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Vision India 2020: MIT India

Posted on Tuesday, May 6th 2008

Twelve years ago, in 2008, it was clear that the labor arbitrage–based IT services industry that had made India a player in the global technology market was facing a threat. The key issue was supply-demand equilibrium. India’s engineering education system simply could not keep up with the demand for talent.

Engineering schools below the top tier (IIT, IISC, and a few others) were struggling due to lack of faculty. Anyone who knew any engineering had multiple multinational companies dangling job offers in front of their nose. Why would they go teach in a small engineering college in a small town?

Against that backdrop, we started a for-profit private company to train engineers in India.

At the time, Susan Hockfield was the president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT had also taken a leadership role in the Open Course Ware (OCW) movement, systematically putting every lecture by the institute’s faculty online, freely accessible from anywhere in the world.

We convinced Dr. Hockfield to take equity in the company on behalf of MIT, and let us do the project under the MIT India brand, extensively leveraging OCW content. We could, however, grant only certificates, not MIT degrees.

When we launched MIT India in 2010, we were handsomely financed by contracts from Intel, Infosys, Cadence, Autodesk, Tata Motors and IBM, and raised hardly any outside financing until much later, when we were ready to scale. In addition, companies like Cadence and Autodesk donated CAD tools which our engineering students could learn with.

Our model was simple. We worked directly with major corporations interested in hiring trained engineers. Our customers, thus, were the companies, not the students or parents.

To the youth of India, however, we brought a different value proposition. We carefully recruited a set of high potential students who had only a high school education but who were not going onto great colleges or universities. These students, upon acceptance into the MIT India program, were already guaranteed a job at the sponsor company, for which we were training them. They participated in a rigorous curriculum focused on the engineering discipline of the sponsor’s choice. For example, Tata Motors, had us train mechanical engineers, while Intel had us train chip designers.

We had six centers in our first year of 500 students each, aligned with one of our sponsors. They were geographically dispersed, and most certainly not in Bangalore, which was already bursting in its seams. IBM’s center was in Kolkata, Tata Motors’ was in Thane, Cadence and Autodesk were in Kanpur, Infosys was in Indore, and Intel was in Kharagpur.

We solved the faculty issue by recruiting a group of talented engineers who were passionate about teaching, and offered them market salary that they would normally get working for MNCs. And our faculty followed MIT syllabus, OCW content, problem sets, exams, and so on.

As batches of students finished our two-year intensive program, we renewed our contracts with the sponsors, recruited new sponsors, and opened up new centers all over India. These contracts were extremely lucrative for us and allowed us to finance great infrastructure, afford and attract faculty, and address the engineering education crisis that India would have otherwise faced had we tried to work within the government-approved channels.

We made a few key strategic choices that made it possible for us to build the $6 billion a year company that we have today with 1,200 MIT India centers, each teaching two batches of 500 students. Each year, we train a total of 600,000 engineers.

First, we framed the engineering education problem as a problem of the corporations who need to recruit talent and asked that they pay for a quality solution. They did.

Second, we did not allow compensation to be a deterrent for hiring talented faculty. We paid them handsomely, such that they did not feel they were making a career sacrifice by teaching. This enabled those with passion for teaching to choose an academic career.

Third, we chose to do this under the MIT brand umbrella, gaining instant credibility among the sponsors, the faculty and the students.

With that, we created one of the most powerful engineering workforces in the world.

Note: Vision India 2020 was subsequently published as a book. You can order it from AmazonKindleAmazon.in, etc.

A call to Indian entrepreneurs everywhere, Vision India 2020 challenges and inspires readers to build the future now. In this “futuristic retrospective,” author Sramana Mitra shows how over the next decade, start-up companies in India could be turned into billion-dollar enterprises. Vision India 2020, which encompasses a wide range of sectors from technology to infrastructure, healthcare to education, environmental issues to entertainment, proves how even the most sizeable problems can be solved by exercising bold, ambitious measures. Renowned in the business world, author Sramana Mitra conceived Vision India 2020 from her years of experience as a Silicon Valley strategy consultant and entrepreneur. Well aware of the challenges facing today’s aspiring entrepreneurs, Mitra provides strategies, business models, references, and comparables as a guide to help entrepreneurs manifest their own world-changing ideas. 

This segment is a part in the series : Vision India 2020

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Sramana, there are a few key things that are crucial for any such ‘engineering finishing school’ in India.

  1. Ground rules for Industry collaboration in terms of realistic final year projects where students solve real life problems.

  2. Simply paying the teaches handsomely won’t do. There has to be a system of accountability on part of teachers as well. Gone are the days when there were ‘acharyas’ spent time and energy for ‘dutiful’ and ‘eager-to-learn’ students in India. Everything is monetized and respect is no longer commanded but demanded.

  3. Instead of limping on the crutches of ‘recognized’ brand name, its time that people did good work in this area and created more brand names – by sheer dint of quality of ‘finishing’ students

  4. There is HR outsourcing, Accounts outsourcing – wonder why can’t this start as small steps whereby dedicated entrepreneurs take up outsourcing ‘finishing engineers’ for big corporates to start with.

shalz Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 11:47 PM PT

Laudable thoughts no doubt. Kindly address the following issues:
a) How can you finish a 4 year degree course in 2 years? I am not saying it can’t be done but this puts a tremendous course load on students. In all my engineering, I had a semester where we had database, OS, automata, assemblers in 1 semeseter and so many years down the line I still shudder at the load it did put. You are planning something like this for 4 consecutive semesters!
b) Has it occurred to you that these students will not have the vision an engineer would have? A cs/ece/ee engineer could potentially work in both developing business objects and architecture of new mobile systems. The hybrid variant you talk of would have restricted mobility when it comes to career choices but then that probably works to the company’s advantage.
c) Since the students would be restricted in their vision [they have to be, since the education is compressed] where would they fit in senior mgmt down the line?

