“We created special curriculum to bring up the level of local students in IIIT-Naya Raipur”
Ajai Chowdhury, Chairperson IIIT Naya Raipur interacted with Careers360 on the eve of first batch passing out of the institute with institute registering 100% placement. He talks about how the institute has created an industry-driven curriculum with a focus on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among students, a lucrative and exciting career in Artificial Intelligence & Data Sciences...
Q. IIIT – Naya Raipur is one of the newly established IIITs on PPP mode, what is the advantage of an institute having industry as one of its promoters?
A. The whole strategy that the Chhattisgarh Govt had when they were starting IIIT was that they wanted to bring up the level of their students so that their students should also get into IT sector in a big way, as they were left behind. There is no IT industry in Chhattisgarh, so they thought to bring IT through IIIT. The state government spoke to several organisations, and NTPC has a large investment in the state. Hence, NTPC came up and joined the govt to start the IIIT. NTPC got a complete report written on what this IIIT should be and they also decided that before the institute starts they will make the infrastructure ready.
NTPC put aside 200 crores and they created the complete infrastructure for IIIT. If you look at any other IIIT, the first thing that the director does is that he goes and sets up the infrastructure. From Day 1 we had a ready campus delivered to us by NTPC. So, that was a major difference.
With an industry as a partner, it helped us in setting up an industry-ready institution, we got full autonomy, decide the board, work on the curriculum, select the first director. So, it started for me as a start-up, an entrepreneur venture.
Q. What were the major challenges in setting up IIIT in a state like Chhattisgarh?
A. This year the batch that is passing and we are happy for it as we had 100% placement in the IT sector. The major challenge we had to face was related to local students. The state government has reserved 50% seats for local students. Their exposure was the challenge; hence we created a curriculum which will expose them deeply. So the first thing we did, in the first year itself was that we started teaching them how to talk, write and present in English along with the course. In the curriculum, we also added some programs for the management, entrepreneurship and humanities and other areas because we wanted them to be broad-based.
Q. There have been reports by various industry bodies that a large number of engineering graduates are employable, do you agree with it?
A. I think the problem starts in schools because everybody wants to be an engineer. The demands of the country are totally different today than what the demands were 15-20 years ago. As a result of it, a lot of people started applying for engineering, the colleges kept increasing and now we have more than what we need.
Q. IIIT Naya Raipur is the first Institute in India to offer a B. Tech and M. Tech. program in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence. How do you look at the demand of professionals in this field?
A. Last year, we decided to start B. Tech for Data Science & AI and these are new technologies that all new IT companies are looking for. The interesting part is that it is not just IT companies that need AI & Data Science, it's the user that is using a lot of AI & Data Science. Tomorrow's managers will need to know how to use AI.
Q. Few jobs will no longer remain because of AI & Data Science and what are the new jobs that you see coming up?
A. AI & ML is going to be required by management to understand how to use AI & ML and Data science to run their companies better. For example: In manufacturing, there is something called, Industry 4.0, 90% of it is IT and Technology, it is so huge. It is AI, robotics, Data Science, IoT, Machine Learning all of it is a part of Industry 4.0. So, if you want to run a manufacturing unit tomorrow, you better know AI. Philips runs what is called the dark factory, without lights everything is remotely managed and it is completely automated. We have started this course thinking that tomorrow's need is going to be within the IT industry.
Q. IIITs have been established in PPP mode. However, there is very little or no linkage between industry and academia. What should other institutions do?
A. I think the industry-academia link never existed in the country which is the sad part. IIITs can be an example, in our institute we have a separate committee called 'industry-academia' committee and we brought people from the industry, who work with the institute. I think the Government should make R&D in industry compulsory, I believe there is a room.
Q. If we look at endowment fund in Indian institutions, it is very less as compared to the west. What do you think about increasing it?
A. There is an increase in endowment funding and a lot of endowments is happening from IT companies today. Whether you look at TCS, WIPRO, HCL, Infosys all of them are giving endowments to IIT's. But, the older generation companies are not doing it, it's the new generation companies. The second thing is, In America, people think in my lifetime I want to give back, we need some thinking and culture in India.
Q. IIITs were started as a focused institution and as an alternative to IIT's in 2008-09? Do you think they have served their purpose?
A. As I see, the issue id the same as we have discussed before industry connect is lagging. They need to bring in the deep industry connect and that why we have a board which is different. We have different types of industry collaboration and I bring in many people from industry through my personal knowledge, to go and talk to the professors and the students. Every time the board member travels to Naya Raipur, they talk to students.