Mr Murthy, Don’t Blame IIT System, Blame our Govt & Domestic Industry

I still remember the first day when I arrived at the Computer Science department in IIT-Kharagpur for my first class of the session as early as 7.15 in the morning. The department hallway was jammed by hundred or so bicycles, and some classes were already on from 6.30 am.

IIT-Kharagpur, Department of Computer Science

IIT-Kharagpur: My Alma Mater.

As I passed the department canteen (popularly known as the CS canteen), I heard some students fighting vociferously over some problem with an elderly bearded man, who, I later got to know, was a professor.

I was already late for class and as I stood at the door, I stopped to take the professor’s permission. He was busy proving some problem on the board, and seemed to overlook me.

Trying to make a good first impression, I asked, “May I come in, Sir?” As he turned at me, I could see he was somewhat disturbed, and with a wave of hand motioned me in, as if saying, “Stop being pleasant and get on with what you have come here for.”

Though he was one of the less “sweeter” of the whole lot of professors I met during the term of the whole course, he actually set in motion the spirit, and also the pride, in IIT on my first day at the institute. And this pride is about superior intelligence, meticulous precision and innovative mindset that makes its students fit for dealing with the best in the technology.

Though I myself have not been able to do full justice to my pedigree, I guess, I have known many friends who are actually working on the highest technological edge — either in research or in industry — and everyone agrees that their IIT pedigree has significantly factored in their success. The point I want to drive home is that the IIT system itself has been producing brilliant graduates and postgraduates who have made their mark in the whole world.

For disciplines such as Compute Science, Electronics and Electrical, where active research is pursued in the advanced world, the students mostly get involved in higher research in top-ranked universities or institutes across the world. Look at the continuous inflow of Indians in Silicon Valley hotspots and labs, and most of them would have an IIT tag.

Mr Murthy, let’s not blame the IIT system for not being able to produce innovative minds.

So, I would disagree with Narayana Murthy on the point that the IITs are not producing innovation and research-oriented students. The IITs are creating value constantly by gearing up student with the basic tools and skills required, and perform along with the best in the world. Sadly, though, our country has for most part been unable to capture this tremendous value that, for many decades, has been mostly benefitting the advanced world.

We do not have enough domestic public or private funding for research in the IITs.

In my IIT days, the labs (at least in the Computer science department) were mostly from foreign MNCs such as Media Labs, National Semiconductor or Intel. Research works of my friends in these labs have later resulted in successful products or patents for these companies.

I had heard my professors crib on umpteen occasions about the poor government support for their work and research. Similarly, the Indian companies typically do not have the resource or, more importantly, the intention to nurture these talented young minds.

So, Mr Murthy, let’s not blame the IIT system for not being able to produce innovative minds. The blame lies with our government and our domestic industry for not being able to tap into this talent.

Feature Image Copyright: Ambuj Saxena. Reused under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.
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Arnab Bhattacharya

About Arnab Bhattacharya

I am born to be a pet. Once my Ma's, then my wife's and now my little angel daughter's pet. I know it should be the other way round but that's me, a complete disdain towards growing up, a complete failure in anything I planned in life, whatever unplanned have somehow clicked and made me what I am today. I am a die-hard Barca fan, love music (almost anything), read (almost anything), and Balika Badhu on Colors (yes I love Anandi). I have been that confused for the better part of my 30+ years.
24 comments
SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

Murthy was talking of the "quality of entrants", he hasnt even spoken of lack of innovation. this article is looking at something else - although i dont debate Arnab's point of view at all. its a well written article which gives insight into what is happening at the IIT's. is it that because indian companies supposedly dont have the intention to innovate that they have no right to talk of potential labour? My only question is that with all this precision and superior intelligence why do these IITians opt to work with FMCG's? still beats me.

sorry arnab one more thing - that continuous inflow into silicon valley point - be ready to have IITians who will tell you how very few people are working with IT companies as they dont have any exciting work to offer these brilliant fellows.

ive told my students umpteen number of times that in case they are late by a few minutes they should walk in and not ask for permission so that the class and my flow of thought is not disturbed - i never ever thought of setting in motion the spirit, and also the pride in any way. thanks for the new outlook anyway

vIVEKkRISHNAN
vIVEKkRISHNAN

Yes, Arnab! It's about time someone stood up for IIT on Howzzit!

