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'You just cannot do without IIT-ians'

Last updated on: November 07, 2006 17:11 IST
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Former IIT-ian and corporate head honcho Nabankur Gupta feels IIT is the only recognised and sustainable Indian brand. Speaking on the Pan-IIT Global Conference to be held in Mumbai in the third week of December, Gupta talked to Senior Associate Editor Indrani Roy Mitra at length about the IIT-ians' contribution to India's growth.

Graduating from IIT Delhi in 1970 in Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Gupta was selected in the campus by Philips (India) Ltd as a Management Trainee. Philips sponsored him for an advanced management programme to France as well as an international management course in Holland. He spent 19 years with Philips in different senior assignments.    

Gupta joined Videocon International Limited in June 1989 and was executive director on the board till July 2000. He was on the board of five other companies of Videocon Group. He introduced the concept of Sub-branding and, subsequently, Multi-branding in the area of consumer durable for the first time in India. As a consequence, he received recognition by the Advertising Age International, New York, in 1995 as the marketing superstar.

He is on the board of the following companies: J K Investo Trade (India) Ltd, Mumbai, Colorplus Fashions Ltd, Chennai, JK Helene Curtis Ltd, Mumbai, Quantum Advisors Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, Cravatex Limited, Mumbai, Cholayil Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd, Chennai, E,Lexicon Public Relations & Corporate Consultants Ltd, Delhi, Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd, Mumbai and PNC Wellness Private Ltd, Mumbai.


'Inspire, Involve and Transform India:' Could you explain the significance of this theme for the Pan-IIT global conference this year?

If you look at the body of 180,000 IIT-ians across the world, they have created for themselves important positions across the world.

They are either into completely technological areas, in techno-commercial areas or in areas of business leadership. Not only in India, IIT-ians have excelled themselves across the world. Therefore, there is a talent pool, which is unbelievably large and very, very strong, transcending different segments of the industry and the society.

In industry, you find them in NGOs, water resource management, et cetera. This talent pool should be basically inspired to involve them in transforming India. This is the purpose of the Pan-IIT global conference. 

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

If you look at India, be it its nuclear programme, be it its space research centre or its defence research laboratories -- most of these organisations across India in the technology side are manned by IIT-ians who are either leading it or are in very senior positions.

If you look at the nuclear blast, there have been IIT-ians at the helm of affairs. People who work very closely with the President are IIT-ians.

If you look at the field of education, all technology institutes across the country, the cream is from the IITs.

In scientific organisations (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, etc) or in the corporate world, you just cannot do without IIT-ians. In India alone, about 1,500 CEOs are from IITs.

The Indian Institute of Technology, perhaps, is the only institute recognised by the House Resolution 227 of the House of Representatives. About 30 per cent of NASA scientists are from IIT. In the US, the UK, rest of Europe, Singapore, Bangkok, countless number of IIT-ians are running the show.

Please tell us something about the IIT-ians' vision. What do they plan to give back to their country?

There are a group of people working in the area of scientific engineering. They are contributing to country's growth from day one. If you look at management sector, they are contributing by doing value addition. Take the case of Hindustan Lever head honcho M S Banga, hasn't he contributed in his own way?

When I was heading Raymond's as a group, my team and I contributed to its growth tremendously. When I joined them, it was a company of Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) size. When I left it, it was worth Rs 3,500 crore (Rs 35 billion).
Phenomenal growth has taken place in the corporate world and the growth has been led by the IIT-ians. Let's take a few names -- Infosys, Wipro, Mahindras, L&T -- these companies are ruled by the IIT-ians.

How do the IIT-alumni think of transforming India?

We have a large talent pool contributing enormously to country's growth. The second day of the Pan IIT conference will elaborately focus on various aspects of Indian's development. In India, the only global brand -- recognised and sustained -- is the IIT. It is a great binding force.

What are your expectations from the Pan IIT conference?

The last conference held in Washington was a huge success. That's when the US announced House Resolution 227 at the House of Representatives at about the same time. It became evident that IIT, despite being an Indian brand, was an indispensable part of the US economy. The expectations are rising each time.

There was strength of about 2,000 IIT-ians across the world. This time, we are expecting about 5,000 IIT-ians. It's a huge number -- which is why we could not find another place than the Bandra-Kurla Complex to put it up together. The next year's conference will be held in California.

What are the particular area that IIT-ians will concentrate working on?

The IIT-ians will uplift areas of social concern, which in turn will also improve the overall economic condition of the country. There are infrastructural, social, scientific and economic issues -- these are the issues, which are not looked at today by either the government or any other body. This time, we have got huge support. The lead sponsors are Videocon and State Bank of India; the associate sponsors are Hindustan Lever, Tata Group, 3i Infotech from India and Google from the US.

Look at SBI and Videocon -- they are highly recognised Indian organisations moving globally -- we found a great sync between them and IIT. Both SBI and Videocon have tremendous dynamism.

There are several product sponsors who have contributed hugely to the conference. Every time we are increasing and uplifting the benchmark.

It is said that IIT-ians prefer to go abroad than work in India. . .

Earlier, the relevance of IIT-ians' education and its application had limited scope in India. This is not true in the present context. A lot of people who went abroad 10 years and 20 years back are all coming back as entrepreneurs. Also, an IIT-ian settled abroad and doing well abroad is repatriating a good amount of money to India.

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

India is already an IIT superpower. Competition will emerge from China, but India will continue to excel. Those days are not far away when India will be the unquestioned king in the IT sector.

India is very innovative in the IT sector, thanks to the IIT-ians. IIT teaches its students to be systematic and logical and logic is all about IT. An IIT-ian who is taught to carry on a business in an organised and systematic manner is an asset for the IT sector. It is true for any other sector apart from the IT. 

Has there been any change in the training method of the IITs?

The teaching method in IITs now is more equipment-led. There is less of theory. It is very good as it helps IIT-ians handle business practically.

Will it help if India has more IITs?

See, there is never an over-abundance or a shortage. More IITs are always welcome. But setting up an IIT requires huge infrastructural effort. Even today, the seven IITs and the number of students they churn out in a year requires a huge effort, wherein one can't just compromise on quality.

What will be your advice
to people intending to join the IITs?

They have to honour the principles what IIT stands for. They have to contribute to the society, the government. They must do value-addition to whatever they do. Over and above, they must be logical, organised and systematic.

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