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An Open Letter to IIT Students

Posted on Monday, Mar 31st 2008

I received an email last week from Anuj Dayal, a Junior Year Undergraduate at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur. Anuj asks the question: “What’s next for India? What should we, IIT students, do?” (You can see the message in its entirety below.)

First, let me thank you, Anuj, for asking the question. It delights me to see that you are asking the right question. It makes my journalism efforts worthwhile. In this piece, I will attempt to address the question, and we can also discuss the issues at length here.

You see, the India I grew up in was not an India of opportunities. We had to leave the country to access opportunities. Your India is a different India. Opportunities are and will continue to be much greater in India, than in the US or Europe.

With that backdrop, I would encourage you to think of the India that you want to build, given that you are entering the workforce at a point where the basic platform is ready. You have the world’s attention as one of the two greatest consumer markets of the 21st century. You have a financial system that is ready to support high momentum growth and building of new enterprises with an openness unknown to prior generations.

Your India is brimming with optimism. Take advantage of that mindset.

Your India is also full of problems. Solve them.

Your India, I believe, needs to be an entrepreneurs’ India. Your generation will need to rise above the risk-averse tendencies of your previous generations. They have been satisfied with too little. You can do much more.

So, my number one advice to you, IIT students, is that you need to change your expectations from “getting a job” to “finding a platform for doing your life’s work.”

You, the best, the brightest, and the most fortunate of India’s youth, need to reach for bigger goals.

So what could be some of those goals?

To answer that question, look at the problems that are pretty much staring us in the face.

India’s supply chain is a disaster. Amidst rampant urbanization, India’s cities are bursting, fuming, overflowing.

If the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea rises a few inches due to global warming, could it wash over your precious institute?

Water is fast becoming a crisis, and India will need to figure out how to meet the population’s drinkable water needs, as well as the water needs for growing crops and livestock.

You, new engineers, need to build a road system, a port system, and an air-transit system that scales with India’s growth ambitions. You will also need to build cars that do not pollute. You will need to find alternative sources of energy, including solar, wind, and nuclear.

You will need to design food processing techniques, build affordable and energy-efficient housing, formulate new drugs using computational biology models.

And yes, you will also need to design software, hardware, chips, and information systems.

So why did I put IT as an afterthought to what all you need to achieve?

Because, in the last decade, IT has sucked all other engineering disciplines dry of their best minds. Even the IIT Civil Engineers and Mechanical Engineers are writing low-level software for Oracle or IBM. If you continue at this rate, none of the other major disciplines will get their rightful share of leadership that is your responsibility to provide.

Another reason is to underscore the need of IT to support all the other disciplines. Today, many of the opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship are at the cusps of different disciplines. Biology and Computer Science. Design and Manufacturing. Technology and Education. Software and Entertainment. Architecture and Materials.

My alma mater, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has put a huge emphasis on interdisciplinary programs at the cusps of various departments. Yours needs to do the same.

At the end of the day, if you seize the opportunities, take the risks, and not get complacent with the fact that some multinational is willing to pay you 15-20 Lakhs a year right out of college, there is no limit to how much money you can make.

And let me be very clear: you can and should plan on making huge fortunes. There is a venture capital industry coming together in India to support your wealth creation journey.

But, remember, risk and reward have a direct correlation. And, to reap the rewards, you have to learn to build. Build products. Build companies. And finally, Build fortunes.

In the short term, as you step out of the institute, look for the best employment opportunities that will teach you to build. Not only build products, but build yourselves.

And if managers and recruiters try to “buy” you for a few extra lakhs, be sure to remember that your end-game is to have a much grander scale of impact than what they ever dared to aspire for.

Good luck!

[ps. Please read my Vision India 2020 series for further ideas on what to build and how.]

::

Full text of Anuj Dayal’s email:

Dear Ms. Mitra,

I am currently a Junior Year Undergraduate at the Indian Institute of
Technology at Kharagpur. I have been following your articles and opinions at
Forbes, from the piece about Sridhar Vembu to the most recent one about the
coming IndoChina War.

The piece was alarming to say the least. The thought that struck me and the
vibe that I get from most of your articles seems to suggest though, that Indian
engineers would need to start to move towards greater ingenuity and
inventiveness, than what an outsourcing business requires if they need to
maintain the growth of the Indian Knowledge Sector.

Being from one of India’s premier technology institutes, it is not only an
opportunity but also a responsibility for students like me to start thinking
about where India’s next growth story would spring from.

I was wondering if you would be willing to share through The Scholars’ Avenue,
IIT Kharagpur’s campus newspaper, a word of advice on what we could be looking
to do.

If you do agree you could contact me at the e-mail address above following
which we could further discuss your views on the subject and ways through which
they could reach IIT Kharagpur’s student, professor and alumni community.

Sincerely

Anuj

::

And you can access my Forbes columns here.

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Sramana,

I agree with you – completely, except for only one thing…

You, the best, the brightest, and the most fortunate of India’s youth, need to reach for bigger goals.

Folks at IIT definitely need not be the brightest and the best – agreed they are better and they are brighter, but not to the superlative degree.

Many a times, a graduate from Tier-II or rather Tier-III has proven better/brighter then IITans. Of course, the %age varies.

Regards,
Anil
PS: Not a case of sour grapes…

Anil Kurnool Monday, March 31, 2008 at 1:09 PM PT

Yes one point I agree with you upon is the importance of interdisciplinary courses. Relevant electives( up to date with the changing world) need to be introduced and the earlier ones need to be updated.
BITS-Pilani has some wonderful interdisciplinary courses. A student here can pursue a Masters in Science/Economics/Finance as well as a bachelors in Engineering at the same time.
Emphasis on science is also very important for we as a developing country should develop scientists and not only engineers.

And I agree with Anil also.

Rishabh Monday, March 31, 2008 at 8:38 PM PT

Anil and Rishabh,

Yes, many other institutions produce very bright students in India. I agree.

I request you to not get caught up on this point, because it is immaterial to this discussion.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Monday, March 31, 2008 at 8:59 PM PT

Anil said it, and glad you chipped in to cut it short.
I’m from BITS Pilani as well and couldn’t agree with you more. I wrote a small article in the newsletter of our E-Cell (Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership) which touches on the same issues. Might not be a great read, but I sure liked penning it down. [:)]

Vineet Monday, March 31, 2008 at 9:12 PM PT

Vineet,

This advice above is also for the students at other institutes in India that are educating and nurturing tomorrow’s talent.