We all blame the govt for various reasons, and rightly so.

But then, It set me thinking - IITians are successful leaders all over the world. Usually, the IITians are assumed to have close contacts with their alma mater even years after passing out, and are active with the annual get-togethers, etc (Correct me if i am wrong, my only source of information is the print media). Now, with so many IITians in the silicon valley and doing exemplary work, shouldn't they be able to get some sort of funding for the IITs? Can't some kind of model be worked out?

Also came arcoss the following website, as i was generally googling on IITians in silicon valley: http://www.kamalsinha.com/iit/silicon-valley.html [not sure about the veracity of the analysis, but it is interesting read nevertheless]

madcap_loon
madcap_loon moderator

@SowgandhikaKrishnan infy's bread and butter business is, and always has been, solutions. It's after all a BPO company. They aren't the one writing any core tech stuff like chip design, product and platform development. In fact, gimme the name of any Indian company doing that? Why would an IIT guy go waste his/her time there?

arnie41178
arnie41178 moderator

@SowgandhikaKrishnan

Please see my comments below your points

<Sow>: "My only question is that with all this precision and superior intelligence why do these IITians opt to work with FMCG's".

<Arnab>: Students from CS/Electrical/Electronics dept from IITs you would hardly see them working for FMCGs...Students in applied science fields they would almost withoyt exception go for higher studies...People gpong into MBA==>IIM==>FMCGs would be from the less celebrated streams like Mech, Civil etc, that so because there so virtually no good job for them in India and secondly the Global market has not acknowledgened the Indian talent in these fields like they have done for the technology fields....

"very few people are working with IT companies"....

<Arnab>: IT is typically a misused word. There are various fields which are non-IIT but come in the domain of technology work. If someone is working for lets say Google, Mircosoft, Apple we (the tech people) do not refer them as IT people. IT people are the ones working in IBM, Accenture which are the IT solutions and consultancy provider. Obviously, these IT companies have lesser need for technolgy innovation compared to the core technoloy companies like Micro, Google etc. When I said that IIT goes to work for foreign companies, I referred to these Tehnlogy giants and not the IT companies.

"blaming infy for not doing anything called work in the first place and secondly doing non quality work if at all they are doing anything - out here to protest that statement. Most comments from these IITians sound like they are the only one's with IQ and the rest have the IQ of a houseplant!!!"

<Arnab>: Npwhere I said Infy people are doing inferior job. Infy has one of the lowest cost model in the whole world when it comes to providing IT solutions. There Global Delivery Model is reputed worldwide for its dependability and robustness. However, I can notr connect these virtues with innovation per se. Infy's model is doing a job in a better cost effective manner and they are masters in doing so, but that does not involve innovations and working on razor-edge technology. The world requires companies like Infy dearly, but I do not see Infy requiring innovative grads from IITs.

arnie41178
arnie41178 moderator

@vIVEKkRISHNAN I can give umpteen examples of alumni contri for IIT's. FOr example, the Vinod Gupta Shool of Management in IIT Kharagpur has been entirely setup by contribution from alumni, Vinod Gupta. The Labs being setup in various IITs have IIT alumnis role in commissioning for the IITs.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@vIVEKkRISHNAN why are they not funding their alma matter- good question vivek - precisely what ive been asking - why Mr Bhagat cannot take up the comments about the institute at alumni meetings and why these superbrains cant come up with innovative solutions and money? guess its easier to create controversy to sell a book and for others to give a deaf ear to problems and just protest when alma matter is spoken about and abuse the guy who points out to a problem than actually doing something for the same institute

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@vIVEKkRISHNAN IITians in silicon valley doing exemplary work - vivek i agree with you but that comment of yours can get all those IITians who have been busy blaming infy for not doing anything called work in the first place and secondly doing non quality work if at all they are doing anything - out here to protest that statement. Most comments from these IITians sound like they are the only one's with IQ and the rest have the IQ of a houseplant!!!

