Global Sources
EE Times-Asia
Stay in touch with EE Times Asia
EE Times-Asia > EDA/IP

U.S.-based Indian engineers head home

Posted: 16 May 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iit? post graduate education? nri? education? post graduate study?

Indian engineers should go to the U.S. for post-graduate education.

The Indian government has long complained about the "brain drain" to the United States. A large number of Indian engineering graduates enter the United States for post-graduate education. This route, say some, is one of the easy ways to "reach" that country.

Often, the young engineers plan to earn a master's degree with scholarship, and then look for a job. Graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) usually have no difficulty getting employment and having U.S. companies sponsor their work permits.

EE Times-Asia talked to two of a group of four IIT-Kanpur graduates!Manu Agarwal and Ranjan Bose!about their careers, their job experience in the United States and, more importantly, their decision to go back to India leaving behind jobs that most fresh engineering graduates in India aspire to bag.

Agarwal, CEO, Design Expo Network Pvt. Ltd, and Bose, a professor at IIT-Delhi, left India in 1992 after graduating from IIT-Kanpur. While Bose finished his M.S. at the University of Pennsylvania, Agarwal got his at the University of Minnesota. "It was much easier to get good grades (at the University of Minnesota)," comments Agarwal on college education in the United States. "At IITs, the level of competition is an order of magnitude higher."

Agarwal joined Wafer Scale Integration, now a division of ST Microelectronics, where he spent most of his time doing research on Flash memory chips. He was part of a team that worked on designing a new architecture!they reduced the size of the decoder along with the time it takes to decode. The team also configured a row decoder that was capable of mapping the bad rows to the extra rows built into the chip. The design was recently patented on grounds of cost efficiency, faster accessibility and redundancy.

Bose worked with Alliance Semiconductor in San Jose on a PC-to-TV interface and a Fast-Ethernet product.

The journey back
For both Agarwal and Bose the plan to go back to India was "always on the agenda." There were a number of reasons for going home. For Bose, "the desire to be more creative and productive in India and to come back to people I know were the more important ones."

Although both IITians are primarily hardware engineers, they drew on their experience in software engineering to co-found Design Expo, a company whose flagship product is an instant messaging solution. "The Internet was still in its infancy in India and the IT industry was young and rapidly growing," says Agarwal. "Moreover, we have good engineers here. And, the Internet being in place, sharing information and getting to know about the latest technologies is not difficult."

The company was established 1997 and posted revenues of about $171,489 in 1999, which were expected to grow to about $171,489,800 for 2000. Design Expo is located in Mumbai in order to easily tap into the engineering talent at the IIT there. Last year, Agarwal's company hired 24 IIT graduates.

"Also, there are not many competitors in Mumbai to hog on the human resources," says Agarwal. "The idea was to not only get access to suitable engineering graduates, but also not to place all the emphasis on retaining them." Another reason for being in Mumbai was that Amar Sinha, co-founder and director, was based there, which made completing the formalities of establishing a company easier.

The entrepreneurs did not face as many difficulties with the government's bureaucrats as they had expected. "I didn't face many disappointments," says Bose. "I had a realistic picture in mind. I was prepared for slow phone connections... let's just say my expectations were low. If you and your company are well organized, you won't face too many problems, except perhaps when dealing with the government." For Bose, the lure of IT soon faded!he left Design Expo to join the teaching the profession, which he says is "closer to (his) heart."

Opportunities in India
India is now is a state where opportunities are unlimited, especially in the IT sector, according to Agarwal. "India will take the same route Israel has taken. There was a lot of R&D happening there. Although the returns were low in beginning, they have picked up now and the industry there has proved itself by establishing world-class companies.

There are areas, like layout design, which can become big in India. And, such work is already done on a big scale in countries like Israel. Layout design does not require skills obtained through the University!it's more of a drafting job, which could be acquired by doing a program (short course) for, say, six months.

Companies, like Wafer Scale, are eager to outsource their work. Because Indians have such a strong presence in the silicon companies in the United States, these companies are now waiting for the Indian IT and software industry to become mature enough to handle VLSI design.

The only thing missing here is experience. If a few Indians abroad, who have five to ten years of experience in VLSI design, should come back and do something in that area, they could make it really big."

The n+1 factor
Yet, it has been difficult to take the first plunge. One of a group of four IITians who planned to come back has not made it back to India. "He has been in the final stages of moving back for some time," says Bose. "You never know, it's the n+1 factor.

Of the Indians I knew in the United Sates, most, say 70 percent, talked about going back to India. But they were not serious enough. And, they kept grumbling about it at different stages of their stay there." According to Bose, there is not enough information coming from India about the opportunities there.

Yet, the trend for Indian engineers to go back to India has just started. "It is a trickle now but it will gather momentum," says Bose. There is a need for an organization, government-sponsored or private, that would make available information on the industry and procedures in India and help Indians coming back settle in.

Agarwal advises Indian engineering graduates to go for post-graduation. "Don't take up a job right away," he says. "Doing a master's (degree) adds a lot of value in terms of organization skills." The projects post-graduate students have to undertake teaches them how to organize and manage projects. He feels that fresh graduates are often "random in their thinking" and that the level of maturity required by the industry comes during post-graduation from the research conducted and projects handled.

Most IIT graduates find earning an M.S. in the United States easy. "It was much easier getting good grades," says Agarwal. "At IITs, the level of competition is an order of magnitude higher than that I saw in the U.S." And the stay is made more comfortable by those Indians who are already in that country. Both Agarwal and Bose found other Indians who they could, upon arrival to the United States, relate to and make friends with, perhaps much faster than in India.

However, the trend to catch the first flight out of India is showing signs of abating at least at IIT-Delhi. About 60 to 70 percent of the B. Tech graduates in IIT-Delhi are staying back, according to Bose. "This is a definite reversal of trend at IIT-Delhi. Today, companies recruiting B. Techs in India are also paying handsome salaries. So, many students are staying back. However, it's different at other IITs-in IIT-Madras, for example, I estimate 60 to 70 percent of the B. Techs are still going out."

According to Agarwal, Indian engineers should go to the United Sates for post-graduation because it provides greater exposure to a mature electronics industry. Bose agrees that moving to the United States is an attractive proposition for Indian engineers in terms of money earned as well as opportunities. However, he also believes the fresh graduates are not able to take an informed decision. Not much information about education and work outside India has been gathered, collated and formally presented, except by the commercial arms of foreign Universities. "Not much of what they (fresh graduates) hear is not true," Bose says. "But they are at that impressionable age when they think that it's the ultimate goal."

- Vivek Nanda
Electronic Engineering Times!Asia

Article Comments - U.S.-based Indian engineers head hom...
*? You can enter [0] more charecters.
*Verify code:


Visit Asia Webinars to learn about the latest in technology and get practical design tips.

Back to Top