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'Nation building, top priority for IIT-ians'

Last updated on: November 09, 2006 16:41 IST

Pradeep Gupta is an engineer from IIT Delhi (1975) and an MBA from IIM Calcutta (1977). He is the chairman of the CyberMedia Group, South Asia's first and largest specialty media house, with thirteen publications (including Dataquest and PCQuest) in the infotech, telecom, consumer electronics and biotech areas; and a media value chain including the Internet (www.ciol.com), events and television.

The group's media services include market research (IDC India), job board (CyberMedia Dice), content outsourcing, multimedia, and media education. CyberMedia is a public company with a market cap of $40 million.

Pradeep is also the chairman of Pan IIT India and a member of the IIT Delhi Advisory Council. He is on the board of Kaleidoscope Entertainment; TiE, Delhi; and General Partner of Infinity Ventures. He was the past chairman of e-Gurucool.

He is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni award of IIT Delhi, 2001.

In an interview with rediff.com, Gupta speaks about the significance of the Pan IIT Global Conference to be held in Mumbai from December 23-25, and about how IIT-ians are giving back to the country.

IIT-ians are the pride of India. How would you say have the IIT-ians helped India and indeed the world in terms of growth, excellence, entrepreneurship, development?

IIT-ians have contributed in various ways -- as entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, technologists, academicians, researchers. And this contribution is not just limited to engineering industry alone but spans other sectors, including social sector, media, entertainment, spirituality, healthcare, et cetera.

What do you think is the biggest contribution of IIT-ians to India? How have Pan IIT members inspired other Indians?

I think the biggest contribution is in terms of 'restoring the confidence and pride' that Indians feel today. IIT-ians were truly world class products; a lot of them moved into the IT sector in India and abroad; and proved to India and Indians that we could compete against the very best and emerge winners.

It is this confidence and pride that is now driving numerous sectors leading to the economic resurgence of India.

Pan IIT members have been role models for other Indians. If you look at the Distinguished Alumni lists of each institute, you'll realise the wide coverage and the depth of contribution of the IIT-ians. It has created a winning attitude that is transforming our country.

Should India have more IITs, considering that the population has boomed over a period of time whereas the number of seats have remained more or less the same?

The number of seats have gone up and so have the number of IITs. But, there can be more IITs as well as we should create other brands such as NITs (National Institutes ofTechnology ).

In my opinion, the issue is different. There should be benchmarks created in terms of funding, world class labs and faculty, academic standards and so on. Any new IITs or existing colleges being converted to IITs must adhere to those benchmarks. 'Branding' must be associated with the 'brand promise' and 'brand characteristics.'

What is it about IITs that sets its graduates apart from others?

The JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) has passed the test of time. The input quality is absolutely the best. Coupled with labs, faculty, academic standards, facilities and so on the 'rough diamonds' get polished at the IITs.

'Inspire, Involve and Transform India.' Can you dwell upon the significance of the theme for this year's Pan-IIT global conference?

We want to give back to the nation. There are three things that an alumni group can do:

  • Network amongst themselves;
  • Work towards their alma mater; and
  • Contribute to the nation.

A lot of IIT-ians want to contribute to the task of nation building and Pan IIT is providing a channel for that. Therefore, we want to set the spark amongst the large number of IIT-ians, we want them to be involved in deciding how it should be done; and we want to move beyond words by setting-up an action plan for achieving the same.

How do IIT-ians plan to give back to their country and to transform it? In what way are IIT-ians involving themselves with the nation's progress?

While IIT-ians have contributed as individuals, individual companies, as corporate leaders, what can we do as a collective group? As you know, the power of a network is equal to the square of the nodes on it. If there are 20 different initiatives already on ground led by IIT-ians, imagine the power of a coordinated effort amongst these initiatives. It has huge potential to transform India.

How important is transforming India for the IIT-alumni?

Very important. We conducted a poll before deciding the theme for this year's conference. Nation building was the first choice amongst the over 1,000 respondents.

How has been the response to earlier Pan-IIT conferences? What are your expectations this year?

Every year the conference grows. San Jose, then Delhi, and Washington. The Mumbai conference will be the biggest with around 5,000 people expected.

What are the issues that will be discussed at the conference? How will it help address issues in India?

We are having break-out sessions to discuss and formulate an action plan for the same. The issues include knowledge economy, entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation, water & energy, governance and rural technologies. We will also be bringing out the third issue of Pi-Tech magazine which will focus on rural technology.

This will help Pan IIT start new initiatives; or provide coordination amongst existing initiatives; or raise resources (human and capital) for existing scalable initiatives.

Are new projects being planned by the PAN-IIT group this time? Will it focus on further developing the infrastructure in the IITs?

We do work closely with the IITs on various issues including infrastructure, faculty, funding, et cetera.

In what ways have the earlier Pan IIT events helped? What projects has it worked on?

The achievements include:

  • PI-Tech, a world class magazine;
  • Interaction with the Knowledge Commission;
  • Announcement of a Rs 50-crore (Rs 500 million) fund by the Union ministry of science and technology which will work with Pan IIT for rural initiatives;
  • Interaction with the Moily Commission;
  • Future of computing initiative;
  • Rural transformation initiatives, etc.

Most of the IIT-ians have preferred to go aboard. What are your views on this? Do you think this trend is changing now?

The debate on 'brain drain' is long dead. It is a 'brain bank.' Also, the percentage of people who go abroad is far lower than what people believe it to be. Two-thirds of IIT-ians are in India.

How can India retain its talented people?

We are a global player now and we must think globally. Our successes in the IT, services, healthcare, steel, automotive, pharma, entertainment and other sectors are a clear pointer towards that. As a global player, we must also think of talent in a global manner.

What are the challenges that India will face in the IT sector? How do you think it can be resolved?

Manpower is the biggest constraint. We have the quantities but the quality needs to improved.

What role can IIT-ians play to develop India as a knowledge economy?

Wait for the session on December 24 (at the Pan IIT Global Conference to be held in Mumbai from December 23 to Decemebr 25)!

What would be you advice to people aspiring to join the IITs and the IT sector?

Just do it.

How would you rate India in terms of IT services? Do you think India will emerge as an IT super power?

Isn't it already one?!

Participate in the PanIIT 2006 Global Conference! Click here to register now!