Published: 22nd May 2019
How M R Seetharam has created a legacy for MSRIT in the realm of education
MSRIT Vice-Chairman, M R Seetharam speaks about the history of MSRIT and the impartial way in which they select their teaching staff - to maintain high standards
M R Seetharam is not only an educationist and an entrepreneur, but he has also been one of those sensible ministers in the Karnataka government. During his tenure as the Minister for Planning, Statistics, Science and Technology, he started the initiative of a mobile planetarium especially for children studying in government schools. The programme was quickly implemented such that a total of five mobile vans were launched in a short span of six months. Even today, they travel across the state to educate rural students on Astronomy. He says, "I think that it is in the hands of the government to take up these kinds of initiatives. The mobile planetarium helps students learn about the universe in an entertaining way. Like this one, I have also allocated funds to build classrooms in government schools across the state as there was an acute shortage of it."
Serving as the Vice-Chairman of the world-renowned M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, M R Seetharam is taking his father's legacy forward — making a difference to society by educating engineers who are highly qualified and who want to give their best to the state and nation. Excerpts from the interview:
Master mind: M R Seetharam, Vice-Chairman of MSRIT and the man behind mobile planetariums in Karnataka
How has your journey been so far at M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology?
I think it's my father who struggled to establish this institution. I had to just take it over and lead the path. After the completion of the Dharma Reservoir Project in the 1960s, my father, M S Ramaiah, thought that education is the only way to empower the youth of this country. Since he worked on several projects including the Ghataprabha Project and Talakalale Dam, he thought that it would be good to impart engineering education to the youngsters. Therefore, he started the M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology in 1962. Since then, MSRIT has grown and has made significant contributions to various fields in education. My journey here started in 1990 and my vision for M S Ramaiah is to be an institution of international eminence, renowned for imparting quality technical education, cutting-edge research and innovation to meet global socio-economic needs.
Have you included any new courses in engineering lately?
After 1997, we have not launched any new courses, but we improvise on the syllabus regularly and change it as per the needs of the students and industries. The last two courses that we started were Telecommunications and Electrical and Electronics Engineering. With Ramaiah being the oldest institution in the state, we have around 12 engineering courses.
What's the secret behind MS Ramaiah being one of the top engineering institutes?
We believed that our human resources are our assets. Hence, we looked after our teaching staff well. In terms of recruitment of the teaching staff, we have formed a committee and none of us interferes in the recruitment. It is completely based on their educational criteria. All our staff are MTech qualified. We follow this principle in all our institutes like MSRUAS, MS Ramaiah College of Arts, Science and Commerce, MS Ramaiah Medical College etc.
Study time: Engineering students during their practical classes in the lab
Do you provide scholarships or funds for meritorious students to pursue their studies in the college?
The alumni association in our college takes care of the scholarships and funds. Around 40 lakh is allocated by them only for this purpose. We cannot help everyone but children who come from very poor backgrounds are given funds to study. Apart from this, Jindal Aluminium Limited has been helping 15 students for the last 20 years by supporting their education in our institution. But there is a cut off percentage that the students should get in order to win a scholarship here.
How do you make students of today work-ready?
Every engineering department has a Board of Studies where we have one person from a particular company help us form our own syllabus. They also pitch in with the skills that students have to be prepared in. We conduct exams for all students and the 500 best are selected out of a total intake of 1,400. All 500 students are trained in various skills and companies recruit them accordingly. I can say comfortably that all the students who register themselves in our placement cell get placed.
Co-curricular activities: Students dance during the intercollege fest at MSRIT
What kind of support is given to budding entrepreneurs?
We started an Entrepreneurship Development Cell (EDC) 10 years ago, but not many students come and invest their time in entrepreneurship or take up programmes meant for them. Out of 1,500 students, only 5 or 6 students take it up. We give them an incubation space, funds and other facilities that they require. We also have programmes like Pradarshana which is organised for final-year students to help them promote their ideas to leading decision-makers in the industry. Unlock Bengaluru is another programme to promote budding entrepreneurs and their ideas. Likewise, we invite industry experts to share their ideas on what has to be innovated and the necessities in the present world.
Do you conduct any outreach programmes?
Being the oldest institution in the state, we have got a committed team of students who are in the National Service Scheme. We started this in 1993 to reach out to children in the slums. We empower school dropouts by training them in various skills that can get them jobs. I am thrilled that 80 per cent of these kids is employed in different places. For younger kids, we admit them in government schools. We also make books from the unused pages of our students' notebooks and give these to children in slums and government schools.
What difference do you find between education today and education during your days?
Those days, the engineering courses did not have semester exams. There would be final exams every year. Now, they have divided the course into different semesters so that it becomes easier for students. Apart from that, there was not much importance given to skills training. We would learn everything on the job. Now, we have courses that actually make students work-ready. Being an autonomous institution, we frame our own syllabus and also invite experts from the industry to train our students.
Young entrepreneurs: The Entrepreneurship Development Cell (EDC) is open for students all the time. It is headed Dr C S Chethan Kumar, Associate Professor at MSRIT
What do you think government institutions should improve on?
According to me, it is the facilities that have to be upgraded in government schools. We also need to provide training to teachers on the necessary courses. For example, we need to teach them English so that they can speak fluent English and teach children the same. Their knowledge of various subjects has to improve too. During my term as the Science and Technology Minister, I got professors from the Indian Institute of Sciences to train teachers in a few government schools. If teachers are trained well and the infrastructure facilities are improved, then children will obviously join government schools.
What future plans do you have for the institution?
Now, we are concentrating more on postgraduate programmes and the research field. I think ours is the only engineering college in the country where we have over 180 PhD holders and we are guiding another 80 aspirants. In a span of two to three years, we will be one step ahead in terms of research that will benefit the country. We allocate one and a half crores only for research programmes every year. Currently, we have filed six patents and they are in the process of being awarded. Aside from this, we have collaborated with various foreign universities where our students or professors attend research programmes.
Some of the start-ups from MSRIT's EDC:
Aidapp: The team built 'Sale drive' — the simplest sales team tracking compliance for enterprises. They currently work out of Bengaluru and want to create a supportive and collaborative environment so that they can learn, build and grow together and move the world forward
Waani.io: They are building an interest-based, social network where one can discover and be heard by like-minded people in a non-judgemental way. It gives freedom to post on social media without social anxiety or the fear of backlash
E-Drives: This is a technology-driven start-up which aims to provide modular electric bicycle conversion kits. The kit can be mounted on any bicycle and converts it into a smart bicycle that can improve the lives of thousands of people