Chairman's Speech

Video Format

Kiran KarnikOur chief guest, Pankaj Jalote, graduating students, guardians, faculty, staff of the institute, invited guests, good evening and let me first say what a pleasure and honor it is to be here for the 5th Convocation of this institute. I think we have reached one more landmark. Every year is a landmark and every year we find some new landmark.

The 5th is another kind of landmark, the fifth convocation and I do see how the Institute has grown over time. You heard the Director just give a report of how things have moved and where things are and I think he has summarized extremely well, and with some modesty where the Institute is. And I do want to reiterate once again as I always do because stressing it any number of times is not enough is that this Institute, in a very very short time, has created a name for itself because the leadership that Professor Jalote provides and the fantastic faculty that we've had, supported by a staff that very much understands what the academic needs are and how they should be fulfilled.

It's for this reason that we've been able to attract very bright students like you who have worked hard over the years here and are going out into the world today in different ways to create a bigger and better name for the institute because ultimately, in the first years, a number of factors determine what an institute stands for, what research it does counts for a great deal, the names of the faculty members and their backgrounds count. But over a period of time, all that is taken for granted and what matters is the quality of its alumni, how well they're doing and what they're doing: I think both are important. And I'll come back to that in a moment.

I just want to spend a moment or two on reflecting on what, you know, many of you would've seen, many of you would've experienced, but people from my age group have really seen this telescope into a very short period of time and that is the change that we're seeing in the world around us, most spectacularly in India, where in the course of a generation, we have moved probably a century. Most visible, of course, is in the area of technology, and that's something which is moving so rapidly, changing so rapidly that it's impossible to predict where you're going to be tomorrow.

It's very difficult to say what kind of devices, what methods, what mechanisms, what structures, what jobs there may be in the world of tomorrow. And we see this every day. Just today many of you would've read about something that's been in the making for a while, but now you're seeing it literally on the road, and that is the first pilot of a driverless taxi launched in Singapore. And doubtless, you could've seen many more. And the particular change which you're seeing now is not just that things are changing but they're changing very rapidly. And this has implications for all of us, for each one of us, and for the country itself. Things are moving fast.

People, very naturally are expecting things to move fast and are becoming impatient, which is why if some of you read the lecture which was given by the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore yesterday, the first transforming India lecture, he put it very nicely in terms which all of you would understand. He said India has now scored in fours and sixes and what he meant is that the normal rate of growth, what used to be very negatively called when I was growing up, the Hindu rate of growth of 2-3% a year is not enough. And as he put it very well and statistically very visible, even if we grow between 8 and 10 % a year for the next 20 years, we will not catch up even with China's per capita GDP, leave alone of the more developed countries.

And I think that tells you that the country has no choice but to grow very rapidly and to move quickly. And this is to do not just with economic prosperity and wealth which is very important, but it also has to do with the wellbeing of our people because when you grow, you can grow over a long period only if you take care of the basics in the country, including most particularly health and education.

Health is an area which we are all aware of and the problems there are known and I don't want to dwell on them, but education is a key area. And education at all levels. Certainly, we need core, basic education at the school level, which is critical and country after country has shown how important it is and how it affects their development, including the economic development, but we also need to keep up in today's world, higher level education. Education at the University level, and research which opens new doors, understands new technologies, is able to adapt to them, and importantly, creates new technologies, required for our needs, our context, and our people. And I think these are the kind of needs that research institutions fulfill.

But most importantly, again, an academic institution combines some of these in ways that provide synergy. The interaction between education, outreach which helps you to understand what true problems are, and research: this interaction amongst these creates the synergy that creates great new things that, as you just heard Pankaj put so well, looks at specific problems which you are geared to solve. And you're geared to solve them because you have the educational background, the skills and you gotta combine that in a way which looks at real problems and begins to solve them.

I think this is one of the things we begin to see in this country, as we need to move forward rapidly, as we face the kind of problems some of which sometimes seem overpowering, but which we know can be sorted out, and many of which can be solved, not by technology by itself, but technology in combination with a whole host of social and human factors which need to be taken into account. But very clearly, as we move ahead, technology is going to be the underpinning for a great deal of what we do, and going to be an engine for the driver of growth of this country as it is indeed becoming in countries around the world.

And it's in this context that those of you who are graduating today and moving on, either for further education or to research or to jobs need to look at what it means to you and how it affects you and what is going to happen to you. One critical factor was already mentioned in Pankaj's talk and that is innovation. I talk of this every year because it's a great favorite and I think it's critical to the well-being of societies, communities, countries. If you don't innovate today, you'll probably not survive in tomorrow's world. Competition is intense.