Arpan Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 4:39 AM PT

Try to calculate how much time you waste in those semester in just taking various exams/tests/ fests; not to forget, bunking classes, short lectures, useless presentations (whose paper would later be used as desk cleaner).
You'll end up getting the same amount of time for studies too.
In the 4 years engineering, they teach you a broader aspect of engineering, while the approach mentioned above pin-points on a single skill.
so, if you're going to be a programmer, your whole focus will be on algorithms, data structures, some languages, engineering best practices. not on subjects like accounts, environmental studies, management skills and so forth (the actual scenario maybe different too)

Sheikh Aman Monday, July 18, 2011 at 1:03 AM PT

Shaiz,

Nothing is stopping other entrepreneurs from doing things their way. This particular idea is the way I would do it, but with the size of the problem, there are many answers.

Also, I don’t see this as a finishing school. I see this as a real school.

Arpan,

(a) if you do 3 trimesters of 4 courses each, you can cover 24 courses in 2 years (no long summer vacation, just 1 month break after each course). I routinely took 4 courses during undergrad, and note, that I called this an intensive.

(b) vision – I don’t agree with you. We all start our journeys in one territory and then navigate our way into others through the courses of our lives. I think you are under-estimating human potential by assuming that people develop “vision” only in the classroom. A case in point – I don’t have a business degree. No one ever taught me marketing in a classroom. It hasn’t stopped me from doing what I do.

(c) since I don’t agree with your premise, I don’t believe this should be an issue.

(d) since each curriculum will be ‘custom’ designed for a specific sponsor, sponsors may request an inter-disciplinary course for 500 students in a batch (or batch after batch). Example: Genetech might ask for a Computer Science and Biology cross-course, which would cover, per semester, 2 biology and 2 CS courses.

(e) nothing is for life, but I do think that if the sponsor is paying for the students’ education at this level, the student should at least work for 3-4 years at the sponsor company to make this a fair arrangement.

Does that address your question?

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 6:43 AM PT

The best way to alleviate the human resource shortage in the Indian IT industry is to address the employablity issue. According to Infosys, only 20% of India’s 500,000 engineering graduates are employable by top tier companies. If this can be increased to 50% for example, the human resource shortage would be alleviated.

There are a number of industry-academia initiaves to address this problem.

First, Nasscom is working with state governments to create IT finishing schools.

Second, individual companies have created their own initiatives. Infosys’ Campus Connect program is aimed at improving the employablility of existing engineering graduates. This program already has 300 engineering colleges under its fold since it was launched in 2004.

Third, the talent pool has been expanded as IT companies increasingly hire and train non-engineering graduates. To this end, IT companies are making significant investments in scaling their internal training capacity.

With regard to increasing the quantity of engineering graduates it should be noted that the Government of India is creating a significant number of new institutes.

However I would like to propose a another solution. I believe that the Government of India should allow leading foreign universities to operate in India. U.S universities have ample funds and face declining enrollment at home. Not surprisingly, China already allows this.

Raju Agarwal
http://www.myindiabook.com

Raju Agarwal
http://www.myindiabook.com

Raju Agarwal Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 8:53 AM PT

“… and then came the HRD Ministry of India passing a bill to govern the non-degree institutes established in India. They introduced 25% reservation for SC/ST, 15% for the OBC, 33% for Women. Because of this, the high potential students lost their opportunity to join MIT India and slowly the corporate companies reduced their sponsorships. To compensate this, the government released some grants, of which only 10% reached the Institute. MIT tried to withdrew its collaboration, but the Prime Minister of India, Mr.Rahul Gandhi maintained a good rapport with the president of U.S of A Mr. George Bush III, who made MIT to forcibly collaborate with India.”

I wish the above things I said should never come true…

Manoj Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 8:55 AM PT

I think this is a great initiative. The problem with todays Industry and Engg Colleges is Industry requirements and college Education do not match consistently. This can be seen as Push – Pull techniques, with Engg Colleges doing the Push by teaching a certain level of curriculum, but Industry has to spend a great amount of resources to sort and absorb the best candidates and train them. But with this above initiative i call “Pull” technique, We will be approaching the problem from the other end; first making sure what the industry requirements are and then imparting education with that in mind, thereby creating a good matching scenario.
To clarify the issue raised by Arpan, the candidates are not Engg students, these are good high school students who are not going to Ivy Engg colleges [maybe due to lack of financial resources or other factors.]
Also i suppose the course will be tailored specific to the industry requirements, so the candidates wont need to take 50 different courses as in Engg which they wouldn’t really use.
I think this will certainly give a twist to the current competition scenario that’s prevalent; a preson who’s ready to do the job day one v/s person who has a good college education.