Verbatim.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Monday, March 31, 2008 at 9:28 PM PT

A very motivational and engrossing article, Sramana. Thanks! I hope my fellow students find it the same way.
As you mentioned, with deep insight, I must add, students of India’s leading institutes must move on from the getting a job mindset to making their own things happen. The biggest stumbling block in this case though is the lack of success stories that go around. The ones that do are few and far in between. Your blog and you yourself, though, are ample testament to what could be India’s success. It shall be my endeavor to continually bring stories to the fore, such that say,” It could in all probability happen to you”. :)

Anuj Monday, March 31, 2008 at 9:48 PM PT

Sramana,
It has rightly been pointed out by you that in the last decade IT has suck all other streams of engineering dry. But IT has put India on the global map. It has given India an overall Image makeover. IT has given a solid platform to young Indians to create,connect and collaborate.
For last 10 years we used IT to prove India to be a place where “things get done” to solve other’s problem. Now, is the time to use this IT tool to solve our own problems. Future of India lies in correcting ourselves.

Suvajit Monday, March 31, 2008 at 11:42 PM PT

This is a good read as ever, though I tend to think that one important point is missed out here. Creating fortunes, building entrepreneurial skills, taking risk and finding place of opportunity is one, but what about contributing the society and giving something back to it in return? I think the best brains should also have responsibility to contribute back, and no matter which discipline they are in, important is they need to remain in their own country, isn’t it? Also we need younger mind in our political system to correct it; this will solve many of our existing problems.

arindam Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 7:08 AM PT

Arindam,

If this generation can address some of the problems I am pointing at, that would serve society and amount to huge contributions.

The more “double-bottomline” ventures get addressed, the better.

If you are talking about philanthropy, first let them build their fortunes, then, like Gates is doing, they will figure out how to give it away.

As for politics, I hesitate a bit. Yes, I agree that the political system needs young minds and thought leadership. However, given what it takes to get elected (Manmohan Singh would never have got elected, for example), you really need to have the stomach for it.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 9:17 AM PT

I am not suggesting that they solve problems for India as philanthropy. The biggest fortunes are made when a big customer problem can be solved.

People are building fortunes in solar power, in water desalination, in green buildings, in nano materials, in educational toys …

All I am saying is that I find it disappointing that kids who are getting the best education that India has to offer are so unambitious. This "middle class mentality" limits the whole system.

It is as if all that India's youth can aspire to be is an affluent middle class citizen with a comfortable life.

I find it uninspiring.

I find it pathetic.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 2:28 PM PT

I feel of paramount importance is the need to change attitudes.
I migrated ( with my wife and 2 children aged 6 and 8 ) to Patiala,India from Malaysia, in 1986.At that time,most people were trying to flee Punjab, if not India.All family members were aghast at my decision.
Sometime in the early 70,s, I remember reading in Life magazine about an experiment conducted by social scientists.
There were 2 families of white mice. One was put in a large enclosure with lots of space,which I
called Australia.The family of white mice was put in an overcrowded environment, resembling India.
The study revealed that in the first case, the mice were very calm. In the second case, the mice were aggressive and fought and bit each other.
I have read people making derogatory and uncomplimentary remarks about India and Indians. My experience is that Indians are a wonderful peoples. Some of the habits are brought about by the sparse space and overpopulation. This overpopulation is now since as a blessing in disguise.
My advice to all young Indians, is to either work in a multinational company or go abroad. Pick up the good work ethics and attitudes and hence change your mindset. It has been rightly said, if you can change yourself, you have changed the World.

Kuldip Singh Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 6:23 PM PT

Sramana,

You struck the right chord. I couldn’t agree more. However, things are much different in the campuses.

I am a student at SJM School of Management, IIT Bombay. Being in touch with several UG students, I feel all that matters to most of them (and us) is a high paying job. If IT paid high 10 years ago, it is finance and consulting today. The end effect remains the same.

I think they do realize exactly the same thing after a few years in industry, but while they are in campus, they are so busy building ‘all-rounder’ CVs that they can’t care for brighter opportunities in the long term. And solving problems of India, much lesser.

It will be great if you can write about how students at premier institutes of India can be motivated to pick up an entrepreneurial career.

Cheers,
Arpit

Arpit Agarwal Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 7:48 PM PT

Hi Sramana

A large reason for the “middle class mentality” is immense pressure from the parents to line up their children into ambitions they nurtured 30 years ago.

Most parents are completely out of touch with the challenges and opportunities of the current age.

This disconnect with reality will surely go away in the times to come. All it will take is 5 or 6 years in the life of a young professional, to see the real opportunities that are around. That will be the moment of carpe diem, and he/she will seize the opportunity.

We can already observe this phenomenon happening in droves, with several people returning to India or taking up unconventional career paths. The enlightenment comes after 5 to 6 years of stagnation in a conventional job.

I have my hopes up for India, and I am ready to do my bit of the thing.

Kiran Varanasi Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 7:49 AM PT

Sramana, Thank you, thank you for writing such article. I am sure this will touch many young generation heart & mind.

I had read an article sometime back where Mr. Narayan Murthy had told the same thing with a variation …India needs its present & future young generation to work hard, work smart and work with a passion, it will propel India to great heights.

I run a small product innovation company and as an young entrepreneur, I suggest my associates to just work smart and question every assumptions. According to me, assuming and not-questioning and fear of hierarchy causing many young generation to loose sight and follow traditional opportunities.

Santosh Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 8:48 AM PT

Hi Kiran,

Yes, that is totally understandable and human. This is where the faculty at the IITs need to play a role, or else, the true potential of the talent will never be realized. Parents don’t always do what is best for their children, especially when they are so disconnected from the realities of an industry.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 10:09 AM PT

The query and advice are very apt. The turn of century and transition being experienced by Indian new generation is mind boggling. Yes, it is true that huge opportunities are knocking at the doors today in contrast to last century. Economic Reforms have brought in unbelievable changes in the systems – be it in pubic or private sector; industry or trade or services; transparency has set in to a great extent; information is exploding; hence it is for the generation to grab the situation and work towards progress and prosperity. Keep off the politician and bureacrats; leaders and professionals should come forward to take the scene to greater heights to make India the super-power. We have wonderful minds and talents; instead of working elsewhere and enrich themselves; youth of modern India should think of infrastructural and societal development and show to the world what we are really capable of. Bright students from IITs and IIMs can do miracles; Govt is expanding the opportunities by increasing the number of such professional and higher educational institutions. Let us move forward.

Prof Chowdari Prasad Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 5:59 PM PT

Vijay,

Your points are well-taken. A few counterpoints, though:

India's savings culture is changing. Consumerism and retail therapy are progressing side-by-side with the IT boom. The fledgling Credit Card industry has fueled this fire.
There are several other sectors in India that are going through equally robust booms: Retail and Real Estate in particular. While retail is a different animal, real estate requires architects and civil engineers. Alongside, the infrastructure sector also requires those two professions in spades. My point is, if all our best architects and civil engineers go write low level code at some IT company, who is going to design / build the housing, roads, bridges?

