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'IIT education is a wonderful package'

December 08, 2006 11:31 IST
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Memories of the years spent in IIT Bombay still bring a smile on Kekoo Colah's face. You broach the subject and the high profile executive director of Knight Frank (India) Pvt Ltd just can't help grinning.

Colah obtained a BTech. in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Bombay and MSc in Management Science from Imperial College, London.

Prior to joining Knight Frank, he was with Larsen & Toubro and Ingersoll-Rand and has about 25 years' experience in sales, marketing, finance, corporate planning, project evaluation and implementation.

Looking forward to participating in the Pan-IIT Global Conference 2006 to be held in Mumbai in the third week of December, Colah goes down the memory lane in an interesting conversation with Senior Associate Editor (features) Indrani Roy Mitra.

Excerpts of the interview:

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

I think the environment, course structure and above all the problem solving infrastructure and capability that the institute inculcates into its students. After passing out from the IIT, I spent about 18 years in the engineering industry (I am not directly in the engineering industry now). Things that I learnt in IIT Bombay -- the value system, work ethics and the problem solving capability -- helped me tremendously in my career. I was taught to approach any issue whatsoever with accuracy and precision.

IIT environment kept us on our toes, made us interact with important names, apply our intelligence, it's simply a great feeling to be in an IIT.

How does it help you in the field that you are in now -- real estate?

IIT education is application to all sectors and to every stratum of the society. Many IIT-ians have moved beyond hardcore engineering to corporate sector, insurance, banking, real estate (like in my case), etc. It only establishes the fact how robust the IIT training is.

  • Participate in the PanIIT 2006 Global Conference! Click here to register now
  • What was the IIT experience like?

    I have very fond memories of those wonderful five years at the IIT. We worked hard and yet had the time to squeeze in extra curricular activities like sport, gymnastics etc. In my case, though I had not done gymnastic before, a senior of mine almost compelled me to learn the tricks of gymnastics. And believe me, I became an ardent fan of the sport all through my IIT career.

    Hostel life was simply great -- we used to do a lot of reading, used to take part in many scintillating discussions, were regularly trying our hands in a game of chess (as it was not forbidden in our times) and were often found taking a refreshing swim (bunking classes) in one of the two lovely lakes within the campus. IIT education as a whole is a fabulous package.

    Did you have any role model who inspired you in your career?

    I would like to attribute a lot of respect to the great brains that I worked with at the IIT. I would not like to take names. Each one of my mentors contributed to what I am today. Every single professor who taught me instilled in me a great amount of work ethics, a tremendous amount of respect for hard work, skill to apply one's mind and also to face every challenge with a brave face.

    How is the real estate scenario in India now?

    The industry has undergone a dramatic change over the last eight to 10 years, for the better. There are many other industries, like the financial or the telecom, which have undergone significant changes in the post-liberalisation era. But in real estate, we have seen entry of foreign direct investment and venture capital.

    So a lot of activities are going on in this field. As an industry, real estate is growing at a great pace. The field has seen more transparency, more ethical practice, more professionalisation and more corporatisation. It is an industry, which is metamorphosing in a substantive way.

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

    I certainly hope the conference theme dwells on five or six key areas. There are so many important people involved in the event and I see no reason why it should not be successful in inspiring, involving and transforming India. We definitely see some good ideas coming forth.

    However, the actual change will happen through implementation and execution of those ideas. I don't think India has a shortage of brainpower, neither does it run out of ideas. But unfortunately, in many cases, these ideas are never made utilised properly for the betterment of the society.  

    I do look forward this particular conference as this will be the first IIT event that I will take part in.

    Many IIT-ians have preferred to go abroad rather than work in India. Do you think this trend is changing now? How can India retain its talented people?

    There are three categories of IIT-ians: those who don't go abroad: those who go abroad and don't come back and IIT-ians who go abroad and come back. The latter is the smallest category. A significant change in Indian economic structure that has taken place in the last five years is responsible for this change in trend. India has become a very exciting place throwing up gigantic opportunities and thereby showing IIT-ians options to work in this country.

    Earlier there used to be a big gap between what an IIT-ian could earn here and what he could abroad but that gap has more or less been shrinking. Also, Indians now are more willing to come back to their roots. 

    But let's also accept that a small percentage of the IIT-ians will always prefer to work abroad. There's nothing wrong in it.

    What are the challenges that India faces in the new millennium? How can IIT-ians help address these challenges?

    There are millions of challenges that India faces today, but the first and the foremost is ensuring primary and secondary education for all, fetching the economic benefits and reforms for the lowest stratum of the society, developing the overall infrastructure and information technology. In fact, I feel both IIT-ians and non-IIT-ians should pull up their socks towards making India a better place.

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

    The IIT-ians have a substantial role in developing India as a knowledge economy. Business process outsourcing has gone up tremendously and so has knowledge process outsourcing. If IIT-ians decide to take on knowledge economy, sky should be the limit.

    Should India have more IITs?

    Definitely. It is always welcome to have more such premium institutes. If four IITs could pave the way for seven, why can't those seven lead to 17? Education in India will get a real boost if we have more institutes of that category.

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

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