Globalization has brought even more competition, and you can't survive in globalization unless you create something new all the time, which means innovating. Innovating to find solutions to current problems, innovating for the future. And it's no wonder therefore that as we look around the world today, and look at the companies that have been most successful, if you look at the top ten companies by market capitalization today, you'll find that 8 out of 10, maybe 7 depending on how you count one of them. Seven of the ten most highly capitalized companies in the world today, which means those which are most valuable are tech companies.

Most of which have really been born and seen fruition in this century, they are not old companies and companies that have grown and built over the years, they're new companies which have grown rapidly mainly in this century. Some of them were established before the year 2000 but they've clearly seen growth now. The bigger among them are much more recent, so if you look at names very familiar to you, you'll see companies like Amazon, like Facebook, like Google, like Microsoft, all of which figure in the top ten, all of which are recent technology companies. And increasingly you're seeing companies which come up with completely new concepts and new business models, the sharing model, the platform model.

Companies like Uber, so which is the biggest transport company in the world today: it's a company that owns no transport vehicles of its own, it's Uber. Which is the one that handles the most retail with no brick and mortar retail? It's not the big ones you hear of, it's really Amazon. And you can give example after example of which are the biggest companies in their field today which are really tech companies which have moved on to that. If you look at the old field, comparatively old: automobiles, the most valuable automobile company is not General Motor or Ford, which I grew up with, not even Volkswagen, not even Toyota, it is Tesla. That's because of new technology, the valuations are very high.

And I think the lesson here is, it's not just to go by market capitalization or what the market says, the market certainly sends you signals, and I think there is clearly an indication of the value of what is perceived and seen. What does this mean for you, what does it mean at the individual level? And I think many many lessons you can draw from it which I have to give to each one of you, but I think one of the very important lessons is which comes not just from the recent thing but which comes from history, it comes from biology, it comes from evolution, It is adaptation. You've heard about innovation and adaptation. Can you adapt to a changing context, to changing needs, to new skills and new knowledge? And that's something which is critical.

You've seen this in the evolution of species over years, those of you with a biology background or a biology interest would recognize that species that don't adapt, die. As they say, dead as a dodo. Species that adapt survive and do better. So adaptation in a changing world, in a changing context, in a changing environment is as critical as being innovative. The other one, which is an individual trait, which I would suggest each one of you think about, and adopts if you like is, in a cliche, how high you go, the altitude depends on the attitude.

The attitude towards work, towards life, towards your co-workers, towards your team, towards people. It's all about attitude. If you have high skills and are very smart and clever, but don't have the right attitude, it's frankly going to be difficult in a career. On the other hand, if you have the right attitude, but don't necessarily have the skills yet, don't necessarily have the knowledge, if you have the right attitude, you can go and learn them, you can pick them up. Motivation, as Pankaj mentioned, comes from attitude. So it's something just worth thinking about as you look at the changing world, and I've painted a very brief picture of that, and where you need to be and what you need to look at as you move in that direction and begin to see where you are in that whole area.

The final comment I want to make on where we are and where we are heading is in terms of something which is very basic and deep. And this is something which I would like to stress in different ways here because we tend to forget it. All in all, we get very caught up in the excitement of the work we're doing, with the excitement may be of the material gains you make, with the kind of job you have, with the kind of compensation you get, the company you're in, the kind of work you're doing, what project you're working on. And these are all undoubtedly very very important, there is no way of minimizing them. But also keep in mind that in the long term, what becomes increasingly critical, I mentioned attitude is a derivative of that, the characteristic that comes from that, is your basic values, in some way much deeper than attitude.

And values determine a great deal of what you will become. It obviously says who you are, but also what you will become, how far you go, where you go, how successful you are, and most importantly how satisfied you are as a human being comes from values. And again to take a crass example, if you look today in the marketplace and it's a way of judging, I mean, it's not your word against mine, let's look at a broader sample. So let's look at the broadest one, which is the market. Today increasingly, even companies are being valued, not just on the basis of the profit they make, but are being increasingly valued on the basis of their deep integrity and values, so a company that is being seen as having good corporate governance enjoys a higher valuation than companies that are seeing as being, you know, on the edge, cutting corners.

Maybe you make a profit in the short term by cutting corners, but you look at market valuations over the last few years, particularly in the last decade and you can well study this if you want, increasingly companies are being valued also for their underlying value system. And I think there is a lesson there for individuals too, that when you look at how you get valued in the marketplace of ideas and competition and people, values are going to count for a great deal. But most importantly as I said, the values are something for yourself. When you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning, you wake up with a clear head and a good conscience and I think that is as important as waking up in a large house or driving a big car so something again, for you to think of both in terms of the practicality of what it means in terms of your career but also in terms of what it means to you as a human being.