Nikhil Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:12 AM PT

Hi,
I still have 3 issues:
a) Course load is still intensive. And with the kind of stuff you are planning to introduce — say computational biology which could do with courses in combinatorics and neurology at the same time and midsems and sems thrown in for good measure, this probably would beat the IIMs hands down. 🙂 I really like your idea, since I know how bad India is when it comes to interdisciplinary courses [I passed CS but my job routinely involves working with algorithms developed using neural networks or high speed analog] but this is far too stressful.
b) I definitely agree that students should work with an employer for at least 3 years. But I see serious issues when it comes to mid-career choices. The world is not ideal, and it never will be — I doubt a IIT or IIM grad would fancy working for a CEO with no formal degree. Mind you I know this is a bad thing to say, but that is how the world operates. In India at least, to move up the corporate ladder you need to grab eyeballs — I am not sure you are addressing this notwithstanding the MIT halo.
c) Given the course load I am quite sure you don’t plan to have projects etc in place [or else when do you cover theory]. In other words, there’s no component of research involved — it’s kind of n masse training for a MNC. You are quite a vocal activist when it comes to product development out of India but ain’t this contradicting your own thought process?

Mind you, I still like the idea very much. I have tried to recruit people for my organization, and maybe after talking to 15-20 people I’d get one who’d then quote an abnormally high figure. Your plan if it actually delivers would help people like myself a lot.

Regards

Arpan Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:30 AM PT

The premise of this proposal is that Indian IT companies will be agreable to funding new for profit IT institutes. I reject this view.

The author seems to be unaware of the fact that these companies are investing signficant resources in aligning the curriculum of existing colleges with industry requirements.

Therefore, it is very unlikely that they would be willing to invest additional resources in setting up new institutes.

Moreover, the Government of India will be increasing the corporate tax rate for IT companies in order to fund all the new institutes that are being constructed.

Thus, this proposal will likely have few takers.

Raju Agarwal
http://www.myindiabook.com

Raju Agarwal Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:49 AM PT

Arpan,

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg – these are just some examples of CEOs who don’t have formal college degrees. There are many IITs and IIMs who fall all over themselves to work for them.

As far as project work is concerned, I don’t see why not. Especially because the sponsors are directly involved, assigning project work should be very easy. I don’t know what you guys experienced at the IITs and other Indian engineering schools, in my undergrad, project work was part of several of the courses. The famous 6.371 course at MIT involves designing an actual chip as part of a team of 3-4.

Contrary to what you say, I think both project work and team work SHOULD be part of the program. Even Research can be a requirement in the final trimesters.

I think, what you are concerned about is the work load. Well, yes, this idea assumes that students will commit 2 years of their lives to nothing other than their engineering education. May be a worthwhile investment, no?

Raju,

The problem that still remains in the current engineering colleges is the faculty issue. Whether or not corporations are investing, faculty still doesn’t get paid enough, and the brand power simply isn’t there to attract them. Therefore, those engineering colleges you are talking about have very little to offer in terms of quality of education.

As for Government and Tax rates, this is just the kind of project that the Government should support both at a policy level, and equity level.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 12:31 PM PT

[…] Vision India 2020: MIT India When we launched MIT India in 2010, we were handsomely financed by contracts from Intel, Infosys, Cadence, Autodesk, Tata Motors and IBM, and hardly raised any outside financing until much later, when we were ready to scale. … […]

Today’s Tales on Tata Motors From the Blogosphere | The People's Car Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 1:44 PM PT

What faculty issue? India is producing 500,000 engineering graduates, so obviously the faculty exists. Why is more faculty required when the top tier companies are hiring a fraction of the total number of engineering graduates?

With regard to the issue of quality of education, you should read up on Infosys’ Campus Connect program. Infosys is providing courseware, training faculty, and providing faculty with sabbaticals so they can brush up their skills.

In short, all issues have been identified and are being addressed through industry-academia partnerships.

As for Government support to this initiative, the question is what does this initiative offer that is not already being addressed?

Raju Agarwal
http://www.myindiabook.com

Raju Agarwal Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 8:11 PM PT

Raju,

I find it hard to take your writing seriously. The way you talk, all problems have been solved, so let’s pack up and go home.

There are no issues … listen to yourself.

Ridiculous.

“Why is more faculty required when the top tier companies are hiring a fraction of the total number of engineering graduates?” – That’s exactly the point. Because (a) the graduates are unhirable (translates low quality) and (b) trained by faculty that are low quality.

We don’t need more bad faculty. We need good faculty, and today, good faculty is very hard to come by in India except at the top tier institutes who have adequate brand pull.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 8:25 PM PT

Sramana, this is an excellent idea & I wish someone implements it. I think the hardest part might be getting the name brand institutions to lend their name to such an endeavor- not sure if MIT or CMU or Stanford would go along but if they did, all you would need is 1 or 2 big name companies to sign on and you’d have Indian companies falling over themselves wanting to invest in such academies. Well done!

Abbi Vakil Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 11:16 PM PT

Sramana,

Laudable initiative of Vision 2020. I would like to see what all ideas you have up your sleeve.

I completely agree that the idea of a ‘finishing school’ has tremendous potential for companies, students and potential faculty.

I joined the discussion late but I have these issues:

  1. Operational costs alone of good quality engineering education in India is Rs.2-2.5 lakhs per year per student which is highly subsidized by the government. On top of it, you talk about giving high salaries to faculty. I am not sure if companies are willing to bear large part of such costs involved. This would imply high fees and that would become a deterrent in scaling operations. My friends faced a similar situation when he wanted to start a Electronic CAD training institute and his costs just didn’t seem to be working out.

  2. It might sound funny, but brand MIT, or any other from US would first face serious doubts in credibility from the tier 2/3 cities. I am sure not more than 2-3% of our population can relate to MIT. So, it has to an Indian cultivate brand, best done with personal backing of Mr. Tata or Mr. Mittal.

