Today in Tech: IIT PhDs; Open Internet; Onsite CEO; e-tailing in China & More

NS Ramnath
Published: 21, Mar 2013

I have been with Forbes India since August 2008. I like writing about ideas, events and people at the intersection of business, society and technology. Prior, I was with Economic Times. I am based in Bangalore. Email:

PhDs in IITs: Not just about numbers Here are three crucial paragraphs from a nice piece on research in IITs  from today's Economic Times. These capture

a) the context in which the 'research crisis' descended on India's premier engineering institutes (They were founded in that phase of India's industrial growth in which PhDs were not the top priority, and the industries did not provide IITs an incentive to focus on research),

b) the way IITs are responding to this challenge  (which seems to be typical of any organisation: throw more resources at it. And in this case, since the problem is defined in terms of numbers ('too few PhDs'), the solution seems all the more relevant),

and c) the crucial piece that could take its agenda forward (the best analogy I can think of is the way economists approached Russia after the collapse of Soviet Union. First, privatization seemed to be the answer, and then the focus turned on institution building. In case of IITs, the attention needs to shift towards governance)

Research in engineering was an alien concept in those days. Indian industry did not need PhDs in engineering either. This changed slowly after liberalisation, as its technology industries formed and multinationals set up R&D centres in India. IITs started more serious research in the 1990s, but Indian industry had moved too quickly. By 2010, when the Kakodkar Committee was set up, the engineering institutional system in India had become too lopsided, producing a million undergraduates and 1,000 PhDs.



In just three years, the combined PhD intake of IITs has gone up from 1,000 to 3,000 a year. IIT Chennai, for example, admitted 80 PhDs in 2007, but 160 in 2012. The new IIT Hyderabad already has 212 PhD students, against its faculty strength of 100. IIT Bombay admits 450 PhD students every year; over 50% of its students are either masters or PhD students.



Shailendra Mehta, professor at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad, asked himself a question two years ago: why is Harvard Universityalways number one? In more general terms, why do American universities always rank high? The reason, Mehta concluded, is not in the money they spend but in their ways of governance. Top US universities, including public ones, are governed by their alumni.


Open Internet: Two Meanings
Open Internet has been in the news last two days thanks to Eric Schmidt.

Earlier this week we saw how the word open has become a catch all phrase that it could mean anything - not always clear, and perhaps, not always good. Open internet is one such.

At one level, it's about censorship - and I would assume Schmidt was talking mostly about this while he was in India. Governments demand companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove content for whatever reason. India, under the present government, has built a sorry reputation for itself on this front. Google's Transparency Report details removal requests and user data request by various governments. Check out India report here.

Open internet also refers to net neutrality, which in effect says that an internet service provider cannot discriminate between different types of data or platforms. For example, an ISP cannot charge more for video streaming on Youtube compared to downloading a pdf file from your Dropbox; or more for checking your facebook compared to checking the latest news on Yahoo!. Treat all data equally. Pro-net-neutrality camp, in which Google is a vocal member, argues for net neutrality, saying that's the way it has been all throughout its growth, and it's best to leave it that way. Anti-net-neutrality camp argues that it ISPs should have the freedom to price their service, much like any other business. The debate is far from over.



eCommerce in China
You might have read the engrossing dispatches on Chinese internet and e-commerce companies by Neelima Mahajan-Bansal. (They are here: A Nation of Shopping Freaks; China’s Hi-Tech Grocer; Behind the Great Firewall: a Parallel Internet Universe )

McKinsey has just brought out a report on the world's second largest e-tail market. The numbers are both interesting and staggering. Here's a sample




The benefits of being an Onsite CEO
Among the several insightful quotes in Mint profile of Francisco D'Souza, here's the one I liked. It's from Vinnie Mirchandani, a former Gartner analyst who blogs at Deal Architect, and he talks about D'Souza being based in New Jersey.

Sometimes I find some India-based CEOs to be surrounded by too many ‘yes men’, so in that sense, it has helped Frank that he is not based in India.




Also of interest

  • Facebook Targeted in U.S. as Asian Chat App Line Invades | Bloomberg
  • Blackstone asks Oracle's Hurd if he wants to run Dell | Reuters
  • Google’s Keep Could Take On Both Pinterest And Evernote, If It Gets The Google+ Social Plumbing | Techcrunch
  • The Raspberry Pi Dynamic Headlight Can Tell You How Fast You’re Cycling | Techcrunch


  • Today in Tech: IIT PhDs; Open Internet; Onsite CEO; e-tailing in China & More - Forbes India (blog) | News For Internet Web Freedom and Net Neutrality |

    [...] Today in Tech: IIT PhDs; Open Internet; Onsite CEO; e-tailing in China & More Forbes India (blog) Open internet also refers to net neutrality, which in effect says that an internet service provider cannot discriminate between different types of...  [...]

    on Mar 22, 2013
  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh

    Excellent analysis on Ph.Ds in IITs. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    on Mar 22, 2013
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