The growth of Bhubaneswar as an Information technology Mecca has been marked by an impressive presence of top-notch firms in the services sector. Big names like Wipro and Infosys have staked long-term positions in this peaceful haven on the eastern coast of India.
But, the growth has largely been limited to the presence of the few firms mentioned above. In the recent past reports have surfaced that Mindtree has been planning a large-scale presence in the software sector in the state capital. This is an extremely encouraging proposition, since, Mindtree even though a services sector company, has, got it's focus on a niche set of skills, which, are particularly in demand for the Product sector of the IT boom.
IT can be broadly divided into two segments.
The true potential for an IT revolution is actually realized, when, product sector companies make a beeline to open shop in a destination. The start of the IT revolution in Bangalore was heralded by the opening of a center by Texas Instruments in 1984. When questioned by various skeptics on the feasibility of opening a company in an untried location, the company honchos replied that, they wanted to utilize the research potential in combination of the hospitable climate of Bangalore. They also wanted to leverage the high-quality talent of that destination. They could not have been more correct. Today, Bangalore is described as the next Silicon Valley of the world. What were the factors?
a) Availability of huge research potential due to high-caliber institutes like DRDO, ISRO etc.
b) High and easy availability of talent from the many engineering colleges in Bangalore.
c) The diverse nature of the talent, since, students from all over India came to study in Bangalore.
d) The presence of a top-notch Institution like the Indian institute of Sciences.
Now, let us come to the next success story i.e. Hyderabad.
Hyderabad was a medium-term success story with the presence of many software majors in the late 90's. A couple of top-notch presences like Oracle and DeShaw are present in the city. Perhaps, what also helped the IT story were the following reasons.
a) A top-10 institute like REC Warangal not more than 2 hours from the City (By train).
b) The huge presence of Telugu Diaspora in many IT companies in India and abroad.
Perhaps, the big thing that happened was that Microsoft choose Hyderabad as the location for setting up its India development centre. This created a cascading effect on other companies.
After that, everyone wanted to set up shop in Hyderabad. The theory was that, if Hyderabad was able to have talent for the best company (arguably) in the world, so can, we set up shop there.
The crux for every state government is to be able to provide the right set of answers for the fundamental questions being asked by IT companies.
Today, Bhubaneswar is poised to make a jump, which will, bring it in the front-runners of education in the country. As of today, a number of Institutes have been planned to either being set up or are in various stages of operation in the state.
a) NISER -: This is the National Institute of Science and Educational Research. This is mandated to be the basic science equivalent of an IISc (Indian Institute of Sciences).
Status: Operational in the IOP (Indian Institute of Physics) campus.
b) IIT-: This is the Indian Institute of technology. As of a week back, the foundation stone of this institute was set-up at Argul, Jatni. Jatni is about 20 kms from Bhubaneswar.
Status: Operational in IIT kharagpur. Moving to off-campus IIT Bhubaneswar by next academic year. Main Institute planned to be completely running by 2013.
c) KIT -: Kalinga Institute of Technology. This is the highest ranked institute in Odisha among privately ranked institutions. The vice-chancellor of this institute, Achyuta Samanta has been appointed as a member of University Grants Commission, AICTE.
Status: Completely operational.
d) Central University -: According to a proposal by HRD ministry, Bhubaneswar has been allotted a Central University along the lines of JNU and Osmania University. This will be operational in 2013.
e) World Class University. -: According to the proposal by the Central government . a world class private university with funding from private groups will also be set-up in the vicinity of BBSR-Cuttack metropolitan region.
Lastly, but possibly the foremost one, there is a MOU signed by the GOO (Government of Orissa) to envisage creation of a world-class university in the Marine drive between Puri and Konark. This university to be on the scale of a world-class university like a Stanford University or a Harvard. The investment to be expected is to the tune of 5,000 crores INR or $1 Billion only by the founder himself. Another $2 Billion will be generated through external investors. The planning and architecture has been provided to Ayers-Saint Gross, a renowned architecture expert in USA, with consultation of Hafiz Contractor to provide an Indian perspective. This is expected to come up in a land of approx. 7000 acres.
The crux of the matter is that, if all these things above (Indeed some of the above are functioning), fructify, then, BBSR, will not just become the educational hot-spot of India. But, this could translate into greater investment in IT growth.
What are the advantages of having such educational institutions?
a) These could be used as leverage to show-case the potential for talent in Bhubaneswar-Cuttack metropolitan region.
b) The presence of high-quality talent can spur the drive for higher entrepreneurship at the local level.
At the end of the story, you can have job growth only through higher levels of entrepreneurship from local populace.
I think, the key issue being observed is the progress of completion of the Vedanta University in Odisha. Once, that institute comes up, then, we will have dynamic ripple effect across the region.
A point to be understood is that, as a location, Bhubaneswar is extremely well-connected. It is at the focal point of the Howrah-Chennai highway. The infrastructure is fairly decent. A Vision 2020 plan has been formulated for the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar metropolitan area.
Cuttack is a historical town, about 20 odd kms from Bhubaneswar. It is connected by a high quality National highway. It is home to the high court, a top-notch deemed university called Ravenshaw university. Also, another high-level educational institution called Sri Sri Sai University is coming up in Cuttack, Naraj.
The downside in this story has been the dismal performance of the local Odiya people in the top level engineering entrance examinations. The IIT is the foremost bachelor degree technical institution in the country. The number of students that join IIT seems to have a direct relationship with the rate of development of that place. All indications tell us that, Andhra Pradesh is the IIT capital of the country. The number of their students who join IIT far surpasses any other state at this point.
Now, even the NIT (previously REC) has come under a National level exam. The quota per state still remains, but, the exam for these institutes has become a common one across the country. The performance of Odiya students has been dismal in these top-level exams. The appreciable population in the state should ideally have at least 100 graduates. This number in the previous dispensation would be hard to reach. The lone bright spot is the performance of Rourkela students. They garner even today, most of the seats in the 1st attempt.
An effort needs to be made to understand:
a) The stark difference in performance between Rourkela students and the rest of the state.
b) Understanding the education which does not benefit the students from the higher secondary educational system.
A study of the current state government syllabus will outline, that, there is serious stress on rote learning and ability to garner marks in board exams. This, instead of stimulating, actually inhibits
a) Creative growth
b) Applying the concepts on problem-solving and real-time situations.
Science as a stream undergoes a vast jump from Secondary (10th) to Higher Secondary ( 10 + 2). This requires careful nurturing of talent to optimize their utilization potential.
There is a desperate need to start top-level coaching institutes which can cater to IIT level coaching. The presence of Professors from IIT BBSR will help the effort. But, a lot more needs to be done to bring it on par with centers like Kota or Hyderabad.
Also, a serious overhaul of the educational system is required so, that, focus does more a little bit more on application of concepts, as opposed to rote learning.
If some major steps in this direction are taken, it would not be extravagant to claim that Bhubaneswar will be a top IT destination in the country in another 10 years.
The author is an IT professional.
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