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March 23, 2019

Srishti, the Annual Technical Exhibition of IIT Roorkee, held on 9th-10th March 2019 marked its Diamond Jubilee this year. The students of our campus showcased their talents and prowess in a plethora of avocations of technology such as Modelling & Robotics, Motion Gaming, Artificial Intelligence, Quadcopters, Electronics, Astronomy etc. This year Srishti instituted corporate and industrial relations and invited various dignitaries as Honorary Guests. Sanjay Peshin, Asia-Pacific Head of Tata Consultancy Services was the Chief Guest and Madhukar Sharma, Pan-India Chairman of American Society for Mechanical Engineering, was the Guest of Honour for the inaugural ceremony. The Director, IIT Roorkee, was also present at the ceremony.

The Inauguration ceremony, held at the New SAC building, began with the felicitation of the invited guests followed by the lamp lighting ceremony. Ankit Alok Bagaria, GS Technical Affairs, addressed the gathering and invited the Director for his keynote. In his speech, he stressed the need for evolution of Srishti’s vision and said that the primary metric to judge an individual project is innovation. He also motivated the crowd to build projects that can secure business incubation through TIDES IIT Roorkee, thus setting a higher benchmark for upcoming editions. The Director’s address was followed by keynotes from the invited Chief Guests.

Mr Madhukar Sharma encouraged the students to gear up for the fourth Industrial revolution and made the audience realise how Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will be equivalent to the Oil Industry in the coming years. He also mentioned various research fellowship programs under the ASME and motivated the students to pursue those.

Mr Sanjay Peshin shared the experiences of his long career and expressed his concern on the declining relationship between academia and Industry. He introduced students to the industrial applications of Machine Learning and AI through practical problems which form a major part in the R&D sector. He also talked about the business aspects of industrial innovation. Watch Out got a chance to interview Mr Peshin who further expressed the need to bring the innovation to industry and make it available to consumers.

Watch Out: Greetings Sir! How has your experience been with the exhibition and projects so far?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: It’s an excellent exhibition! I saw a variety of interesting projects that the kids came up with and in many cases, I realised that they were actually at par with what the industry is looking for. The challenge we face from the perspective of the industry is that the academia is still working on very theoretical projects. To convert them into business opportunities seems like a distant task but the projects that the students displayed have immediate business applications. I highly appreciate it!

Srishti’19 witnessed the exhibition of over 100 projects under STC, 10 projects from different campus groups and 4 self-made projects with a rise of about 50 percent in the number of projects from the last edition. This year, two projects, named Laser Harp from ArIES and AR-based map projector from MaRS, received a cash prize of Rs 5000 for the best innovation from the Design Innovation Center of IIT Roorkee.

Watch Out: In your address, you talked a lot about the relevance of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the fourth industrial revolution. Do you think an undergraduate degree from IIT in a stream such as AI would be useful?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: I believe that an undergrad degree should help a child to build his breadth of knowledge rather than going into a specific domain or subject. I don’t think a second or a third-year student has really understood what he actually wants to pursue. A specialised degree seems a little premature at this point of time. When I look at engineers, I look at them being able to solve a breadth of problems. Specialisation happens over a period of time, it is not what I would want students to start with. From an engineering industry perspective, an engineer has the knowledge of product design which includes both mechanics, mechatronics, electronics and software. Masters programme comes into play where we say okay I have a fundamental ground knowledge of what all is happening and then go into the specialisation.

Watch Out: With ever increasing automation in today’s industries and at the same time increased generation of skilled labour, what are your predictions for job opportunities in the future?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: I think job opportunities for skilled labour will keep on increasing. When we talk about automation we are talking more from a mundane job perspective instead of a skilled job perspective. The industry still requires skilled labour and domain understanding but the mundane repetitive jobs could be relooked and revamped. I’ll give you a very simple example. Look at an automatic quality inspection done for a consumer company. Till date, they had an inspection process which was more labour oriented. A person picks up a sample looks at the quality and then decides if its good or not and today we have put up an image based quality analysis. So now you have a 100% quality sampling happening, 100% inspection happening. To me, these are repetitive mundane jobs which have to be evolved. But someone still needs to teach the program what image is good or bad. So here we’ll need the skilled labour in the quality inspection process and the jobs won’t die but shift to a new domain.

