line production facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, coupled with master schedules and an emphasis on quality and on-time delivery, are some examples of Purdue IE disciplines that I have applied in our businesses.”
Talwar is also very mindful of the changes he has witnessed during his career and the evolution in the skill sets that today’s college graduates need, versus what he needed in the late ’60s.
“GE had its own management training program,” he recalls. “Companies like GE were preparing their future leaders. All those company-based programs are mostly gone now. Companies are looking for universities to do this for them.”
Talwar plans to remain engaged with Purdue’s IE school to foster programs that emphasize team learning. Having just turned 75 years old in June, Talwar could decide to slow down, but that’s unlikely.
“I don’t behave like a typical 75-year-old, and some might say I don’t look like it,” he says. “I always ask myself, ‘What else can I learn to improve myself?’ I don’t believe I’m done yet.”
To support “Rising Star” professorships or other programs in the School of Industrial Engineering, contact Jerry Alberts, senior managing director of development, at 765-496-6192, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.