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@madcap_loon I never addressed you in the first place. Secondly I just replied to Vivek krishnan saying how the brainy souls would interpret his comment about IITians doing exemplary work in the silicon valley due to their fixation with things to do with IT and non IT in the domain of tech. its more to do with frustration about how the guys have misconstrued the very concept of a service provider. thirdly since you have addressed me - BPO is one of the things Infy runs that doesnt make them a BPO unless you have already decided to brand them as one. please read up on the banking platforms or apps developed by infy or other IT companies for their clients. if you didnt know it then its a waste talking in the first place. Why would an IITian waste time in IT companies or other tech related companies for that matter - because he better not waste all those damn subsidies and tax payers money that has been spent on his damned tech degree. he doesnt need that to sell soaps. he can work in india or abroad or have a start up - not our problem, let him pay full fees and do what he wants. Why waste one subsidised seat in a premier institution if he isnt going to use the knowledge in his line of work?

Like i mentioned in the very first comment - its an issue of quality of entrants to the institute - anyone can raise it as its govt subsidy and tax payers money thats involved, and a corporate head not just IT heads but heads of other companies too can talk about it - potential labour force after all (potential doesnt mean they have become or are definitely going to become employees). if you cant take criticism then fund the damn degree yourselves.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@arnie41178

arnab i never said "YOU" made those statements - after reading all the comments by other IITians in most other articles on the internet , i made that statement, sympathising with you that "you too would hear" these comments as arguments - if you read what i wrote, i said and i quote here - "sorry arnab one more thing - that continuous inflow into silicon valley point - be ready to have IITians who will tell you how very ........... " I never said you made those statements buddy. please read the comments id posted earlier.

thanks for informing me about the difference between IT and non IT. i think if you realise it , im precisely trying to make the same point about the service provider thing and IT and non IT in the domain of tech work which i was trying to hopelessly explain to the brilliant souls from other discussions on the net.

that point about very few IITians working with IT companies was a point put up by some brilliant souls from other discussions on this topic on the net . just saying these are " comments you would receive", doesnt mean you have said them. All i was doing was telling you that you would receive these comments for what you have writtten. I wrote it because your point in the article is exactly what i was trying to unsuccessfully explain in the past and that was the reply id got from them.

there are enough good jobs in india for civil guys - infra boom in india other than in china is the maximum - probably the IITians dont feel its worth them. before the IIT guys expect innovation from every corner they have got to understand the working of a service provider desperately.

The IQ of the houseplant thing was written "by me to vivek krishnan" to tell him of my experience while talking to some brainy souls about this issue and not to you and its not directed at you too. I NEVER said "you said it " anywhere in my comment. If I can write so much to express myself, i guess you would agree that I can also mention your name specifically and address you directly in case I want to attribute something to you.

vIVEKkRISHNAN
vIVEKkRISHNAN

That is good to note, Arnie. my reference was specifically to this line in your original article: "I had heard my professors crib on umpteen occasions about the poor government support for their work and research." So, i must have assumed that whatever Vinod Gupta and others are doing must not be very substantial.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@madcap_loon exactly. exactly why i said they shouldnt be selling soaps. also exactly why you shouldnt comment about IT service providers who would anyway have minimal tech innovations in comparison with product manufacturers and ask why they are not equal to IT product manufacturers, and still worse say they are BPO's. nice to know that no one is denying the existence of service industry its just that most don't understand how it works and what it does and hence the confusion. :-)

madcap_loon
madcap_loon moderator

@SowgandhikaKrishnan First, platform development and app/product development are two things.

Second, service industry is fine and no one is denying its existence and importance around the globe. Just that IITians should rather work on core technology rather than service delivery.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@madcap_loon nothing much to say when any platform developed is just a solution and provision of cheap labour. guess service sector management is taught only to management guys and should be introduced henceforth as a subject at school level so that people understand what service providers mean given that its the sector that earns max revenues for the country and most grads would be working in that sector anyway. :-)

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@madcap_loon Im sensible enough not to take a topic of discussion on any public forum personally. Im only answering to the comment/observations made by you about the organisation in question. when i gave you an answer you said its just a solution, since im not that much of a tech person i told you to ask people who know about it as its their bread butter and jam. Simple. No its not that i dont want to see logic, there isnt any logic there for me to see it - just like how you feel there is no logic to see in my contention. whether you wish to engage in conversations in the future or not is your lookout its a free country after all.

vIVEKkRISHNAN
vIVEKkRISHNAN

@madcap_loon

Yep. And that is the point of contention really, right? I mean, exercising one's individual choice is what is happening today, that's reality. Is it ethical is the question, especially when you are talking about the IITs. Becaue we all look upto them, have certain expectations from them to give back to the society. And these expectations are there because of why the IITs were instituted in the first place.

madcap_loon
madcap_loon moderator

@SowgandhikaKrishnan

>> why dont you try asking people from these companies

>> to brush up on your info, instead of expecting all readymade

>> answers here on a forum?