Focusing on IT is all very well, and I do agree, that the likely IT innovations will come from the software side, because that's where we've had some maturity. But the infrastructure and housing sectors will need to move in parallel. A lot of what is being built today is hugely concerning, not to say that they are ugly and energy dissipating.

Another point I wanted to make is that if the best engineers are sucked up by Finance and Consulting because those sectors are paying the most, IT doesn't get them either. They end up building nothing at all. Just moving money from here to there, in case of finance.

Consulting, for junior people, is another bad place to start. People who don't have any experience cannot consult. Consulting is advising people to solve their business problems. How can kids with no experience "advise"? They basically end up doing spreadsheet jockeying and analysis. But that analysis, disconnected from real life experience, is not of much value. This, by the way, is the problem with most of the world's consulting industry, since they all hire junior people and use them this way.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 3:03 AM PT

Firstly, I think it is a very nice, inspirational piece. What you mention as things to be done are absolutely imperative for India’s overall growth. But But as a nation, we may be some distance away from diversifying into non-conventional fields. With the opportunities being offered currently, I cannot blame students for taking them today.

It is important to look at this problem in the context of the Indian social and family structure. Despite the burgeoning IT industry and the increasing cosmopolitan nature of the major cities, the Indian youth is still closely tied with his family. He is brought up with a much higher sense of responsibility beyond just himself. So, the barrier for someone to venture into something ‘non-conventional’ is rather high and requires a high degree of motivation and a good helping of social responsibility.

Peer pressure and the inherently competitive nature of the Indian education and job systems makes it equally difficult to be risk-ready. When friends around you earn Rs.15-20 Lakhs per year as a salary, it is just difficult to wade through tough times as a non-conventional entrepreneur.

Thirdly, the political system is just frustrating and the rampant low-level corruption and the beaurocracy kills any progressive thought. The Indian political system is perhaps the one thing that may hold me back from heading to India now. On the other hand, I also believe that it will refine and correct itself as India continues to develop and match today’s superpowers.

Fourthly, I think that as a country still trying to stand on its own feet, India should use its core competencies to serve the world’s needs so it can generate maximum revenue. This, right now, is IT/telecom/biotechnology. These also increase the opportunities that are provided to a wider spectrum of Indian youth. Also, it may be cheaper to procure other technologies for internal consumption even if they can be developed internally. In other words, I believe that in diversifying away from the opportunities that the world presents us with now as a country may dilute our current strengths. We may have to pay a huge opportunity cost. For a country like the USA, which is well developed, its growth will come from diversification. It will perhaps take a little longer than now for India to get to the same state.

Finally, in order for any non-conventional business thought to succeed, it needs a drastic change in the Indian mentality. Per a recent study, Indians are the 3rd most brand conscious lot. It will be very difficult for me to compete with a Tata Nano even if I find the panacea for India’s (and the world’s) fuel woes. Unfortunate, but true.

All said and done, I think that the conservative thinking is what keeps Indians happy and contended. While their mean salaries are lower, their variance over a life-time is much lower and so is their spending. Like my father keeps saying, ‘US economy thrives on consumer spending, Indian economy thrives on consumer savings.” It is this conservative outlook that saves us in times of recession. This middle-class mentality is definitely uninspiring, but it is also India’s strength. The break away from this thought process will be slow yet steady. My point is that the platform is still not strong enough for us to stand on it and jump high.

Things are changing today. I know a friend who dropped a very promising career at Amazon to start-up in India. A couple of other friends have left high-paying post-MBA jobs to startup as well. Both efforts are aimed at proving specialized online services to Indians. In each case, my friends established themselves on their platform and then went for the leap. More such transitions will happen. But for this to happen at a wider scale and at an even younger age, there needs to be a grass-root change, first in the upbringing of tomorrow’s kids to make them more independent and risk-ready and then to back it up with education that looks beyond ‘memorizing’ text books.

Vijay

Vijay Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 7:34 AM PT

Yes the consumer market is in.
People are spending money Nokia is getting a new phone every 3months or even in lesser cycle.
So we are asking a person from IIT to not go with the ‘trend’, stay tight not using the latest phone or the car or so many other things which he can always afford by getting into a company doing considerable amount of ‘good’ (good is a relative term so I have put under quote and not something which somebody says good means people start believing it is ‘good’.) work where he gets the opportunity to excel all his skills (soft skills and technology skills, accounting skills ….) beyond whatever was studied in the books or class rooms or labs and nurture their dreams to be able to think big looking at how an organisation works giving them confidence of believing that the dreams can be made true as well by looking around successful people who are building organisation within the organisations (I work in IT company and happy to be in a company which provides freedom of innovation and experimentation and allow running the team with complete freedom with some minimum guideline).
I guess this whole ‘sacrifice’ of life for doing something with a chance of 1% moderated success rate where as the parents had a big dream of their kid earning good money to make their life better doesn’t stand at all. The middle class in India very much run their life at the lowest end of the lower class in the developed countries and I don’t even expect it as a trend that students from that class will not take a job of 40K-50K per month and try to do something of their own immediately out of college if they do have that need of that money for their family.
However, there are students who doesn’t have problem of managing a ‘good life’ even without that income because of the amazing support system people get here from their parents and family and happen to be coming from such background can surely think of doing something of their own taking the risk where the success % is 1% and see for 2-3 years before joining the main stream job market.
My suggestion would be to keep the dream fuelled by more knowledge of the industry while working in a company and look for the opportunity to do fulfil the dream instead of students jumping in becoming entrepreneurs just coming out of college until and unless they have a clear kill application idea in any field.

Santanu Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 11:33 AM PT

Santanu,

Jumping into entrepreneurship straight out of college, at least in India, is not good advice to anybody. Here, that works to some extent, because Stanford, for example, has all the VCs all over it … even in other parts of the US, this, by and large, doesn’t work very well.

As you will see in my other piece on first-time entrepreneurs, most VCs prefer some “experience.”

I don’t think I have said anywhere in this article that students should jump into entrepreneurship right away.

However, there is a preparation necessary if you want to be an entrepreneur. You build yourself differently if your end-goal is to be an entrepreneur. You make different decisions. You focus on learning different skills, not just 20 years of programming.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 11:44 AM PT

I completely agree…

Also it always helps if some mentoring is available at some early years. And having a good manager on the job in early years is extremely important, I was lucky, for learning. The scale of thinking becomes completely different with the learning which helps.

