Most of the IITs have benefited tremendously from international exposure
because they were established with the help of partner countries. IIT Bombay (IITB),
located in plush surroundings by the side of the Powai lake, is no exception.
The institute had its Russian connection in the initial days with teachers going
to Moscow for training and campus computers giving error warnings prefaced with
There is also a story of how IITB’s first mainframe computer–a
Russian-built Minsk II–which it got in 1968, "filled the entire floor of
a building" and how Indian students wrote their own operating system to
turn the behemoth into a primitive multimedia computer.
However, even if IITB had an undertone of socialist Soviet influence in its
initial days, its ideological volte-face in becoming a strong votary of market
economics has been remarkable. Today the institute, which boasts of business
leaders like Nandan Nilekani, Gururaj Deshpande, Kanwal Rekhi and Bharat Desai
(CEO Syntel) as its alumni, is the undisputed leader amongst all IITs in
fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship. It even has a Center for Research in
Entrepreneurship (CARE) that has played a stellar role in incubating ventures
from IITians. The list includes names like iPortia that attracted VC funding
from Rakesh Mathur of Junglee.com fame as well as MyZus that got commitment of
$150 million from another high-profile investor, which has not happened so far.
While IITs in general have confined themselves to shaping brilliant technical
minds, IITB was the first not to shy away from grooming them to be billionaires.
"Our ambition is to have a TCS, Wipro, Infosys from our campus one
day," says Dr. D B Phatak, who heads the Kanwal Rekhi School of Information
While IITB has thus earned a reputation of being an entrepreneurial hub, it
has also been branded, many believe wrongly, as an institute with the trappings
of a five-star hotel.
This has got the institute under the stentorian scanner of the former HRD
minister Murli Manohar Joshi who threatened cuts in government aids.
However, even if there is a five-star culture in IITB, no one can accuse the
institute of lacking social conscience. Nothing illustrates this better than the
way the entire IITB rallied behind demanding an investigation into the murder of
Satyendra Dubey, an alumnus, in the Golden Quadrilateral scam.
In fact, the extremely pro-active IITB alumni has been responsible for a
number of centers within the institute–other than CARE, this would include the
Kanwal Rekhi School of Information Technology and the Shailesh Mehta School
Other than this, IITB also boasts of first-rate specialization centers like
the School of Bio-Sciences and Bio-Engineering, Industrial Design Center (IDC)
Center for Aerospace Systems Design and Engineering (CASDE), Center for
Formal Design and Verification of Software (CFDVS), Regional Sophisticated
Instrumentation Center (RSIC) and Advance Center for Research in Electronics
(ACRE) among others.
Says IDC Prof. GV Shreekumar, "This is a one of its kind center in India
teaching among others esoteric concepts like human-computer interface; very few
institutes in the world can be compared to us." No wonder, Dr. Phatak calls
IITB better than "MIT, Princeton and Harvard put together."
Not only entrepreneurship, IITB also scores in R&D. However, it ensures
that all research activities are strongly grounded with industry realities–this
is done by forming tie-ups with several leading companies/bodies like TCS,
Compaq, Tata Infotech, TIFR, NTPC and Lucent Technologies among others.
With nearly 40% of IITB alumni now settled in the US, a large portion of them
can be found in the world’s leading labs like MIT, Stanford, Intel Research
Lab or IBM. Still, there is a lingering concern especially amongst the
old-timers–the lure of entrepreneurship is gradually driving away the students
from research, as shown by the drop in the number of PhDs.