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Talent across the board,at the highest level

by Vijay Garg
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(India Needs a whole lot More than IITs)
Kudos to all the students of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) being grabbed by companies from around the world for fancy salaries. It is a sign that economies are recovering, that many activities are getting ever more quantitatively rigorous, calling for intelligent minds honed by teachers and peers at institutions of excellence. At the same time, it is also a sign that our educational system and its centres of excellence are producers of expensive waste.
Waste it is when a student trained to be a chemical or materials engineer gets into quant trading on the capital market, instead of contributing to frontier areas of research in biotechnology or nanotechnology. Waste it is when budding talent that could have approached problems around them with a fresh eye, the vigour of youth and the confidence and connections arising from having been trained at some of the finest institutions of their kind, abandon a feasible path of entrepreneurship that solves problems or invents new services and, instead, chooses to toil away at problems chosen for them by someone else. If this employer is willing to pay so much for my abilities, how much more valuable would I be if I were to work for myself, says the hero of the movie, Guru. Of course, not every graduate can be expected to think like that. But, surely, India needs to create an ecosystem where more students would take the plunge into the exciting, uncertain world of potential riches and potential failure, along the startup route.
For occupations that demand high-level skills in mathematics, statistical modelling and coding, India should create a new breed of elite institutions, so that much-needed engineering talent goes to engineering, without starving quant trading of new stars. If India is to succeed in new areas of industry, it needs brilliant engineers, as well as those who excel in maths and science, besides an upsurge in aesthetic creativity. Talent has to be nurtured at the highest level, across the board. The placement success of IITs is proof that we need to look beyond IITs.

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