  3. Then there is an issue with research and infrastructure. Even if MIT agrees to supply curriculum, notes and even books to the initiative, I am unsure if we will be able to develop infrastructure and faculty to support that quality of education. A constant research program (beyond final research trimester) is necessary for faculty and students to gain deep understanding of the subject.

Sorry for sounding outright cynic, but I don’t think we can replace ‘structured, formal education’ with such training institutes. They can, at best, fill the space of engineering+ education that takes place along with, or after a degree.

Cheers,
Arpit

Arpit Agarwal Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 11:18 PM PT

Interesting post. But, we miss the main point here, I guess.

We do not make policies (though we can try!), politicians and bureaucrats do it. And India is a country ruled by coalition parties (I guess it is close to 50 now).

And there are pseudo parties like “the Left”, whose only job is to oppose any development (again in a pseudo way of course). They will support development in West Bengal, but will oppose anywhere in India. They will adopt the policies from China, Cuba, Russia; which is not applicable in the Indian context. And they do it all from outside!

Parties like these are a curse to development. West Bengal is in ruins now (as compared to what it was in the seventies) solely due to their rule for close to 30 years. They have created a culture of unionism (a company with 10 employee will have 2 unions or more !), strikes, dharanas, and sometimes violence like the MNS in Maharastra (Nandigram style). Similarly, a good number of other parties.

Otherwise by this time, as far as I know, we would have seen a number of educational institutions of repute from abroad in India. The main bottleneck today is – 50% reservation for Indians, which they are not ready to bite.

Considering the slogan for “50% reservation for Indians”, which is a very smart one in the current Indian context, they will combine it with the regional chauvinism, which is another “bramhastra” for regional parties. And we love that. People in every state will support it (it may get more sophosticated further like out of 50%, 30% for local people etc.).

I like the vision, but it is not going to happen early. Definitely NOT by 2020.

Jeevan Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 8:16 AM PT

Sramana,

Your statements display a complete lack of knowledge with regard to what is already being done. How much background research did you perform prior to writing this article?

For some reason, you have completely misunderstood my point. I am not saying that there are no problems to be solved. Far from it. I have said that we need to improve the employability of existing graduates by improving the quality of education. Infosys is doing just that. For example, by providing courseware, which I believe will become the primary learning tool.

As for faculty, it would make more sense to improve existing faculty, which is what Infosys is doing. It is training faculty and providing sabbaticals at its campus in Mysore for faculty to brush up their skills.

What part of this do you not understand?
There is a huge need to improve the quality of education. Don’t underestimate the power of online education. The issue of improving the quality of faculty is being addressed.

Raju Agarwal

Raju Agarwal Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 8:22 AM PT

Abhi, I agree with you that the brand licensing part is very difficult. That’s why, the equity ownership for those who do lend their names is going to be very significant, to make it attractive.

Arpit, Yes, operational costs are going to be high, because beyond the faculty, we also need to make arrangements for high bandwidth connectivity, workstations on every desk, etc. because OCW is online courseware. Back of the envelope, I think I assumed 5 Lakhs per student as what the sponsors pay.

Also, this is not about replacing any other kind of education. It is just one model of training a large groups of students. India – with its population – will support many models. This is just one of them, just as NIIT has been one.

On MIT’s brand not being known in the third tier cities … the value proposition for these people can just be the training+assured job, and the brand won’t matter. The brand, I think, will matter the most to attract high quality faculty, which in my assessment, is one of the biggest bottlenecks.

Jeevan – I don’t really want to engage with your points. You are free to have your opinions (and negativity). I don’t care to refute or address.

Raju – Same point as above. There can be multiple models. There will be some who want to change the existing system, others who prefer to build from scratch. Contrary to what you think, I actually advised Haldia Institute of Technology – one of these third-tier engineering colleges for a while – and the point where they are getting stuck is the faculty issue. Then there are a host of business model and incentive structure issues that don’t align well. Anyway, you can have your opinions, I certainly have mine.

Thanks for all your inputs and questions, though. It’s been a good discussion.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 8:55 AM PT

The ground reality is different and I think it is the main point. I tend to agree with Jeevan on this. There are no educational institution of repute from abroad as our political parties demand 50% reservation for Indians, which is ridiculous. There are many more, but this is the first blockade.

To quote Mr. NRN Murthy of Infosys, it took him 2 years to get a computer from abroad during the license raj! And it is only after 10/12 years when liberalization happened, the current software industry took off in mid nineties.

Though the current PM was the FM that time, he was supported by a relatively stronger Congress party and a forward looking PM in Mr. Rao. Currently the PM is crippled by the Left, whose only job is to oppose any development and stay in power at any cost. And they have actually brought West Bengal to its knee. Same with some other regional parties. In future the center is going to be ruled more by regional parties like DMK/AIDMK, TDP, BJD, BSP…and a weaker centralized party added with cetrifugal parties like the Left.

Also, in every election now a days it has become a fashion to announce new IITs and IIMs by the various political parties. It has become more of a political ploy than education. They have started this game this time also.

I will not go for NIIT, Aptech, SSI type institutions, which have actually created a nuisance in the industry. What they have produced are candy software professionals, nothing more. And the whole argument of this article is based on reputed foreign institutions with base in India, not of private institutions from India.

Of course, the vision is good and lively. So also when I read the vision of Mr. Kalam – India being a developed country by 2020 in Wings of Fire, India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium et al. Vision is grand, but are not we missing the primary stakeholders here?