Watch Out: Does the fact that now Indians cannot move to the US due to H1 Visa restrictions affect our jobs?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: The restrictions that have been brought up by the US are more towards the unskilled labour perspective. I think they still are very open and are looking at a lot of skilled labour to come. From the skilled labour perspective, I don’t see that as a challenge. From unskilled labours yes that would be. But then the US is only one global market there are a lot of other global markets which are open to talented people in technology. Last year, Japan has apparently issued a public notice saying that they need about 2 lakh engineers and they are more than happy to have engineers from India who can relocate to Japan and work there. Another thing I believe in is that opportunities in India itself are abundant. With Make in India campaign being given a thrust, we are seeing a very positive acceptance of Industry 4.0 based components or technology in the Indian manufacturing market. The need for skilled talent in India itself will increase.

Watch Out: You had a look at our projects in Srishti. Can you suggest any programs or collaborative measures that can bridge the gap between students, innovation and industry?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: This is a point that I made yesterday as well - you should bring out the business usage of the technology that you are developing. If you don’t understand why am you are doing a particular thing, that becomes a gap. The articulation of business usage is something which I feel should be improved. Students being in an IIT are obviously great at technology but when you talk to the industry, you should know about the application of your innovation and how is it different from what already exists. I talked to a few students who developed drones that are available in a toy store today. It was a novelty 15 years ago. What new thing have they done that makes it a unique product. Students need to address- “What is my differentiating factor?”

Watch Out: But isn’t that where the industry comes in?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: Yes, it is the industry that takes the idea to the market, but unless you articulate well about what it can do, the industry won’t know. As soon as I heard the boys I was able to visualise the possibilities of their models but had it been someone who had to rush through things if he is not able to hear the keywords he will possibly miss the link.

Watch Out: Right now in our college, we have the technology and raw talent, and companies like TCS take students from here and bridge the innovation-industry gap that we have been talking about. What would your idea be of taking the student itself to the finished level?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: TCS has something which we call an academic interface plan. We have a team which actually interfaces with universities and colleges to develop various plans. In the southern parts of India experts from TCS sit with the universities to define the curriculum because we understand that what comes out of college is not necessarily industry ready. So as we talked about AI and ML and whether that should be a full-time curriculum those are the things that we discuss with educational institutes. We discuss the expectations of a student when he comes out of college and how can they be cultivated through the curriculum.

So what we do is that when you are hired in TCS there is a three-month induction plan. In this plan typically what we do is we would have earmarked students for a certain set of businesses or a certain technology. So we train them to lessen the gap between the theory and the industry, the academia and the industry. We train them for this and then start inducting them on how to get going in those spaces. But that happens after you join the organisation. In academia, the best we can do is suggest what would help from a curriculum perspective.

Watch Out: Speaking of academia, do you think that research not for the market, not for consumption for consumers is not required research?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: That’s a wrong way to state that research is not required but if the intent at some point of time is to not commercialise, it doesn’t add value to the ecosystem. It is for your interest rather than for a result. Whether it needs to be commercial or not is not the point of debate. The researcher might not have the end product in mind but if he couldn’t think of an application of his research/innovation then that research doesn’t make sense. Understand that the end product is the summation of lots of small researches that happen and somebody needs to be orchestrating them. Not each of the small innovation would end up into a commercial product but they would end up as a component of the end product.

Watch Out: A general trend that is observed in Roorkee is that it is geographically disprivileged as compared to places like Delhi and Bombay. This poses a challenge in the sense that even though the talent is available, the companies don’t want to come here. How do you think our students can circumvent that?

Mr Sanjay Peshin: If you had asked me this question thirty to forty years ago that would have been a challenge. But today in this age of social media and instant communication I think branding can help your institute a lot. Social media is only one way of doing it. I don’t see communication as a challenge today. What I see the real challenge is branding. Are you branding yourself sufficiently strongly through the social media platforms available? You are a technology institute so obviously, you have a lot of technological talent and you could have many communication opportunities across the country. Industries are actually looking for institutes to come forward and share knowledge and information. Collaborative innovation is something which cannot be done by a single entity. You will need various entities to come together and build an innovation. And therefore in our group of partners, we have included educational institutions as well as startups to be a part of the innovation process.

The valedictory function, at the end of day 2, marked the successful end of the techno-scientific exhibition. Ankit Alok Bagaria, GS Technical Affairs, addressed the audience, thanking the Dean SRIC office for making Srishti‘19 possible and the DIC for presenting cash prizes. The Guest of Honour for the Valedictory function was Mr R. P. Singh, Director, Directorate of Forest who implored the students to use technology to produce marketable products. His address was followed by keynotes from the various Guests of Honour. All the dignitaries present in the function appreciated the work of the students for successfully managing and conducting the Sci-Tech exhibition and thanked all the corporate delegates and guests who were present during the Fest. The function concluded with the award distribution to the winners and felicitation of the managing team of Srishti’19.