Santanu Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 9:40 PM PT

Yes, now we’re coming to the other really key factor in building a career: mentors.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 9:50 PM PT

hi guys
firstly
there have been points abt software and high paying jobs in finance and consulting
firslty le tus understand that the undergraduate education is the time to discover urself so let us just leave these guys alone. I am sure they will contribute in whatever fields they go . Also the guys going to software.. I sympathise with them. I hope that with the manufacturing sector now booming people will now go to their core fields and contribute. We shud not forget that its the indian engineers who envisaged the Nano and fulfilled it.. its social impacts aside it is a definite technological innovation. However, we shud also credit the managers involved in the process.
My argument here will not revolve around which fields u chose ut it will involve around the fact that achieveing excellence is important. The sad part is not that people are writing codes at IBM and oracle.. but its sad that they are writing mediocre level codes! Mediocricity is a disease that prevades our education system like nothing else.
Another thing- this IIT vs other college debate keeps coming up. Why?
I would like to share my observation here. To be honest IITians are very intelligent and the 20% who continue to work hard after coming at IITs are not to be compared with any one else. Really. However, sadly ther eare a few people who do not chose to work. Though they are very smart their contribution is really very low.
People from tier -II colleges.. who work hard definitely beat these guys!
I think a persons profile is built up of many factors
his dedication, achievements etc.. and his undergraduate degree is just a part of it!
I really see no point in comparisons.. the blog entry has been about how each of us can cotribute to the nations’ development.
Here I would like to pint abt the contributions of my friends Ankit Gandhi and Tushar Sinha who through their seperate intiatives have started a revolution at the grass root level.
Please visit http://www.jagruti-kgp.blogspot.com for details fo tushar’s work.
A very useful and inspiring post indeed!
Regards
Himanshu
PS: Special thanks to Anuj for getting in touch with Sramana!

Himanshu Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:34 AM PT

AS far as consulting is concerned
They hire the best people.
McKinsey and Co. and other consulting firms hire people from IITs very selectively andthey are not really working on spreadsheets.. Consutls are not hiring everyone madly like software.
These are exceptional people, who are trained and work onsite.
however, there are comapnies like PwC etc who hire oftware professionals and still chose to call them consultants.
I think the comment ‘They basically end up doing spreadsheet jockeying and analysis. But that analysis, disconnected from real life experience, is not of much value. This, by the way, is the problem with most of the world’s consulting industry, since they all hire junior people and use them this way.’
is not really true. Especially for McKinsey, BCG, Bain. They hire for pretty much the same profile as they do from MIT, Stan etc.

Himanshu Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:40 AM PT

The scene is not uninspiring. There are about 5% people who have greater aspirations and calibre. Atleast at IITs. Tushar and Ankit are just two such people.
Is it really justified for us to expect everyone to suddenly start dreaming abt leadership ?
I am not saying that whatever you are saying is wrong. I am just saying that what you have mentioned has already begun as a trend here. And in a few years it will widen its reach :)

To be honest I am a very optimistic person. A 23 year old optimistic person- 10 years ago in India was a big thing in itself wasn’t it. Things are changing and they will :)
Regards

Himanshu Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:43 AM PT

For the past three years number of CIVIL ENGG graduates taking up core jobs in infrastrucutre sector has gone up!
That’s my whole point. Things are looking up. And I’m sure that if Journalists keep reaching out young minds like this- they will inspire more and more people!

Himanshu Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:47 AM PT

Hi Sramana, I am a teenager living in India and like most others of my age, I am a victim of the numerous education factories that we have spawned. I happen to be a contributor as a developer to a few Open Source Software projects myself and I believe that the Open Source paradigm provides developers with excellent opportunities to display their skills and the users have a product that isn’t bound by a million licenses. Despite pursuing my dreams and ambitions to become a good computer scientist and programmer, the maximum respect I can garner from the society at large comes from the Open Source community only. My teachers, happen to discard me as an outcast who wastes time and the same treatment is meted out to me by my friend’s parents. The fault lies with the guys “in charge”. To my teachers and of course those in the 40 + age bracket with whom I spend a lot of time, life ends when you make it to one of these “elites” but the reality is that it begins at college. I believe that the creation of a society which you envision will happen only when the guys in charge of imparting instruction undergo a change in their mindset. That doesn’t seem too likely to happen.

Shriphani P.

Shriphani Palakodety Friday, April 4, 2008 at 7:36 AM PT

Shripani,

Your comment is alarmingly true. The mindset change needs to happen at a much more fundamental level. But that will take time.

In the meantime, I encourage you to find one or two good mentors who can help you chalk out your path, and would give you the necessary respect / encouragement about who you are / want to be.

When I was a teenager in my school in Calcutta, my teachers – even the ones who I thought understood me somewhat – were shocked and discouraging at the idea that I knew at 16 that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. There was no one in my school who had the scale of thinking that I possessed, even at that age, but at home, my father, also an entrepreneur, fueled and matched my thought process. I had a similar experience in college, although, at least I had a mentor who nurtured my zeal for Computer Science.

The reason I am telling you this is to say that all you need is one or two people who can entirely shape the course of your journey. And these people don’t have to be your teachers, nor your family.

The key, however, is that you find these people. They hold the key to the world that you want to create for yourself.

My best wishes,

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Friday, April 4, 2008 at 10:27 AM PT

Himangshu,

Low level spreadsheet jockeying is the same thing that those MIT, Stanford, Harvards grads do at McKinsey, BCG and Bain.

Consulting is not a good place to start for a career in entrepreneurship. That said, a chunk of time in Consulting after you have gathered experience elsewhere, is invaluable for expediting the learning process.

As you know, it is something I have done myself, because it was the only model that allowed me to move around from industry to industry, work with the CEOs, and top executives at various large and small companies, and get a breadth of experience at a very high level which pretty much no other model would have permitted.

Sramana Mitra Friday, April 4, 2008 at 11:41 AM PT

thanks for ur insight :)

Himanshu Friday, April 4, 2008 at 2:47 PM PT

The thing IITs/BITs/any other Indian institute needs to do is to impart some interpersonal skills in their grads. They might be smart with supernormal IQs/can solve derivatives in their head but really making it big depends on a number of other factors as well, the most important being constantly seeking to increase one’s network of contacts and leveraging this network for further growth. All IIT students quite frankly suck at this – they just socialise with their old college peers / fail to integrate themselves in the society which means they end up becoming “Indian IIT nerdy IT guy”.

I am not sure of the exact programmes that engineering institutes in India can adopt for this but this definitely should rank as a top priority to ensure their graduates are truly international / cosmopolitan etc etc etc.

Thank you very much for reading.

Indian LSE Graduate Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 4:33 AM PT

[...] 6th, 2008 | Uncategorized I recently featured in the comments of Ms. Sramana Mitra’s blog. Sramana as you all know is an entrepreneur who did cool stuff after college. She went to Smith [...]