Omkar Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 2:54 PM PT

Omkar,

NIIT pioneered a model of distributed education which was quite a fundamental change from where things were. Their purpose was not to produce programmers, but rather to produce computer users. That the industry now needs to hire NIIT grads as programmers is a testimony to the sorry state of the rest of the education system.

Btw, you grossly under-estimate the negotiating power of a brand like MIT, including with the said politicians.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 3:38 PM PT

You’ve hit the nail on the head by removing the mismatch between the demands of the industry and the curriculum developed by schools.

This is a very doable idea and one might take learning pointers from Ars Digita University which was an experimental program pioneered by Philip Greenspun. Within this program , faculty/ex-faculty from MIT taught the equivalent of an MIT cs undergrad program within 12 months. Look up aduni.org

Thus it can be done within 24 months. The program also introduced a number of pedagogical innovations which seem obvious but are rarely followed. The program emphasized interactions within small teams by investing heavily in joint workspaces for students and asking students to develop software for very real clients. Think teams of 4 developing amazon.com within 3 months.

I would make one minor addition to the system where the curriculum used by these schools would be proactively benchmarked against demands of the complete industry,not just the sponsor of the program i.e. a study program in mechanical engineering would conform to the structure as provided by MIT , but would also meet the needs of the entire auto industry, not just the Tatas who happen to be sponsoring the program. This benchmarking should be transparent and the information available for everyone to peruse.

abhinav Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 10:13 PM PT

Sramana,
1. Your vision article appeared today(09May08) in an Indian daily called DNA as a news item on the front page!
2. The vision is absolutely on par with our organization’s vision. Only, we are acting it out and are already on the way. We do corporate training with Indian IT leaders keeping our industry knowledge updated and simultaneously run BS, MS and PGDM(MBA) courses with the Bharati Vidyapeeth University at Pune, India. BTW, Pune is called the “Oxford of India” and has hordes of students from all over India flocking to its teeming educational institutions. Pune is also an IT hub with a saying that if you randomly pick up and throw a stone it would land up in an IT company. The spectrum ranges from IBM, Accenture, Cognizant, Infosys, TCS and Wipro to MomAndPop Infotech Pvt. Ltd.s
3. We are putting up a 100+ acre campus on the outskirts of Pune, containing Global Learning Centers of IT Service Corporations, Centers of Excellence run by Technology leader MNCs and Training hubs to run large-volume Government programs, supported by world-class supporting physical and curricular infrastructure. Everyone invests and gains, and not just financially. Deja vu? Read your article again! It’s 2008 now.
4. Would you, your organizatoin or MIT actively like to work with us in our program? We will lay out the red carpet for credible visionaries like you.

you (and other readers of your blogs) can touch base with me on this at d.thosar@amplifymind.com

Thank you.

Dilip Thosar Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 10:56 PM PT

Lets do it! Anybody taker? I can give 2 hours a day on this everyday for planning formalizing some of the things. And probably by the end of 2009 fulltime.

However, conceptually I see that we are creating robots for those sponsoring institutes instead of giving the students the opportunity to choose the work they want to do after the study. 12th standard (In India) could be a bit early for the average student (we are talking about 1200*500 fresh students a year) to decide whether they want to design chips or design the mother board.

However a sponsored study for the 2 years will force the student to design chips as Intel probably sponsored him.

Probably if we do the business planning where we make the students and parents also a customer where by they spend money and ‘buy’ the freedom of selecting their future after the engineering school some or otherway may increase the complexity of the planning but worth trying the model.

Santanu Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 10:59 PM PT

Lots of great points, Abhinav, Dilip, and Santanu.

Abhinav, thanks for the pointer to Ars Digita. Your benchmarking point is also well-taken.

Dilip, we’re eager to hear more from you on your experience. In particular, I would like to hear your faculty strategy.

Santanu, I did 2 years of EECS at MIT, prior to that 4 years of CS+Economics for undergrad. As you well know, at DAIS, we did not do any VLSI design or Computer Architecture. At Intarka, we did mostly AI. You were with me at both ventures.

Am I a robot?

I am smiling as I am writing this (as I know you are too). The point is, what you do for 2 years doesn’t make you anything. What you are “inside” makes or not make you something.

If you are inherently curious, experimental, and know how to “learn,” you will learn no matter what at all stages of your life.

If you are a “robot” inside, and like a cushy, no-risk job, you will always be one.

Okay, I have to go to sleep now. More on this on Monday. You guys keep discussing, I am going to be off for 3 days now in Mendocino.

Cheers!
Sramana

Sramana Mitra Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 11:25 PM PT

Sramana,

The idea is good and your premises are quite reasonable.

What we are saying : 1. TCS, Infy etc are spending several millions of USD every year in running huge campuses that could train thousands of freshers at a time.
2. Your MIT-India Academies could be used by these companies to augment their capacity or even outsource a lot of what they are currently trying to do (and doing it inefficiently).

I work for one of these global Indian IT majors and I can tell you that beyond the media hype about various academic interface programs, the reality is that project managers find themselves saddled with ‘trained’ people who are still unemployable, even after all the Campus Connect type programs, followed by 60-90 day intensive in-house induction programs.

The Learning and Development divisions of these IT majors have a tough time getting really good in-house faculty for in-house training centers. So even there, people with 5-7 years experience and are on the bench for various reasons get pushed into being a faculty for a few weeks or so.

