By Asoke K. Laha – President and Chief Executive Officer, Interra Information Technologies, Inc.
Let me explain what I mean by the journey “from campus to corporate”. It connotes what should be the strong connect between academics and corporations. Here the word corporation is used in a generic sense, which brings into its ambit all entities, be they government, non-governmental organizations or corporations.
Implicit in the connect between campus and corporation is the need for the former to evolve curricula that suits placement requirements of the former. Admittedly, there is a disconnect in India between the courses developed and the specifications of the jobs in demand in the industry. Let me start from the grassroots level-Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). A few years back, a survey was conducted to know what should be the ideal curricula to be developed for these institutes. It is found that of the over 100 trades being imparted in these organizations, hardly a handful of them are relevant to the industry.
For the last 25 years or so, the curricula for most of the trades remained the same, despite technology leaping forward in all these years. One can extrapolate the situation to the iconic institutions like IITs, NITs, IIITs, etc. It is necessary to introspect whether they are re-orienting their curricula to create manpower for the present-day technology era. If that is the case, why these institutions are not taking lead in introducing courses and research programs in artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things (IOTs), data analytics, genome mapping etc, which are believed to be the next level of technology that decide the course of future growth of a nation.
Employment opportunities are not alone about technology. Many other sectors need close attention. Industries such as manufacturing and agriculture are equally important in creating adequate number of jobs in the country. Our planners are aware of that, but fails to fathom how unbundling these sectors hinges on level of technology deployed. Let me explain some of the sectors that engaged only scant attention of the policy makers. Can India emerge as a key hub for legal outsourcing leveraging technology? There are many law firms in the developed world, which are keen to outsource works relating to say legal drafting and research. In a small way, it is happening in India. With the level of technology available to us, this opportunity can be scaled up considerably.
Yet, in the law schools in the country, both in the public and private sectors, hardly is there a course which is designed to promote legal outsourcing. One need to develop only soft skills for tapping the opportunities, such as drafting skills, knowledge for using digital platforms, language and writing skills to tap these enormous opportunities. Can a technology firm tie up with a law schoolor a group of schools to train students in using the technology and soft skills to penetrate into this growing area? It is only one example and there can be many such scenarios to work on.
Reaching out to newer paradigms
Another tie –up that can be envisaged is between campus and hospitals for making use of the huge data that can be mined, which is generated by the hospitals or group of hospitals in the country to arrive at the disease patterns, pathological peculiarities of people living in an area, dietary link to diseases linked to diet, customized medicines etc. For such things to happen, there should be blend of effort by campus, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and technology companies. In the process, everyone benefits. In fact, some of the untapped potentials of India can be unleashed through these types of tie-ups, which can create a number of new job opportunities, down the line in areas like data analytics, research, formulation of medicines etc.
Establishing continuous connect
Another point that needs careful consideration is the need for continuous training. This means to say that campus to corporate journey should not be a one –time game. It should a continuous cycle. There should be opportunities for an employee to continuously upgrade his or her skill. For instance, a technician should be given the opportunity to move in value chain in his career by constantly upgrading his knowledge, aptitude and capacity. There should be opportunities for returning to the campus at any time he/she likes to upgrade the knowledge. In India, there seems to be a mental block in this regard. A classic example is objections raised against creating barefoot doctors or retraining dental graduates into full fledged doctors etc. By training them or updating their already acquired knowledge, such personnel can be made sufficiently equipped to handle basic health challenges at the grassroots. This also underscores the need for maintaining continuous link between campus and corporations. In the same vein, one can talk about research also. Is there any facility in our research organizations including government laboratories for undertaking research by those who are working in the technology wings of large corporations? Presently, there is no such institutional arrangement. But such facilities can go a long way for India to move in technology chain like what is happening in the US and China.
Campus to corporations may seem to be a catchy phrase. Yet to implement it and to take it to logical end, a lot of policy adjustments and flexibilities are needed. Unfortunately, a lot of our academic institutions are working on a hierarchical basis, which hinders creativity and freedom. It is important for India to break these barriers to give primacy to knowledge acquisition and commitment to work above everything.