IIT-Madras recently launched an Institute Chair in the name of V Balaraman, the Chairman of Computer Age Management Services (CAMS) as a recognition for his contribution as a mentor and teacher. Excerpts:
What is the role of IITs in changing the image of India?
Starting IITs was a very unique decision by the Indian government, that no other developing country took at that time. What IITs have done uniquely is to make education in engineering and technology a meritocracy. In a country where things are done for relationships, IITs have straightly followed meritocracy as a culture. This has helped bright students from less affluent families attain a high-quality, world class education.
In the 80s and 90s, people used to complain of IITians not staying in India. But in reality, the early migrants to the US and other countries have established a good image of Indian in those places abroad. IITians are in fact helping India get a lot of business today.
But isn’t that trend benefiting the countries in the West more than it is helping India?
That has happened so far. But the IITs have also started their own research in India. Steps like establishing a chair in IIT-M was to promote Indian research. Our country is creating its own knowledge space.
Are you happy with it?
I’m happy with the start, but not with the speed. Technology requires money and funding.
What do you think of the increasing number of IITs in the country?
With the increasing number of IITs, you should also make sure that there are enough teachers and facilities. That is something one needs to take care of.
What difference can Fortune 100 companies make by setting up their excellence centres?
A lot. Each of these companies concentrate on something different and they train the youngsters in these fields.
Should IITs have short term courses?
Yes. Very often people learn a lot in the practical world. After working for some time, it is always good to get a little formalisation of knowledge that will be beneficial. In such cases, a short term course will help.