So, if we can articulate the value proposition effectively (the model you mentioned needs to be refined a bit), I am sure there will be many takers among the IT MNCs, Product companies, and even brick-mortar MNCs like Reliance etc.

My only concern: The idea presupposes that the ’employability’ argument from IT companies is genuine.I feel that for the kind of work Indian IT companies do and the rates they charge, they really don’t need exceptional programmers or people with great communication skills.

The 10% that they recruit from the engg.colleges are also for the most part below par compared to international standards.

So, I am afraid the companies might come and tell us that Rs. 5 lakh per student is too high; “we just need them to have basic communication skills and some learnability quotient along with basic technical skills. Can you do it for Rs.2 lakh per student, charge Rs.1 lakh from the student and we will bear the remaining Rs. 1 lakh, which we will pay in 2 instalments? “

Please don’t think of this as my negativity. I am currently part of this system and this is how the Indian IT MNCs think. For the success of this venture, we should initially depend on companies that are really true to their vision of being global technology leaders, and not just glorified body shoppers.

Kumar Narasimha Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 11:57 PM PT

Kumar, There’s an easy way to solve the pricing issue … go to the MNCs that are not Indian MNCs first – IBM, SAP, Texas Instruments, Cadence, Autodesk. Infosys and Tata may haggle, but for the MNCs looking at this from a truly global perspective, the 5Lakh amount is nothing.

Infosys and Tata will fall in line soon after, once the trend takes shape. But I do acknowledge that you pointed out a major issue about the market penetration strategy in your comment: focus on the non-Indian MNC segment, skip the Indian MNCs to begin with.

Sramana Mitra Friday, May 9, 2008 at 7:51 AM PT

Hi Sramama !

By the way, who is starting all this,i meant Vision India?
Is it only in thoughts or something is really happening in this regard?

Are you doing it ?

PLEASE REPLY

Satwinder Singh Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 2:58 PM PT

This particular series is a column. It’s primary objective is to stimulate not one, but multiple entrepreneurs in each area to build businesses aligned with the opportunities discussed in the series.

Sramana Mitra Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 8:31 PM PT

Nice discussion though a little too centered on technology and technical training. Let’s not forget that growth in India over the next few years is going to come from a variety of different sectors which will all see a demand-supply mismatch in terms of labor.

I am curious to hear everyone’s view on training for other sectors, which may be far easier than technology and may have a far wider impact on India.

Raj Monday, May 12, 2008 at 7:28 AM PT

Raj,

You should try to understand the point of the series and its framework. This is a “venture” which is focused on “Engineering Education in India.”

When you try to build a company, the best way to do that is by focusing on one problem, one core competency, not lump fifteen different businesses into one.

Your point about training in other sectors are well taken, but they would be part of different ventures, not this one.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Monday, May 12, 2008 at 8:03 AM PT

Sramana,

Good point about focus. My question though would be if the right problem is being focused upon. That’s the discussion that I was trying to create. It’s good to see a bunch of reasonable people on this blog so it seemed like an appropriate forum. If not, I will take my discussion elsewhere.

Raj Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 2:17 AM PT

Raj,

If you are trying to say that Engineering education in India is not ‘a’ right problem to focus on, you won’t get many takers on this forum. This is a “Technology Business Blog” primarily.

As for other training needs of India – sure, there are many other areas that need training, and I am sure the audience would be happy to engage with you on some of the other areas that you see as important.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 8:13 AM PT

Sramana,

I think MIT India itself might become such a huge brand that it gets hard to intake those students who get admitted to small engineering colleges. The cream will target MIT India and thus it will stand out as another IIT.

I think to solve this problem a superior and renowned institute (such as MIT India) has to work with already established small institutes, at root level, to pick and prepare students for corporates.

  • Chetan Mittal.
Chetan Mittal Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 10:50 PM PT

Raj,

Primary and High school Teacher training, health care professionals (nurses, care givers for special needs etc) training, training in community services etc etc..

Is it far easier to do a venture addressing the problem in education in all these sectors, compared to say, engineering education ?

I am not sure if its easier. I see lot more government controls in primary and high school education, and health care education, than in engineering education.

Is it worth attempting? Yes, definitely.

Do we really need a brand in these areas similar to MIT for engineering education? I don’t think so.

But on the whole, Sramana’s model could be adopted for education in other sectors as well, with some required changes.

Kumar Narasimha Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 11:48 PM PT

Sramana,
You idea looks great but adding following parameters to your premises can be useful.
– We have analyze if the break-even point of demand and supply is nearing. Mumbai has seen a deluge of engineering colleges and output of engineers has risen exponentially. I would also like to bring to your notice that few of these new colleges dont get filled to its capacity as there are no students interested.
– In IT nearly 60-65% of the jobs dont require engineers. It is fairly easy for the IT companies to pick up BSC/BCOM batches and train them on-project.
– During campus recruitment of engineering colleges, big companies pick up students from all streams. For example, infosys picked more civil engineers from my college than computers or electronics students. This is just to prove the fact that big companies are looking for smart people who will be able to adapt and contribute in any new work. We should not look at creating resources, who can just work on particular technology. Then they will become passe when the technology becomes old.
– I can (partially) agree your point of view for production line companies like Tata motors. Cant comment much on this as I have not experience any non-IT company yet.
– Last but not the least, IT companies are reaching saturation. If I compare the trend of last two year with last decade then I can say there are more on-bench resources in IT companies today. These resources are companies contingency to take up pipeline projects if the deals strike.
My vision would be to focus more on research work so that India get a leading edge. This will help us creating more and better job oppurtunities. Somehow I feel that you vision will limit the students to lower rungs in the company as you are targetting at the basic work force. And for basic work force in IT companies atleast we dont need to waste engineers talent.