I’m Going Places ! — Shriphani’s Weblog Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 12:38 PM PT

Sramana,

That was very well said.

I’m from IIT Madras 2003. Here’s a counterpoint:

  1. Half the problems you listed are common to all the resource-constrained developing countries, even the world.

  2. Yes, infrastructure is a bottleneck, for now. Not sure if it will remain one 5 years on. Roads and rail networks are flourishing. Construction is booming.

  3. Urbanization is a pervasive phenomena. What happened to Korea, is happening in China, and will happen to India too. Planning, transparency and regulatory reform is the key for a “managed transition” with minimal disruption.

  4. The public sector and an inefficient financial sector is the resource hog right now. India is capable of achieving far greater productivity and growth. If only enterprises and banks were free to allocate capital to only the most efficient sectors, we could add 2% to our annualized growth.

  5. We need less goverment, not more. That will take care of corruption.

  6. IITs do have a fair amount of interdisciplinary studies. I majored in EE, and minored in financial management. You can check out the influence it’s had on my blog. (I work in the wireless space for Qualcomm)

  7. Curriculum is atrocious in most Indian institutes. It’s still bad, but probably a lot better at the IITs. This is also changing for the better with increasing industry funding for more industry relevant research projects.

  8. Consulting/banking vs. IT is just the latest fad story. I saw in 99-2000 everybody moving into IT. It’s consulting/banking now. It’ll probably be something else 5 years hence. Interestingly, tech is heavily out of favor right now. IITians are suddenly ‘too cool’ to be writing code :)

  9. IITians do diversify into a wide number of different careers. Five years out of undergrad, some of my classmates have gone on and founded construction companies, lingerie wear, and even a data-mining startup in the political arena. In fact, people have become a little too greedy and impatient right now.

  10. I do think that a lot of IITians (and for that matter HBS/MIT folks) have an entitlement mentality. That disappears with hard slog and experience.

  11. I agree with the the “risk-averse” middle-class mindset. But that’s changing. I’ve also seen that a lot of IITians become more daring when they hit late 30s/early 40s.

  12. You are whom you surround yourself with. Being from IIT/MIT gives you a great oppurtunity to surround yourself with like minded driven people.

  13. Sadly, expect brand dilution of the IITs. In India, everyone will be from IIT soon! Rejoice!

  14. I do think it’s important to gain an exposure to the Western hemisphere. A lot of the networking/professional savviness comes with exposure to the best business practises in other parts of the world. With better oppurtunities, this can be found in India too.

  15. Here’s the best thing I can say about India and the IITs. In 1999: 80%+ of the batch came to the US. In 2003: that number was around 30%. In 2006, it’s less than 10%. The best thing happening to India is that the IITians have decided to stay back. It’s the second tier college folks who are coming to the US now. Mind you, the reasons are still completely selfish. Ignoring India and the BRICs over the next 30-40 years would be ignoring the biggest wealth creation exercise of the 21st century.

  16. The danger to the India story is the pervasive inflation, excessive subsidies and record budget deficits.

Once again, I really liked your blog, and might post this on my blog as well, if that’s ok..

Regards,
-Sajal

Sajal Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 3:26 PM PT

Sajal,

Thanks for a good set of points above. The key word in what you write is “it’s changing” not “it has changed.”

Just as your “it’s changing” observation is true, my “it needs to change” observation is also, so far, equally (or perhaps more) true.

I think, self-interest is the only thing that will continue relentlessly. All the changes that we are discussing can only come about if that self-interest is aligned with the necessary changes.

This is why, I have framed the whole discussion as an entrepreneurship and wealth-creation discussion.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 7:27 PM PT

As I see many enthusiastic youngsters are reading this blog ,do check out the “iAccelerator” program from IIM-Ahmedabad.Its a boon for people with ideas.

http://ciieindia.org/?page_id=92

Sramana,
I think that the problem today is a clear lack of inspiration,priorities and the typical Indian mindset of play-safe. Unlike filmstars & cricketers,you rarely see any businessmen/entrepreneurs as youth icons.

Sridhar Oruganti Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 4:26 AM PT

But Sridhar, in this age of the Internet, are you saying that India’s youth does not find inspiration in the stories of Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Steve Jobs, Narayen Murthy, etc.?

Sramana Mitra Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 3:43 PM PT

[...] her for her views on what’s next for India and suggestions on how we IITians can contribute. Read the entire articlehere. Categories: [...]

Guest Article by Sramana Mitra Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 12:57 AM PT

Dears

There is no doubt that IIT students are better. But.. Brightest I doubt. You must have experienced a small tea shop where a ‘bhadur’ is running around getting you tea, a Samosa, then also agree to get you glass of water, may also ask ‘cold or normal, water, sir’., helping the auto parked outside his shop help park properly, answering phone calls also over phone if there is one. These type of people are IIT/IIM materials. They think differently and analyze fast. Since IIT is through entrance test its possible that more brighter ones may not have their day on that particular 3 hours.

What I want to convey is that your letter should be to all the young people not only to IITins. All our youngs are bright, only thing is to find best ability of there’s which many a times the individual is unable to find himself and nurture them.

So all you youngsters out there – come and build your India, picking up areas which are never touched to be developed. India right now is at the same stage as Europe, US, Japan, etc. were 20 years ago, but you all will not take 20 years to come up to that level you may take less than 10 years, because you have a communication plat form ready which was not there 20 years ago with these countries.

Lets build India – together, brighter.

RAJEEV

Rajeev Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 7:32 AM PT

[...] Open Letter to IIT Students [...]

Catching Up on Readings - Sramana Mitra on Strategy Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 6:01 AM PT

India is now growing at a constant rate of 8%-9%.i dnt think this happend because of the ability of our politicians.we the youth of India made it possible.62% of Indian populatin are of age below 42.It is this factor that made the growth of India possible.I think the only politician who made significant contribution to this growth is Dr.Manmohansinge.He started liberalizatin in 90′s.IF the liberalization done by him happened 15 years earlier than 90′s now India would have richer than china .Even now India is only 1/3rd of china.India was a poor country when these politicains were in our age.Only few of them contributed to the growth of India.Most of them contributed only to there families.

sajo Monday, April 28, 2008 at 12:33 AM PT

Hi Sramana

I believe you are entirely right in the letter that you have written to IIT students encouraging them to get involved in the issues they are most directly concerned about and with. Clearly India faces a complex and growing set of economic, social and environmental challenges.

From poverty, to disease, to food and water supplies, energy needs, and social reform, the continuing population growth will also pressurise all aspects of infrastructure and resource availability which are in urgent need of investment and management, and this need can only further exacerbate the current problems faced by both the government and the population itself.

