Indian Engineers take Silicon Valley

Satya NadellaSatya Nadella’s appointment as Microsoft’s new CEO highlights the worldwide success of Indian engineers. Steve Ballmer’s successor is the latest in an increasingly long line of Indians who have triumphed in western firms, like Vinod Dham, father of the Pentium chip; Kanwal Rekhi and Vinod Khosla, founders of several firms including Excelan and Sun Microsystems; Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail and Vikram Pandit, former CEO of Citigroup.

These are only some of the Indian stars now shining in the technology firmament. According to several Stanford University studies, Indians have been founders of 13.4% of Silicon Valley start-ups and 6.5% of technology start-ups in the USA in the last ten years. Although they represent only 1% of the country’s population, they have founded one in three of the technology start-ups created by immigrants.

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Some of this success can be put down to the excellent seedbed nursery provided by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), created by Jawarhalal Nehru. Independent India’s first president promoted this network of universities with the longsighted aim of preparing the new generation of excellent leaders that the emerging nation now needed.

Nehru certainly fulfilled his aim and the IITs have spawned many of the world’s great technology leaders.

The difficult thing is getting in: in 2012 the Joint Entrance Examination for the 16 IITs whittled down 500,000+ candidates to only 10,000 successful entrants. It is in all likelihood the world’s toughest university entrance filter, with a success rate of only 2% as compared with the MIT’s 8.2% or Harvard’s 10% over the same period.

Once inside, the academic standards are still sky high. Narayana Murthy, founder of the software giant Infosys and dubbed the Bill Gates of India, had to send his son to Cornell after he was rejected by IIT. The Ivy League as plan B. Vinod Koshla also acknowledges that “When I finished IIT Delhi and went to Carnegie Mellon for my master’s, I thought I was cruising all the way because it was so easy relative to the education I had got at IIT.”

Everything comes at a price. Critics like the Indian Nobel-prize winner for economic science, Amartya Sen, author of the Human Development Theory, claims that the opportunity cost of Nehru’s creation of the IITs was the lack of a top-quality public primary education for hundreds of millions of the country’s youngsters.

India’s primary education problem is lingering on without any solution in sight. According to UNICEF, 20% of children aged 6 to 14 do not go to school and over 90 million Indian women are illiterate.

Even higher technical education outside the IITs, both public and private, still has a long way to go. According to the Indian consulting firm Knowledgefaber, over half of India’s engineering graduates in 2012 lacked the necessary skills for joining the job market.

Small wonder, then, that India’s major technology corporations, both domestic and foreign, run their own demanding entrance exams quite apart from the candidates’ academic qualifications.

The budding number of software-development hotbeds (Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Navi Mumbai,…), the demand for technological solutions to cater for home consumption and India’s geostrategic situation with strong bonds with the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Asia and the Commonwealth are now attracting multinationals from the US (Accenture, Boeing) Europe (Siemens, GMV) and Asia (Fujitsu, Samsung).

Author: Iker Estébanez

Country Manager India. TRM Business Management South Asia

Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV
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