PAN IIT Global Conference 2008

Just when I thought I couldn't take any more of the "talks" or jargon, I decided to attend PAN-IIT Global Conference 2008. As surprising as it may sound, the talks didn't bother so much this time. I went with the intention of bunking most of the sessions save the really good ones.; ended up spending all my time in sessions. There goes the Go-karting trip.

The theme of the event was Inspire, Innovate, Transform, a much better expansion of IIT than the ones we created while studying - Indian Institute of Torture or Institute of Infinite Torture.

Here is a starter on what IITs (courtesy Dilbert) are for the uninitiated (if there are any)

and I particularly like this quote ;-)

"Per capita, IIT has produced more millionaires than any other undergraduate institution." (Salon Magazine)

This is not meant to be a coverage of the whole program, there is plenty of that on internet. I have attached some of them at the end of the post. Here, I am trying to recall things that stuck after a marathon of talks. Here is my list of the top 10 at PAN IIT 08.

10. Prasad Ram (Head R&D, Google India) talking about social entrepreneurship. The way to move ahead is to take everyone with you.

9. Rajiv Grover talking about the need to have more open book exams. As such IITs have a culture of open book exams and contrary to what common sense suggests, they used to be brutal. But, he emphasized that moving away from rote learning is important, after all life is not a closed book exam.

He also had a comment or two about the recent trend of coaching institutes becoming an assembly line for churning iitians. IITs now, instead of getting smart people, get people trained by smart people. Food for thought?

8. One of the speakers (won't disclose the name here), who went on length about some facts and figures, got applause at awkward points which he duly acknowledged. After a few such instances one after the other, he got the drift and was quick to get away. No matter how old you get, some things just won't change.

7. Watching Viswanathan Anand play against 14 teams. He is the greatest sports icon I have seen live. He is the only player in the world to have won the world chess championship in all the three formats (Knockout, Tournament, and Match).

While traveling, once an intrusive stranger asked Vishy, what he did for living. When he got "playing chess" as the reply, he rephrased the question multiple times and got the same answer. Exasperated, he told him to be practical and start doing something worthwhile because everyone is not Viswanathan Anand who can earn money playing chess.

6. Innovators vs Ideators: The panelists, instead of putting innovation on a pedestal, demystified it to be anything that improves. Pointing out difference between ideators who bring out great ideas and innovators, who can take an existing idea and turn it around a bit to make it better. Taking example of Japan that seems to be doing a great job delivering great stuff using ideas originated in the US.

5. Amartya Sen: If you hear him talking, it would appear he is reading stuff out of a book. Went on length talking about the issue of Neeti and Nyay in India that struck a chord with one of my pet peeves - Process vs Execution. He was trying to point out that our issues, not so much lie in the Neeti part as much as in the Nyay (the application). An interesting piece of trivia I got to know was that he got appointed as the head of department, Economics at Jadavpur University at the age of 23.

4. Stephen Cohen and K Mahbubani on India Pakistan issue: This session was eye opening because of the way they conveyed that the crisis between India and Pakistan needs a span of 40 years to resolve starting now. And, how the conventional knee jerk reactions may not help. Some of the suggestions they had were to improve trade and education in Pakistan and try and make the moderates strong. Once empowered, they will fight the battle against terrorism from within and will be more effective.

An interesting point that was mentioned was the fact that the nuclear weapons in some convoluted way have ended up restoring peace in the world for the fear of collateral damage.

3. Raghuram Rajan: As economic adviser to PM, watching him speak added some confidence to our government. He was extremely articulate talking about primary education and about the cyclical nature of capitalism. He mentioned that capital markets are crisis prone and have a tendency to move ahead a bit and come back some, but the net result is usually positive. He indicated pumping money in infrastructure and try to somehow keep the growth wheel churning. Good news for market watchers?

2. Tata CEOs doing India's swot analysis with C K Prahlad

1. The Hospitality: The arrangements for delegates were awesome to say the least. I had the best South Indian breakfast ever. Every day ended with parties or musical nights.

Cocktail party was reminiscent of the days of yore. IITs are like gurkuls, take the old Indian ones or the new one run by Amitabh. The common theme between the three is lack of girls. The cocktail party had a 1000 odd people. DJ in his excitement called on all the girls in the room to get together. Some 12 people in the room responded to the call. The only one who came forward to dance was a kid still in her school. And you know you are in an IIT party.

There was some shouting also by different IITs to mark their presence. Overall it was fun, the next one will be held in Chicago.

News Coverage:

Comments (1)

Thanx a lot Deepesh for putting the detailed coverage. This is good :)