IITs and Asia in 2020

In recent years as world’s attention is drawn to Asia and its rising giant India with Indian professionals becoming increasingly visible across the globe, it is only natural that some of the luminaries among Indian Diaspora and local think tanks gather under the auspices of iconic Indian Institute of Technology to discuss on how they could deepen their impact in the coming decade.

Coming close on the heels of  the earlier month’s PBD a conference themed “IIT Everywhere-Asia 2020” held in Shangri-la hotel on the 22nd Nov,2008. in partnership with Contact Singapore ,had speakers and delegates to discuss on a diverse range of  topics  – leadership, education to technology and development.

At the opening, the guest of honor Dr. Vivien Balakrishnan, exemplified the role of the Indian professionals played in the fast developing Singapore’s economy and welcomed the inflow of more Indian professionals stating that India’s vast resource of talent from Institutions like IITs could easily “plug and play” in the meritocratic society of Singapore.

The  Leadership track  took off  on a  serious note as Kishore Mahbubani Dean of Lee kuan yew school of public policy posed a challenge to the audience to find solutions for the problems like global warming, global financial crisis being faced by the world today that were actually  the  result of globalization. “The call of the hour is the need for Global Leadership by the nation states which could transcend the national borders and, he added, “a leadership that has more substance than style.”

The Editor of The Hindu Mr. N.Ravi gave the example of Coalition politics, a political leadership style that was accommodative and “adapted to the changing needs of the times”.

As education permeates every aspect of the social fabric, the academics from the IITs in India and also from Singapore mused on the evolving educational landscapes by Indians in the global arena. The best example is the Global Indian Foundation with its network of International schools, GIIS.

While overseas IITians’ remittance to their country has received increased Indian government’s adulation lately, how could the educationists gathered there leave out the topic of the need to raise the remuneration for the teaching staff which could go a long way in producing better students and better engineers in the coming decade?   With future’s dynamic markets and rising need for speed and flexibility, they felt, it is of utmost importance to explore and exploit technology fronts. While IIT prepares a student to face the world with newly acquired skills, the ability to think and solve problems is something that gives him an extra edge

The technology and development tracks further gave impetus to the heat that had already gathered in the previous sessions. The speakers included luminary alumnus like DK Sharma of Citigroup and Jeet Bindra of Chevron Corporation and ADB Managing Director General Mr. Rajat Nag. Technology and the connectivity in the previous decade being the basis of the now widespread global warming and global terrorism they called for more investments in R&D and innovation particularly in green technologies and alternative energy sources. As innovation and R&D shifts from US and Europe to Asian countries like India and China, IP(Intellectual Property) asset management will gain more importance, Prof. Hang Chang Chieh  told the assembled audience. Creating new wealth and finding opportunities in financial and trading will become more critical, he added.

Mr. Bindra said that as India rises as an economic giant, Indians and particularly IITians should work harder with highest professional and ethical conduct to break some common stereotypes associated with Indians

Girija Pande, TCS Head Asia Pacific threw light on the developments in India in the past decade in the technology arena and highlighted some of the discoveries and breakthroughs achieved in Indian laboratories in biotechnology.He said, while giving as a word of advice that corporate social responsibility should be imbibed by each and every professional in all their dealings that should transcend the profits.

Mobile technology and ICT have helped in improvement in land records and banking among the Indian rural population, said Sanjaya Baru, former Media adviser to the Indian PM and now professor at LKY school of public policy while reiterating the increased need for good governance for making use of technology and human capacity in India’s changing demographics among working population and particularly by 2020 when education and health care of the ageing population will become more important. . Most important of all he said success lies in solving some of India’s deep rooted problems of poverty and chronic problem of water shortage.

Unless new capital markets are found and investments done in the education, health and environment take precedence over technology it could be story of doom, cautioned Prof.Bernard Yeung, dean of Business school, NUS.

Mr. Rajat Nag ‘s upbeat forecast depicted India with its 35 trillion dollar investment and per capita of 20,000 dollars in the year 2040 as a richer economy by when centre of gravity of world’s economy would have shifted to Asia with G-7 economies taking up 40% of global activity. Nevertheless, in spite of rapid urbanization in the past decade, poor and vulnerable in rural areas are likely to get poorer unless increase in agricultural productivity, export, careful infrastructure planning, human capital management in rural towns, rural policies and institutions are given topmost priority in the coming decade, he added.

The IIT tidbits team had a chance to interview Mr Rajat Nag, the Managing Director General of Asian Development Bank during the IIT Everywhere Asia 2020 Conference, where he was the keynote speaker for the Development 2020 track.

Below are some of the highlights from the interview:

  1. How will the economic recession impact the Asian Countries esp. India & China ?

Ans: Mr. Nag sees fairly good amount of growth happening in the Asian countries, esp. India & China relative to the other nations; even though the growth rate may not be as high as the last 5 yr GDP average. Though the overall market sentiment may not be good; these countries will not get into recession.

Mr. Nag added that it would take around 4-6 quarters for the growth rate to pick up in the Asian countries, but would take longer for the West to pick up. Also, he sees China and India as the drivers for growth in Asia, and Asia being the driver for gowth for the Western nations.

What can India do to survive in this period of recession? Also, what will be its impact on the Indian outsourcing industry?

Ans: Two key things which India can do to beat the recession sentiment would be to raise the domestic consumption and invest in the infrastructure development. Mr. Nag said that India needs to spend at least 9% of its GDP to develop its infrastructure. Also, the government should recognize that India & China have a large population in the rural sector which offers a great potential for growth. The Asian banks are well capitalized and are in good shape. Also, savings rate is higher in Aisa as compared to the rest of the world. All these factors would contribute to its growth during this tough period. ASEAN also holds the key to overcoming the financial crisis.

The Indian outsourcing industry would still flourish despite the recession since India offers a cost advantage over other nations.

Mr. Nag also mentioned that as an IITian, he is a strong believer in technology and has faith that technology would go a long way in overcoming the poverty in rural India.


  1. What is your take on the new Indonesian model of giving more autonomy to the state government to add value to the economy by helping them save time on the processes of approvals from the central government?

Ans. “Decentralization can lead to fragmentation.” Thus, even though some level of decentralization is good, there is still a need of a national framework to look at certain areas, more so in a huge country like India.

Would you like to share something on ADB’s focus on poverty & rural development in Asia-Pacific region?

Ans:  ADBs focus is to contribute towards reducing poverty in its member countries to be able to give a better quality of life to people. Despite some spectacular progress over the last few decades, the region remains home to two thirds of the world’s poor. The number of people living in absolute poverty remains over 900 million. We would continue to focus on the growth and social development of the poor in the Asia-Pacific region. I believe our achievement is not so much ADBs achievement. It’s rather Asia’s achievement.

What is your perception on the IIT Everywhere Conference?

Ans: The conference was a good platform to exchange ideas, with apt topics chosen like Leadership, Education, Development and Technology. I am pleased that we IITians did not just focus on talking about IIT. However, we focused on bigger problems and talked about the rest of the world. Today’s session was a rich one and I would like to congratulate the IITAAS team for this success.






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