Inititiatives such as Hande’s solar power company and also the extensive social planning from Mr Tata of Tata Industries that I have recently researched are driven by passion. Passion for their business and passion for their country and it’s real social needs and challenges. It is the unique combination of leadership and passion for purpose which not only drives the success of the business initiative itself, it drives the contribution of the business to the causes that really matter in the environment in which it exists. The excellent work by Dr Yunnus in MicroCredits is another example of passion for purpose and cause creating not only a highly successful business, but also producing major benefits in the socio economic environment in which the business itself exists.

For India to really evolve and to realise it’s potential as a nation, to resolve and find meaningful solutions to its socio economic and environmental challenges; it will need more Hande’s, more Mr Tata’s, more people like Dr Yunnus with vision, passion and the drive to lead positive change through leveraging the new technology and mediums now emerging that can be used to form new companies that can not only grow to be successful on a local and even global level, they can also plough back resources into the fields from which they grew.

Your points and ideas are both well and intelligently made. I would encourage students also to heed your good advice. They should also visit Mr Tata’s web site and read also his views and actions on this entire issue. He is a living example of how vision, passion for purpose and leadership can not only build a highly successful company which will be even more active globally and not just locally; but also how such a company may be a driver and investor in positive change in the environment in which it exists.

David Bristow

David Bristow Friday, May 2, 2008 at 4:51 AM PT

if u really want to make a difference, talk about people and companies who have made things possible in india and the big moolah (yes money is very imp. to be discussed). look we have around 53 billionaires in india, many of whom have made their fortune for scratch. they are stuff to be discussed. their is where u find entrepreneurship, wealth building, social changes and every thing. and they are not from iit or anything. to me your article good confused between entrepreneurship and philanthropy (with all due respect). plz if u want to make a diff. talk about these achievers and wealth creators.
u dont need “mentors” or any great people around u to make u successful. it could be done by itself and it has been done amongst all the poor infrastructure, red tapism, bureaucracy and everything.
like reliance. they build up when things were worst in india. infrastructure, government everything was screwed up. look at them today. talk about infosys or satyam, they didn’t have great people, or infrastructure around.
all the success stories of billionaires on forbes are right example of this spirit. its time we make ppl reliase how big moolah can be made through entrepreneurship, and it doesn’t has to be
something of social service or anything.

talk money dear, not about greed but about wealth creation. all those companies have made huge wealth for india’s people as well as bharat’s people (rural india’s ppl)
that’s only way entrepreneurship will rise drastically in india. and plz infrastructure, government, iit’s engineer haven’t got anything to do with success of a company. it’s just about individuals. there are some loserish comments on this page, which may well be moderated.

ps-: i am in india, <17 and i have good knowledge how things are moving around me.

ipro Friday, May 2, 2008 at 11:08 AM PT

One of the things IIT students can do today that were not possible even two decades ago is NOT JUST COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER IN INDIA but COMPETE WITH SIMILAR ORGANIZATIONS GLOBALLY! The achievements of the Japanese in Quality is a great example of the results IIT students should aspire for! Tata with their jaguar and Land Rover acquisitions has to compete with Toyota (not GM or FORD or Chrysler – the Gold Standard is Toyota these days – watch Ford”s recent TV ad – It says our cars have quality as good as Toyota’s!). There is always the temptation to be better than Indian companies. But this century, IIT students should prove that from India they can compete globally. Your observation about inter disciplinary ideas is very key! Indian engineers are in a rut when it comes to borrowing from other disciplines and making breakthroughs. That’s where true creativity is and that’s where IIT students should build more strengths in – That and competing globally rather than just locally!

Nari Kannan Friday, May 2, 2008 at 11:51 AM PT

To the unnamed 17-year old above: you need a good whacking. You will learn as you mature, how LITTLE, how remarkably LITTLE you know. Just because things were unorganized once doesn’t mean we continue down a path of unorganized chaos going forward. And IITs have produced guys like Vinod Khosla, so you can’t necessarily discount them. Good institutions always have a role to play in entrepreneurship.

Sramana Mitra Friday, May 2, 2008 at 2:01 PM PT

[...] recently wrote an open letter to IIT students asking them to look beyond software–and maybe do something electrifying, following Hande’s [...]

city topper: Lighting The Way In India | Citytopper Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 10:09 PM PT

Y is it always IIT centered be it media, bloggin, even this article (sadly though)? You might ask me to ignore it..but you have put it out there making me think twice since i graduated from a 2 tier engg college!! You know how it works on our psyche and simply saying we are under-talents or something inferior or lesser_engineers :( {which v r not..}
I have huge respect for those IITs IIMsand IISc….I agree to every single word in your piece..but the title disappointed me…An open letter to students or An open letter to indian students..would have been more apt!

some indian somewhere Wednesday, June 4, 2008 at 5:30 AM PT

You miss the simple point that this was written on request from IIT Kharagpur.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, June 4, 2008 at 8:38 AM PT

i know..but didnt it cross your mind that this question could be any INDIAN student at large? and you could have spanned a larger audience too..!!

some indian somewhere Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 5:04 AM PT

why do you harp on this? if the point that this is applicable to other Indian students is not lost on you, then I have succeeded in doing what I intended. just use the content of the message, and get on with your life, for god’s sake.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 9:44 AM PT

Hi,
I graduated from one of the IITs the last year and am working in one of the IT co.s in India. Though my experience is small but I would like to add two small points.
Firstly, i have found many people who are not from IIT but are real geniuses in their respective fields and also possess the appetite to excel, are ready to take risks and in fact have started working on their dreams. They are nowhere less, if not more, in terms of aptitude and passion when compared with most of my IITian friends which includes me as well. Despite possessing such talents they are always looked down by others just because they weren’t from IIT/IIM/IISc. Similarly most of my north Indian friends look down on the south Indians though most of the success stories in India belong to the people coming from the Deccan region. Sad but true, most of our people don’t look at the talents but the background. One of my friends who just returned from onsite told me about the perception of westerners about Indians. He said “Indians are individually genius but collectively fools”. To some extent (you can say at least 70%) I agree to it. India won’t rise unless we stop distinguishing our people on lines of their background.
My second point is, we always look for opportunities. We say that India is rising, fields like infrastructure, energy, etc. are booming. But have we ever thought why India is rising, who is generating these opportunities? Rarely one would find a person looking for ways to create opportunities. We say IT industry came to India but how often do we say we brought or to be more correct we developed the IT industry in India. It’s only a matter of perception. We look for companies to pay us more but how often de we look for methods to generate the money, how often do we think of ways to enhance the RnD sector in India, how often do we ponder over the thought “how to generate opportunities rather than look for them”? Money (not literal) is scattered all around, all we need is to develop the ways to identify and pick them up.
My post might look pessimistic but what I’ve found are most of us tend to flow with the tide and most of the time it’s beneficial to the individual to follow the path most traveled.

archi Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 3:13 AM PT

Thank you Sraman for your deep insight suggestion to the youg generation.

