Chetan Bhagat said Infosys is a body shop, Narayana Murthy said IIT products are like Chetan Bhagat i.e. mediocre. Thus began a national debate, so fierce that it caused ache in our meritocratic selves. Mr Bhagat admits that he is hurt at his alma-matter being vilified by Mr Murthy and decided to stand up as a loyal alum, in defence of his beloved educational institution. It’s his sacred responsibility as an IITian to feel emotional outrage at such innuendoes.
Mr Bhagat has a point, we do often share an emotional bonding with our alma-maters, and IITs especially generate an implacable sense of accomplishment that inculcates us with excess self-esteem. The achievement of IIT graduates over the years has been stupendous, so much so that we may as well equate the progress of modern India with that of the IITians. They churn out the crème de la crème of software engineers unparalleled by any other institutions in the world. It is on their shoulders that the behemoth American companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Oracle, HP and Apple rest. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Bill Gates, Steve Balmer and Eric Schmidt still endorse events commemorating the IIT legacies. Vinod Gupta, Vinod Khosla and Purnendu Chatterjee are some of the notable shining examples of successful IITians. We very well know that in India, IITs are similar to some sort of academic pilgrimage for any grey-matter gifted teenagers. And such big aspirations call for big sacrifices. Any IITian would vouch for the fun they had to let go during their school years for their pursuit of the IITs.
Thus it is understandable that alums like Mr Bhagat would be angry at this unfounded criticism hurled at their beloved institution by the likes of Mr Murthy, a disgruntled IITian himself, a traitor of some sort. Mr Bhagat may be thinking it is a case of sour grapes syndrome for Mr Murthy, who had unsuccessfully compelled his own son to appear for IIT entrance exam several times. May be he still holds some anguish about that, which made him say what he said. Thus it is Mr Bhagat’s solemn responsibility not to let this public aspersion towards IITs by a jilted father of an IIT failure go without protest. Mr Bhagat himself knows that Infosys is no Apple Computers. Infosys does not have any branded product in the market to its credit; it has many well-known clients who take advantage of the wage gap between India and US contributing to its revenues. Infosys is indeed a software service company, so Mr Bhagat’s “body shop” analogy is not completely misplaced, though it may be a little harsh for us Indians to hear it, but hey! blunt truths are harsh too.
But what strikes me as odd in this whole thing is the inconsistencies in Mr Bhagat’s reaction in matters related to his alma-mater. On one hand Mr Bhagat is all gung-ho in his defence of the IITs against Mr Murthy’s comment but he does not do that in many other serious matters that besmirch the image of his IITs in much graver way. I don’t remember Mr Bhagat condemning Rajat Gupta, an ex-IITian, for getting involved in inside trading in the US and going to jail for it. I don’t remember Mr Bhagat saying anything against the corruption that has afflicted IITs today. Why did he not protest when Prof A.K. Bhowmik was appointed the director of IIT-Patna after being indicted by CBI of malpractice and corruption during his tenure as professor in IIT Kharagpur? Where was Mr Bhagat when Dr Damodar Acharya, the current director of IIT Kharagpur, was indicted by CBI for selling IIT tenders to private corporations for personal gain, debauching the very IIT he heads? Why is Mr Bhagat not concerned at the low rate of peer-reviewed research publication in most IITs? Why Mr Bhagat is not concerned about the lack of entrepreneurial product generating research in IITs? Is this becoming of a largest state grant-funded institution to be so mediocre in research and so corrupt in its administration? And if Mr Bhagat is silent about these aspects why is he protesting when Mr Murthy is criticising the quality standards of IITs? Is it not hypocrisy?
Or is it a public relation game to get himself viewed? We know how much Mr Bhagat sells his IIT-IIM brand to shore up his book sales. This makes us suspicious of the authenticity of Mr Bhagat’s selective outrage, because had he truly been invested in the excellence of IITs, he should have protested at every instance of its defacement, which, unfortunately he does not do.