Ashish Kanak Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 2:06 AM PT

Chetan,

It’s possible, although IIT is a 4-year degree institution, and this MIT India project is a 2-year certification.

Ashish,

IT companies reaching saturation is perhaps not an accurate observation. I do agree with you that focusing on research abilities or high end engineering is key to the future of Indian IT / engineering oriented companies, and that includes Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace, Architecture – everything.

Remember, the MIT India brand is not just IT. It is an all-encompassing “engineering” program, that will also feed the construction industry, the car industry, Railways, Ports, Defense, Energy – all sectors.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 10:17 AM PT

Sramana,

Will this 2 year certificate be heavy enough to land candidates jobs etc and thus value for money? Aren’t MBAs and PGDBAs already filling this gap? If we take example of ISB (has strong affliation with Harvard, Kellogs etc) and place it in this scenario as a case study then I think I agree with ‘Kumar Narsimha’ that we don’t need such a big brand to provide engineering education at such a professional level. We need good teachers with high salary packages to educate nd thus build future.

Chetan.

Chetan Mittal Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 9:51 PM PT

Chetan,

The candidates are not paying. The employers are. So yes.

And MBAs don’t do engineering. This is a hardcore engineering program.

As for the brand, sure you can try to do the same business without a big brand affiliation and see if you can attract the faculty and the corporate sponsors.

Or, you can try to build a new brand that becomes powerful in its own right.

Any big problem has many solutions. The one I proposed is just one of them.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 9:38 AM PT

Sramana,

Thanks for the replies to my posts.

What are your thoughts on this article?

https://seekingalpha.com/article/76511-where-are-indias-innovative-companies-products-and-solutions

  • Chetan.
Chetan Mittal Friday, May 16, 2008 at 12:12 AM PT

I have written on the topic ad nauseam, Chetan.

Sramana Mitra Friday, May 16, 2008 at 8:04 AM PT

Hi Friends,

Good to read this series, comments and counter comments. We’re already in the first phase of implementation, started last year in September. I found it a great service to our society and especially engineering fraternity. I felt so much for this idea that I left my 8 yrs memorable stint with Cadence last year and jumped into it. We know it’s not bed of roses, there are issues to be resolved, problems to be solved but yes we have full faith in Vision 2020.

Devender Khari Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 12:57 PM PT

Hi Sramana,
I really like your futuristic articles on Vision India 2020. However I must mention that the MIT experiment in India has already taken place and failed.
In 2004, Govt. of India, specifically Dept. of Science and Technology, and Media Lab MIT collaborated to form Media Lab Asia. Govt. seed funded it with INR 60 crores.
It failed in the first round of review milestone and MIT pulled out of the project. Later Govt. was still running the lab in the IITs, albeit, just for the namesake.
I, having been a part of the project and seen the developments up close, think there are two main reasons for this failure.
1. The mindset in the Indian bureaucracy and political corridors, unfortunately, is not capable of harboring long term vision for deeper change. Therefore they wanted to see immediate results within a year of seed funding, whereas research projects of fundamental nature takes years or decades to bear fruit.
2. The private sector funding saw a cold response, primarily because the Indian tier 1 companies, did not see a compelling point in taking the risk of funding a ‘blue sky’ project. Even the name of MIT could not persuade them.
Now about 3-4 years in retrospect, I would not say that the ‘Media Lab Asia’ project was ahead of time. It would face the same issue of relevance, if it was launched today. The Indian Businesses and Institutions are scared to dream big till date, even after so much infusion of Global Entrepreneurship by the famous diaspora.
Quite interestingly there has been a recent surge of inorganic growth through waves of global M & As. So one is tempted to ask, are we a nation of casual entrepreneurs, not willing to commit to a long term future? Would we ever take academics seriously unless it delivers a blockbuster product with high market potential overnight? And most of all, will we ever think of ‘growth’ as a ‘principle centered’ or ‘value driven’ discipline?

Kaushik Ghosh Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 11:44 PM PT

Kaushik,

This project should never have been done with Government of India. I know about it, and it was designed to fail. Some idiots just did not realize that they were designing it to fail.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Sunday, June 15, 2008 at 9:34 AM PT

I believe that this idea was tried ten years ago.
Does anyone remember the Quantum Institute which was a JV with the University of Urbana Champagne? See below.

Raju http://www.myindiabook.com

Monday, July 13, 1998

Pay Rs 3 lakh for an all-American degree

Nivedita Mookerji

A world-leading degree in information technology, they call it at the University of Illinois. And you earn the all American stuff — Master in Computer Science — right here through the Quantum Institute, under the India programme of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US.
What is now available only in New Delhi, will by the end of this year be offered in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai as well, says a Quantum spokesperson. Set to begin its third academic session in August, Quantum has initiated the admission procedure for the fall. But if you’ve missed this one, there’s another coming in just a few months.

The admission test for the spring session will be some time in December 1998, says the spokesperson. After which the course begins in February 1999.

Spread over two semesters, the full-time programme takes about one year, while the part-time course is for about 18 to 20 months. The advantage with the part-time schedule is that you can attend evening classes after officehours.

