Atmanirbharta Discussion

Interesting discussion with professionals on the what is needed from engineers for achieving Atmanirbhar Bharat

Expand this widget to see full transcript of Dr. Ravi Palaparthi's speech in the collapsed space below

Shri Pavan Saxena ji, Dr. Sanjay Bharadwaj ji, and esteemed panel members, thanks for the opportunity to share my views on this important topic of Atmanirbhar Bharat- Role of Engineers in Indigenization.

Intro/ Background:

We help companies in the specialty materials and pharma space minimize trials and errors and expedite their product/ process development and launch. In this effort, as part of our partnerships with clients, we work with people at all levels ranging from technicians, engineers, their mid and senior technical and sometimes management folks. Hence what I say will be based on this limited exposure.

1. Based on your experience as a chemical engineer/ entrepreneur in a chemical engineering area, can you comment on where we are today in the chemical industry in our journey towards Atmanirbharata (strengths and gaps)?

a. One of the elements as I see in achieving Atmanirbharata is how we can develop products of high quality and high-end technology while effectively leveraging our existing resources, and nurturing for the future. Delivering such products involve addressing various levels of technical complexity, and not just based on cost considerations.

Examples include niche equipment to components for automotive to peptides in the pharma space, to nano composites, energy from waste initiatives, batteries, etc (Glad to see some similar initiatives led by people in the panel)

b. In this regard,

On one hand, as a country-

We have a lot of young and often world class technical talent in the core-engineering areas. Especially some of the talent that is graduating from the schools and colleges (at various levels) is amazing

On the other hand, in the industry-

i. We see gaps in meeting expectations of the younger technical talent entering the industry operating in the core-engineering areas, especially after they go through the Indian educational system emphasizing on technical stuff (like JEE/ NEET/ come first/ etc)

I. A significant portion of the engineers feel their technical skill sets in the core-areas are under-utilized.

II. They find non-technical routine MBA roles/ jobs in banks/ or in routine IT financially attractive (not that anything wrong with it, but it is a loss of core-engineering talent)

ii. Too much emphasis on 'importing' anything technically relevant item (instrument, equipment, or even technical service via consultants).

I. We still take pride in ‘foreign’ technology (if you turn on the TV ads)

· Is our inhouse talent not up to the mark/ technically shallow?

iii. People find attractive employments in areas, where Indian employees build things that people outside India own (for example things like Google)

So, as a country and industry, we must figure how best to leverage our technical talent produced by our universities to achieve our goals of Atmanirbharata.

2. What do you think are the underlying causes for the gaps in this journey?

Perhaps there are multiple type of factors

a. Work Culture

i. Risk averse nature at various levels, at employee or the employer to different extents-

I. Employer: investing in technology driven initiatives that take time and efforts

II. Employee: developing deep technical expertise in niche areas as opposed to staying shallow

ii. For various reasons, technical efforts take a back seat in the Indian industry

I. Technical efforts are generally considered textbook stuff, and sort of not encouraged and recognized properly.

II. Anything technical (Being in the lab, plant or doing computation work) is considered something for the 'junior' folks. The more one advances, the less one is expected to do these.

III. The system is skewed more towards recognizing and rewarding heroes who manage people and firefighting than recognizing the technical talent and contributions that prevent fires in the first place.

iii. This does not encourage the younger folks to pursue technical disciplines in depth or rigor and become experts.

I. People tend to move to management roles after an year or two in technical roles. While this is not bad, its just that we have to develop a culture where management and technical stuff have to go together (Example of CEO of Honda, who was a technically grounded manager)

b. Economic

i. Cost driven vs quality driven themes can contribute to differences in the way businesses operate

3. What 3 things should we as chemical engineers can do to fill up these gaps in achieving Atmanirbharata?

a. If you are an engineer/ scientist (young or experienced), take pride in what you do

i. Develop deep expertise to create value

ii. Keep learning and be open to perspectives from other disciplines

iii. Be aware of business needs

iv. No chalta-hai attitude

b. If you are an entrepreneur, create the right ecosystem within the mid-management level that encourages technical rigor in the efforts for producing the top quality products

i. Populate with the right talent for the right needs (no jack of all trades)

ii. Grow project management, HR and other functions to support technical teams to achieve their business goals

iii. Encourage mentorship network in the organizations

c. Understand that most of the output we see currently from companies like Tesla, Zeiss, Apple, Boeing, ISRO is based on several years of technical hard work - its not built overnight

In closing,

· India relies significantly on outside world for high end intermediary products (like equipment, pharma excipients, and other specialty materials).

· Hence it does not realize complete value for what it produces (along the lines of what Dr. Abhaya Kumar alluded to).

· Meeting these high-end industrial needs, and hence realizing higher value demand application of deep technical expertise, in addition to execution skills.

· We do have a lot of good technical and core-engineering talent that can achieve wonders. Hence, we should evaluate how our industrial eco-system can nurture this talent, and develop the right expertise to achieve Atmanirbharata in this dimension