Boss, I give up. You just don't want to see the logic, do you now? I don't give a damn about the politics of the Bhagat vs Infy or Murthy vs IIT quality. I just had a few observations on what was being discussed here. If you have to take everything so personally, I promise to refrain from trying to engage in conversations with you. Thanks and all the best.

madcap_loon
madcap_loon moderator

@vIVEKkRISHNAN

>> If you are implying that the IITians are in

>> the same league, that is not a good sign, is it?

No am not. My point was, those players migrated cuz the state expected them to give back just cuz they got state-sponsored training. Somehow, ppl equate scholarships with state-sponsorship. Since India is a democracy (at least on papers), an IIT student should very much have the liberty to pursue any career they want, and in any location they want. If he wants to give back -- then it's good. But if he doesn't, we can't hold the guy for it.

Simple logic, it's his choice and free will.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@madcap_loon theyve developed apps for the same innovative tech giants being spoken of here and everywhere - why dont you try asking people from these companies to brush up on your info, instead of expecting all readymade answers here on a forum? your anyway going to brand everything as yet another solution!!! cheap labour!! india was always known for cheap labour in case you werent aware,it was there from the times of the British Raj extending to the MNC onslaught we had in the early periods of globalisation. its not a trend these IT companies have started unless you decide to blame the guys for the next tsunami and earthquake too. so get off the high horses.

i couldnt care if the IITian writes poetries or books or swats flies - let him do it at his expense not at tax payers expense. that hard earned money has to be put to better use. The constitution doesnt give him the right to waste tax payers hard earned money. If public money is involved in something they have a right to criticise and question, if you are so delicate and cant take it like i said earlier fund it yourselves. well our guys are migrating even without the attitude so rather have the attitude if they are going to migrate anyway. didnt know you equated the indian democracy with the Communist block. also you probably dont think Intellectual property means anything.

also you still havent noticed that my contention was that the issue was about "quality of entrants" unless you want to have a discussion for the sake of it & not discussing the main issue behind it but just throwing new words around to continue it. If every talk of quality of entrants to the IIT's is going to mean questioning the credentials of an organsation whose head is asking about it then one shouldnt be talking of quality of candidates in politics too as not every person in the public has experience in polity or has been a social worker to talk about it. not even on this forum.

vIVEKkRISHNAN
vIVEKkRISHNAN

@madcap_loon

This is turning out to be a good discussion.

I was only amused by the last comment - martina and team migrating to the US.

Martina's case is a complicated one. Sharapova, i might agree.

Also, there are basic differences between communist countries and democratic ones, and I dont think we should be equating the two, just to justify the exodus.

I know some people from the comminist countries giving up their jobs, homes, and migrating to the US because they couldn't take it in their home countries anymore. And they swear allegiance to their adopted home, and not anymore to their homelands, due to some really strong reasons. If you are implying that the IITians are in the same league, that is not a good sign, is it?

madcap_loon
madcap_loon moderator

> I never addressed you in the first place.

Didn't know it was a closed discussion.

> please read up on the banking platforms or apps developed

> by infy or other IT companies for their clients.

banking platforms? At best they have a banking solution -- which is what they keep raving about every now and then. Anything else they have done lately or since the time they came into existence? Anything, innovative, ground-breaking other than supplying cheap labor?

> if you didnt know it then its a waste talking in the first place.

Oh well...

> Why waste one subsidised seat in a premier institution if he

> isnt going to use the knowledge in his line of work?

Just because someone got scholarship because s/he's smarter than the rest to begin with, doesn't he's to serve the citizens for good. This is the sort of attitude that made Martina Navratilova and so many other sportsmen from the former communist block migrate to the US. If an IITian wants just sit home and write poetry that's his choice -- the constitution gives him that right.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@arnie41178@vIVEKkRISHNAN already repeating my point that I DIDNT SAY THAT "YOU" said they did inferior work but just cautioning you that you might receive such comments for your comments about IITians in the silicon valley. read my comment first arnab i didnt blame you at all.