Related to that, a final point on this is, really values, not just for yourself and what you do, but in duration to the larger society, again Pankaj mentioned, give back. And as he said, he quantified the figures, you get something and you give a lot to the government as taxes, and hopefully you'll give some to the Institute as a contribution at some point of time but also what you give to society in terms of not just money, but time, effort, commitment, caring, are you part of a larger society where you look at other human beings in a sensitive way, understand their needs, and are empathetic to them? I think that is a critical factor also.

Again, interesting and I would like to jump back and forth between basic values which is, you know, pep talk and a lecture vs just down to earth reality. And if you look at down to earth reality today and you talk to any entrepreneur, he will tell you that a lot of the business comes from understanding the problems of people and thinking, Hey what solution can I build for that and the solution is not something that is just a technology. The solution comes from the problems which you see that people have.

Some problem that people face and you never understand that unless your degree of empathy to be able to understand what is the problem of the community, your consumer, the market that you're in. So an understanding and sensitive way to look at people is a key element of being able to design solutions that are successful in any sense. Successful in terms of use, successful in terms of money, successful in terms of going out. I wanted to just share a few words on this with you, I want to once again tell graduating students that, you know, you've had a great few years here. You've seen ups and downs, you've seen the campus grow, you've can see it growing even now, it's going to be a much bigger institute by the time we have the next convocation, you've had the advantage of working and learning from a great faculty and a good environment.

Now go out, make your name, capture the world and raise the flag of the IIITD high. Good luck to all graduating students, best wishes to you as you go out, certainly remember the institute, remember your guardians and parents, who may have sacrificed a great deal to get you here and through here and look at the world as something that contributed to all that. All the best to you. Thank you.

Thank you, I wanna hand over now, which is really the exciting part of this, apart from you folks receiving your degrees, to hear somebody who is iconic. And all of you would know him, so I won't take time introducing him, Naveen Tiwari: one of the fantastic entrepreneurs from India. Much under the radar, you don't see his photo splashed as much as you see certain others, you don't see him written about much, but amazing story, I hope he tells you part of it, I don't know what he's going to say.

But truly amazing story. If he doesn't, go and look for it and search for it. The kind of work that he's done and what he's been able to do. One of the very very few companies in the world leaves on from India who reaches out to touch a billion trust people, what he does reaches out to more than a billion people. The only company from India to give serious competition to the likes of Google, I mentioned Google as one of the top ten and here's a company InMobi that actually gets Google a bit worried you know and more than a bit worried in their own field of competition. In many many ways we've requested Naveen and he's kindly agreed because he is the role model. In our very first convocation, we had a different kind of role model, Mr. Narayan Murthy.

It was the first convocation so those who are here except those who are doing their M.Tech from a B.Tech here wouldn't have seen him, but the faculty knows and some of you guess I know and that's one kind of role model, Mr. Narayan Murthy, a phenomenal role model. But for younger people, I'm sure you need a younger role model, not people like me or Mr. Murthy and you have Naveen Tewari. Fabulous career, tremendous background, IIT Kanpur and then Harvard Business School. An MBA from there, I would say among the two best institutions in the world and I'm sure Dheeraj will agree with me when I refer to IIT Kanpur as one of the best in the world and in a way, so will Pankaj and some of the other faculty members, and certainly Harvard Business School enjoys a tremendous reputation.

Did exceedingly well there, got the Dean's medal. Did some amazing work, has got a whole host of awards which I don't want to mention now. A great enthusiast, a great supporter, not just doing great things for his company and this is what I mean when I come back to that reality of the community, of the somewhat very cliched word, I don't particularly like, give back. And he has helped many numbers of start-ups, in both mentorship and in funding. And those of you interested in entrepreneurship might want to catch him some time, not today, to do what is known as an elevator pitch, which you all know, but you want to do an elevator pitch to Naveen, here's a gentle hint to some of you, better practice running. Because one of the things he does regularly is run every morning and so if you want to catch him and pitch your idea, become a long distance runner and just run along with him and try to pitch your idea while you pant and sweat so look at that as a possible thing.

He's a great runner, enthusiastic sportsman. I'm sure he's going to take some time off today to go and watch T20 in the US of all places: cricket fan, done some great things, and I mentioned social commitment as very very happy, I know of this but to specifically find out a little more about his commitment to education in India, he helps and chairs a foundation that does education in rural India for schoolchildren there, among the many other things he does which are not written about or not widely known. I will stop here because I know you want to hear him. A great please indeed, Naveen, to have you here and thank you for being with us.