Quantum, of course, talks a great deal about the career leap that one is going to experience after completing the course. But at what cost? Literally speaking, the price of the full-time programme is around Rs 3 lakh, which is to be paid in both Indian rupees and dollars. To be precise, Rs 2.25 lakh in Indian rupees plus $2,050. For a part-time programme, you pay Rs 2.75 lakh in Indian rupees plus $2,050. And at the time of applying, you pay another Rs 2,900.

However, if you can work toward a scholarship, nothing like it. Three merit scholarships are on offer for the top three students who graduate from the MCS degree programme. There’s a waiver of 80 per cent of the fee in Indian rupees for the topper. The second rank holder gets a 50 per cent waiver of the fee in Indian rupees and the student coming third is eligible for a waiver of around 33 per cent.

There is no discount on the dollar component of the fee for anyone. But even if you don’t make it to the scholarship grade, bank finance is anoption you can think of. The Quantum Institute has put together study loan schemes with leading banks in India. These loans are available to students who pass the admission test and fulfill the criteria of the concerned bank.

Meanwhile, the excessively high cost is not the only restricting factor. Take note of the word of caution too. All Quantum Institute advertisements for the programme mention that the MCS degree is awarded by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA, and is not regulated by the government of India, state governments, UGC, AICTE and AIU.

Anyways, the placement promises made by the institute are quite tempting. The spokesperson says that successful candidates are listed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign placement office. This placement office is visited by top global IT corporations. The institute claims that it helps place successful candidates in India and abroad with on-site and telephonic interviews. And according to the data available with the Departmentof Computer Science at the Illinois university, all Master of Computer Science graduates had four to five employment offers and were employed within 30 days of completion of the degree.

Now a little about the course content and the admission procedure. The courses planned for the summer session are Computer System Organisation and Combinatorial Algorithms. Operating System Design, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Database Systems or Software Engineering will be offered in the fall semester. The spring semester will offer Multimedia Computing Systems, Advanced Operating Systems, Computer Models of Cognitive Processes and Object-Oriented Programming & Design.

Graduate or post-graduate students from any discipline, with exposure to computers can appear for the entrance examination. And only those who pass the entrance test of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be admitted. Besides the entrance test, the student’s academic performance at the undrgraduate level will also be reviewed.With each class made up of 40 students, full-time programmes will be held from 8 a.m to 5 p.m five days a week. For the part-time classes, the timings are 6 p.m to 9.30 p.m on weekdays and from 8 a.m to 3 p.m on Saturday and Sunday.

A positive thing about the course is the involvement of the Illinois University faculty at every stage. For instance, three instructional staff members of the Illinois university will be involved in each course. A professor, a teaching assistant, and a grader from the University of Illinois are assisted by highly-qualified moderators and teaching assistants in India at the Quantum Institute. Lectures from the Illinois university are delivered on video and the Internet, while the tutorial and laboratory sessions are conducted by the local and visiting faculty. Also, the course exercises, homework, and examinations are administered and graded by the University of Illinois. All this ensures that the programme is of the same standard as maintained by the on-campus course.

And ifyou feel this is for you, the operative address is The Quantum -ET&T Center, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. A good way to interact with the institute is through its website http://www.quantum.edu, or e-mail ID information@quantum.edu.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

Raju Agarwal Sunday, June 15, 2008 at 11:40 AM PT

[…] are the current articles in the Vision India 202 series: MIT India, Urja, Lucid, Darjeeling, Renaissance, Gangotri, Maya Ray, Elixar, Bioscope, Thakur, and AdiShakti. […]

Vision India 2020 Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 6:26 AM PT

Hi,

Good plan. May need to investigate the basic premise that the advantage of cost arbitrage will continue to exist. The geographical scope could be extended from being India centric to Asia.

It might be a good idea to develop a more globalized vision.

Saurabh

Saurabh Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 6:01 PM PT

[…] segments of the running series can be accessed at MIT India, Urja, Lucid, Darjeeling, Renaissance, Gangotri, Maya Ray, Elixar, Bioscope, Thakur, AdiShakti, […]

The Indian Economy Blog » Entrepreneurship Vision India 2020 Tuesday, August 19, 2008 at 7:30 AM PT

2020 is way too far.
This is achievable even before that theoritically, practically never!

MF Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 11:03 AM PT

Quite curious to know what happened after this discussion? Did anyone take an initiative to impelmet this model?

JRk Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 2:49 AM PT

not that I know.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 10:48 AM PT

Sramana,

I agree there is a need for something like this even in 2011 🙂 I have a few thoughts/questions?

1. Many institutions are releasing their material as OCW. Would it still be wise to limit the scope to MIT India?

2. I think it might be difficult to get the institutions on board with such an initiative.

I have actually tried talking to some institutions whereby I proposed that I would use their OCW to power a web based learning system, and share revenue. However, I have not had success in getting them on board. I do realize that I am offering them share in revenues and not equity (as you have propose).

One reason is I would like to access the best quality OCW and not limit myself to MIT, and another reason is that I do not have a very clear picture about how equity distribution would work with multiple colleges on board.

In recent times some very interesting eduation models are also emerging, such as P2PU, and UN’s University of the people.

Would really like to know your thoughts on the current education situation, especially with new models such as P2PU (peer to peer university).

Perhaps a blog post someday ?

Thanks for sharing valuable insights with us.

Parag

Parag Shah Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 9:33 PM PT

These institutions like MIT are highly, highly elitist, and conscious about their brands. I don't think they would want to do anything that is not highly controlled.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 3:09 PM PT

Hey All.

India will become super power of the world in 2020. No one like us. I hope all projects written by you are completed soon.

Diamonds Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 11:27 PM PT