One thing which I would like to add over here is, if you could address in your blog to the yougsters who are not pursuing there academics from IIT then it will enhance the impact of your blog and will minimize the inferiority complex amongst the yougsters who are not from IIT. Please address them also in your next blogs then it will be a moral booster for them as well. since more than 95% of Indias young talent is not from IIT they are from other institutes and they are also the future of India.

This is not a suggestion but a request and hope that this will be considered.

Regards,
Rasool

Mohammed Abdul Rasool Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 12:22 AM PT

I would like to add something regarding Mr. Rasool’s request. Every one has his chunk of struggle in life. Every person who has seriously prepared for IITJEE (which includes those couldn’t make it to IIT despite their hard work) have had fulfilled more than half of their struggle. Rest have to complete that as well. work hard and progress or sit back and stay behind a lot many. whatever you do, do it with full commitment. I’ll give you an example which you can extrapolate for more calrification. this example is the result of 2003 IITJEE exam. the person who had scored a rank around 700 secured hardly 5 marks more than the person landing up at around 2200. since at that time the total number of seats were somewhat around 3000 one can easily comprehend that the person who might have secured a rank of say 5000 was no weaker than than a person managing to get a seat as far as the academics is concerned. Just take IIT as a media hyped brand and believe in yourself. Most of the success stories in India are not from IIT. Being from IIT Kharagpur i know only two successful entrepreneurs.

archi Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 12:48 AM PT

The case for India’s talemts

a wonderful article and have set me up on a thinking trip..

http://sramanamitra.com/2008/03/31/an-open-letter-to-iit-students/#comment-170433

For years, I have built the passion to do “Something Big and meaningful” and have been exploring different ways of getting there.. Have I gotten to the end point where I want to be .. Hmmm no.. Why?? Because, like some of the posts ( yours and other commenters ), it s not the inspirations but the mentors that were missing.. I come from a modest middle class family starting to combat the basic layers of need and along the way looking for the guiding beacons while wanting to stay afloat. Somewhere its the basic umbilical cord thing which every entrepreneur must break free and take the risks and uncertainty in his stride.

Couple of points here..
1. In early 90s, I quit my job in accounting ( me is a commerce grad ) to get into software. Why?? because I wanted to see the world. Wanted to see how people lived their lives abroad, what practices they followed in workplace and other things. IT was a means for me to get there. I thoroughly enjoyed my jump, learnt software development skills and excelled at it. It is not as if people chose to brain dead themselves by joining IT after doing IIT,engineering etc. But when the aspirations built from pre-GATE exams, of getting ahead somewhere in life hits you during your comparison with a modest IT developer, the person hits ground zero of his ambitions and fancies. Money talks. If ideas are getting somewhere, again money talks.. read VC greed..

  1. Despite being in IT, I strongly support those proponents that IT has caused major disruptions in developing this country as a superpower. Yes. IT has bought magnificent amounts of dollar revenues, making themselves and other participants fabulously rich. But they have also sucked the engineers talents from where they should be rightly so..So, what happens now? we have IT coders, project managers and consultants implementing their masters’ diktats while infrastructure projects can’t be implemented because the skill sets are no longer present in the market. Having done with engineers, these mega corps are after Bsc, Bcom, BA grads as well. The avarice is unabated and is just killing. Take a look at the call centre business too.. good talent wasted on managing some dumb customer’s product pains. In all my years and having gone through it personally, I ask to these decision makers, what is so much about software development that it needs only engineers ?? First, we have to halt these marauders of talent on their tracks. What is already invested must be effectively shaken up from the zombie state and galvanized into an IP generating monster.

  2. IITs.. They have these aura on them that is sooo elitist.. Agreed, they fought hard at the exams and got there ahead of the other kids. But are they the brightest.. Hmm I have my reservations.. I deal with talents from various engineering institutions, and am yet to see some bright sparks..with a burning desire to build something and not just do the job/work.

  3. I think the key solution is education and infrastructure. Education is getting fantastically better.. The number of free openware courses from premier institutes have put good course material for our educators and to anybody alike to build upon. Companies like Educomp, NIIT are taking the learning virus all over the rural landscape, equipping schools and colleges with new thinking. That is a very important thought enabler..Secondly, Infrastructure.. Earlier we used to think, Bombay-Bangalore road trip… Oh! thats only for those folks who can’t afford trains/air travel and have to take a bus to do that. Thanks to the new building blocks and road transformation, we are beginning to think distances are achievable because the supporting framework is getting there. Thats wonderful

  4. We are not going to see corruption off anytime soon. But change is happening as evident from the computerization efforts in birth,death and land records. Hope does exist..

as i mentioned earlier the post was very overpowering and awesome…

http://technoliving.blogspot.com/2008/06/case-for-indias-talemts.html

cheers
Krishna

Krishna Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 6:04 AM PT

i can identify with what is written here regarding IT companies and the kind of work they do,i worked in so called “one of the biggest IT companies” in india and was very disappointed with the whole work experience,i just left my job with that “big IT company” and joined a small start up,hope some day i ll make a movie on my exp in indian IT industry

rahul Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 2:58 PM PT

Good one guys. Think it got a bit side tracked somewhere with focus on IT & IIT. Can we share some success stories (in social entrepreneurship)?

Think most of you would have read / heard Harish Hande’s way of lighting up rural India. Would love to read more of these stories that would inspire dumb guys like me.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their wonderful thoughts.

http://www.forbes.com/technology/2008/05/02/mitra-hande-solar-tech-science-cx_sm_0502mitra.html

Sathya Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 8:54 PM PT

We have crisis in education, health care, and infrastructure. Those are the core issues and we need IIT smarts to tackle those.

http://www.walkersresearch.com/EmailaddressLists.asp

Sam Miller Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 6:14 PM PT

hey nice idea…That u r thinking About India.I can give an idea regarding the Improvement of Rural India…(the country of villages).We can start some industries in rural area and make the village people to get employed…So that the poverty line goes down………………We can train those people and extract work them…

deepa Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 9:43 PM PT

First of all, i would like to thank you for the inspiring article. Well, I am an engineering student from a decent college, though noe ivy league. I happen to be very much interested in entrepreneurship. IMHO, people’s fear drives them into believing that entrepreneurship fails. They don’t want to be branded by others as a failure in life. What they fail to understand is that the attiatude they possess when it comes to other issues is a fake one. While a care-a-damn attitude just comes in handy for family related issues and for things that need attention, it is not being used effectively, in the right sense. Well, i for one have decided to follow my dream soon. Because the field i am going to venture into requires a lot of reading and i am proud to say that i have been reading a lot of articles on the same. While people still discourage me saying “Be practical. This won’t work out!” , I still have the belief that i can make it because it is i and i alone who can make my life-either a disaster or a successful one and i know i will succeed.

