Archive for October, 2007

Industry – Academia interaction

October 30, 2007

In the panel discussion sponsored by Indian Semiconductor Association (ISA) at IT.in Conference (10th Edition of the large event at Bangalore that started off as IT.com in 1998), some interesting observations were made.

Dr Sunil Sherlekar (who heads the large embedded systems group at TCS) started off with the ISA Technovation Awards announcement for the year 2008.
• Techno-visionary Award for a visionary individual with life-long contributions
• Techno-mentor Award for a research supervisor
• Techno-shield Award for an organization that contributes to semiconductor industry and
• Techno-inventor Award for an innovator

As the anchor person I started off with the need for “partnership” with the spirit of “give & take”; the industry should take a long term view and look beyond “bang for the buck” (which invariably translates to sponsoring “college events” and the resultant brand promotion or recruiting students).

Tridib Roy Chowdhury (Director, Adobe Software India) wanted the industry to focus on creating a “better mind” than merely focusing on “skills”. He talked of the need for “preparing for the last job” rather than preparing for the “first job”, once again emphasizing the “long term” partnership. He made an interesting observation that the industry in India feels the absence of great universities including MIT & Stanford in the neighborhood; and, the academics in IIT’s and IIIT’s equally miss the genuine interests of IBM and HP in partnering with IIT’s & IIIT’s. In effect, we need to start the work at both the ends.

Dr Sherlekar wanted the emphasis on innovation. He stressed the need for “goal orientation” among the faculty (he used the example of scientists with a “goal” to solve “unsolved problems over centuries” and achieving success as an example). In essence, the pure academic view of “give me money, I will come back if I get anywhere” is a clear “no no”, but the industry should also not take a myopic view of academics (students & faculty) helping them in developing a product in the next quarter or a year.

Manav Subodh (University Relations Head at Intel India) talked of the need to address the need of making teaching as an exciting career for the students and to address the serious problem of faculty shortage in Indian institutions. Manav also talked about the need to emphasize the importance of post-graduate education (M. Tech & PhD) among the students (particularly by the industry members who often focus their entire energy on B Tech students) and research (by faculty-student groups).

Dr Karthik (Engineering Director of Analog Devices) wanted the excitement of the laboratories to be brought into undergraduate education. He took the case of “digital Design” Lab course in VTU and explained how it can be “enriched” to create significant interest among students. In the process, the labs will get rejuvenated and the faculty members would find it rewarding too.

Dr Lovi Raj Gupta (Dean, Lovely School of Technology) talked of the need to “connect” (lecture to lecture, course to course, year to year and finally academics to industry) and stressed on the academic community to go beyond the exams, results and grades.

The questions that followed were interesting too; Vijay Rao of RV College VLSI Design Center talked of the need for industry to collaborate with “finishing schools”; a student of Lovi College venting his strong feeling that industry is “cold” to private colleges.

All in all it was an enjoyable panel discussion, thought through very well by ISA

First commercial flight of A380 – yet another aviation history is made

October 26, 2007

Singapore Airlines SQ380 commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney took off smoothly and touched down equally smoothly on October 25th, 2007.

It is a historic moment not just for Airbus Industries and Singapore Airlines; it is an important milestone in aviation history and in fact in the history of mankind.

It was Boeing 747 that changed the way humans fly across the countries and the continents; much of today’s globalization, outsourcing, off-shoring, international conferences and multi-national corporations (MNC) would have been meaningless without our ability to fly with the comfort, convenience, reliability and economics that Boeing 747 brought about.

With a quantum jump in fuel efficiency, environmental pollution, noise levels and safety that Airbus 380 brings about, aviation will see further growth making the globe a “smaller village”!

The world’s biggest aircraft (with capacity of up to 850 passengers, though Singapore Airlines plane had much less capacity thanks to luxurious “double-bed” First Class cabins) will lead to new opportunities in ground handling as well.

Indian phone population crosses 250 million

October 24, 2007

When the over enthusiastic Minister for IT and Communications Dayanidhi Maran talked of 250 million phones by 2007, most of us felt he was rather unrealistic. It is interesting to note that India crossed this mark in early October 2007 months ahead of the target date of Dec 31, 2007 (it is an irony that the Minister is no longer in his seat!)

As per Press Release 91/2007 dated October 22, 2007 of TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) mobile phone base as of end September was 248.7 million with 209.1 million wireless and 39.6 million land-line phones (7.6 million mobile phones were added in September 2007, while land-lines went down by 0.16 million in the same month).

It will be interesting to see mobile phones touching 250 million by March 2008; the change of guard at Telecom ministry caused delay in BSNL order; hope the setback does not slow down the growth of Telecom in India, probably the only place “aam admi” (common man) has REALLY BENEFITED though the government of the day swears by “aam admi” every day

Indian techies are worst paid; is that so?

October 22, 2007

Indian media is abuzz with the news that Indian techies are lowest paid. Unfortunately the media is too busy in printing the news first before analyzing it!

As per Mercer Survey of IT Managers’ average salary position is as follows

USA $ 107 K
UK $ 118 K
Canada $ 93 K
Denmark $ 123 K

The corresponding figures for “low cost” nations are

India $ 25 K
Philippines$ 22 K
Vietnam $ 15 K

Average salary for professionals (not managers) is as follows

USA $ 60 K
UK $ 64 K
Canada $ 57 K
Denmark $ 70 K

The corresponding figures for “low cost” nations are

India $ 10 K
Philippines$ 8 K
Vietnam $ 6 K

The media mixed up managers’ salary with professionals’ salary.

With most of India’s professionals in 20s, the salary levels are low; the costs are much lower too. That is precisely our competitive advantage; if we can combine it with higher quality, we can grow much more in global software outsourcing business.

It is true in every OTHER profession, not in IT alone!

$ 10 K for a person in 20’s is a lot of money in India and the fact that there are 2.5 million such people in India is to be celebrated.

Economists and policy planners use “purchase parity” that links income to costs and raw salaries are never to be compared. An entry-level secretary in USA will earn about $ 10K; does any secretary in India get such a salary?

Such comparison of “apples & oranges” can lead to distortion and undue criticism (often without thinking) particularly from communists!

Speak Up

October 6, 2007

It is important for Indian IT professionals to master the art of “Speaking Up” in a globalized world. Without going into “preaching mode” I will show four representative examples of people who could “Speak up”, often firmly (yet friendly), precisely (communicate the “essence”) and communicate the vision. I have chosen Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Atal Behari Vajapayee and Mahatma Gandhi

1 Be firm, be bold to go against the mainstream current & yet be friendly
Steve Jobs
“Stay hungry, stay foolish” (Stanford Commencement Address 2005)

2 Be quick on your feet
Mahatma Gandhi’s famous repartee when he met King George V in London at the time of the Round Table Conference. “Is that all you wore when you met the King?” an incredulous journalist asked the Mahatma when he returned from Buckingham Palace in his loin cloth. “The King wore enough for both of us,”

3 Communicate the “essence”
Atal Behari Vajapayee “My strong point – never hit below the belt”

4 Communicate the long term strategic vision of an organization very early in the game

Bill Gates
“A computer on every desk in every home”

(Fidelity IT “All Hands Meet” at Christ College on Oct 4, 2007)