While individuals can be inspired in a lot of ways, they will have to understand that the inspiration lies within them.

In case you wondered what the field is, it’s Social media. I may be a failure in the eyes of people when things go awry, but the pride one gets when accomplishing things, is inexplicable.

I sincerely wish more and more people follow their dreams and do they want to do rather than cower within from basic inhibitions.

Thank you again, Sir, for the awe-inspiring article!

rampantheart Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 11:53 PM PT

Oops, i am sorry, “Sir” was a typo! :)

rampantheart Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 11:55 PM PT

I am agree with anuj and anuj has asked a good question .nice artical.

JaiRam Gaur Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 11:25 PM PT

We definitely need more articles like that!

Rajat Pashine Friday, February 13, 2009 at 1:58 PM PT

[...] Find the whole answer here: An Open Letter to IIT Students [...]

An Open Letter to IIT Students « Salaf Entrepreneur Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 4:30 PM PT

well..surely we are “argumentative Indians”..me included..I think some very valid points have been made in this post & subse

Amol Pawar Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 4:22 AM PT

Hi Sramana,

This was my first visit to your web site. I must say, it is a nicely written article.

I think, the first thing, we Indian, should focus on increasing the literacy level. That will take care of most of the problem, if not all. Education is not just reading and writing but it should teach to think.

I myself working in a well known Indian IT company. Here, I see, people do not have mindset to think differently. They come to work, work like machines and go home. I don’t blame them for this. Here the mentors come into the picture. If we get good mentors, we can see the difference.

Thanks,
-Mukesh

Mukesh Chauhan Sunday, April 12, 2009 at 11:35 PM PT

Sramana, as an IITian who graduated 15 years ago and who has NOT restricted himself to working with just large American or Outsourcing firms, I find your article extremely weak and borderline offensive.

Granted your 100,000 foot view of the situation is mostly on target but where is the depth that one expects from a good journalist? Even I could have written this article and done a better job at it. You are insulting the intelligence of your readers by being preaching without any insight or data.

This is a bit like listening to my 70 year old uncle provide career advice. Yes, I can listen and agree with his advice – however anything beyond that will result in personal disaster.

And I know people(and IITians) who have dedicated their life to building NGOs, humanitarian relief operations and so on. I have the greatest respect for them.

The only thing I know is I would not want my kids to be influenced by such shallow opinions.

Mathur Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 11:22 AM PT

Hi Sramana ,
i m a Ist yr student from BITS Pilani-GOA.When i read your articles on India,it inspires me and assures me of a great entrepreneurship age.There will be many fortunemakers for sure..
Urbanisation and Industrial Development will be the priority then, but then, don’t you think we have actually lost the title “Agricultural Country”..to other developing countries..and our farmers dying and crop prices just shooting up…We the fortunemakers..What will we make the not so fortunate feed?……And urbanisation will step in…how does one think of getting that title back along with…accounting for being one of the world’s largest industrial producers and have the best manufacturing value added (MVA) per capita….
I wish i could change the attitudes of many..towards Agriculture….coz.genetics and Biological Computing seem smaller solutions to the growing demands and pending problems that disease such a productive sector in India..

Anubhav Kapoor Friday, March 12, 2010 at 3:50 AM PT

Very thoughtful article.
Rather than trying to get a job, it is a good idea to stand on the own talent and try to develop our country may be for making money by launching startup companies.
The key point is to understand the problem and provide the solution for it.

Ravi Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 12:53 AM PT

From a fellow IITian,

* (Re)search: What you find is what you have.
* Development: Build on what you have. You have more.
* Application: Use what you have to do what you want done. To solve problems nobody has (yet) solved.

Finally, do whatever you want, just be sure to leave behind what you found out.

Plain and simple, isn't it? :-)

Arvind Singh Friday, August 12, 2011 at 2:46 AM PT

Very well put Sramana. Reality of our day.

Vyas Tungaturti Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 2:00 PM PT

Hello madam, i myself one of the students from IITs, i liked the way you advised the Indian students who regard their job search as the only goal in life. You also mentioned about the requirement of engineers to think of water supply etc. But the problem still lies because even social responsibility among the students is very low. They even don't think to correct the politics which determine India growth by simple use of their right to vote. Without social consciousness and desire to mend to ruling system, there is not enough hope for future India.

bheem Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 12:42 AM PT

That needs to be changed by people like you … inspire the students to become more socially responsible.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 8:51 AM PT

Sramana, I am an IITian and an entrepreneur. I suggest you come and spend a day or two with anyone like me who is running an enterprise. You will probably write a very dfiferent article (and comments) there after.

Regards,

Tarun

Tarun Anand Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 5:13 AM PT

Do you really believe that given what I do, I am not in touch with IIT people? Including entrepreneurs?

Sramana Mitra Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 10:09 AM PT

Hi Sramana, it's not long I have been to your pages and am loving every bit of it, to say the least. Wonder, if only "technocrats" qualify for entrepreneurial ventures – what about the rest, who are not? Would like to hear from you some day…!!! Best wishes.

Somen Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 3:31 AM PT

Not at all. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and forms.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 1:03 AM PT

Wonderful thoughts Sramana. If anybody out here has a strong background in ruby on rails technology and has an entrpreneurial mindset, connect with me at arjuman.utopia@gmail.com.

Arjuman Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 10:16 AM PT

Indian engineers face a big responsibility. They need to transform India. Ms. Mitra accurately points out that the "middle class mentality" (i.e. get a good job) coupled with a plethora of IT and Managerial opportunities are diverting the average Indian engineer from transforming India.

Maybe it's time to incentivize other engineering fields. The Americans practically build Saudi Arabia's modern cities and Saudi Arabia doesn't even have a fraction of the engineering pool India has. If the Indian Govt made it lucrative for Western non-IT companies to compete for core infrastructure projects providing lucrative pays for non-IT related engineering jobs, maybe we can stem the IT sector from sucking away engineering talent.

alok Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 9:34 PM PT

bigger picture dude…the issue is not the collage from which the student comes but what he does for the country…

Concerned Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 10:39 PM PT

As an American, I agree IIT graduates should stay in India. You've overstayed your welcome. We'll do fine without you. Thanks.

c++ Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 12:03 PM PT
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