Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Industrial consulting at IIT-B

Was industrial consulting really "uncharted territory" for IIT-B during the time -- presumably in the last two or three years -- Ajit Balakrishnan dealt with that institution? Thanks to Zen Babu's comment on my previous post, we have the link to this report from sometime in the mid-1990s. It states:

Consultancy practice has been recognized as an important activity from the very early years. In order to provide a structure within which consultancy services could be offered to Clients and Industries, the Board of Governors approved the first set of consultancy rules in 1964.

There is also some data in Table 3.1 (you have to scroll down a bit) about the level of consultancy activity during the period from 1985 to 1995. You find that the number and value of consultancy projects kept going steadily up from 305 projects and Rs. 36.1 lakhs in 1985-86 to 838 projects and Rs. 213 lakhs (Rs. 21.3 million) in 1994-95.

IIT-B's Industrial Research and Consultancy Centre (IRCC) has a pretty impressive list of major national and international clients. Go ahead, and take a look!

* * *

My previous post seems to have given the (unintended) impression that I was complaining about Soumen being ripped off. Let me clarify: that post is really about the casually cavalier way in which Ajit Balakrishnan tried to portray IIT-B as being clueless in the area of industrial interactions.

Like I said at the end of my post, it is entirely possible that negotiations between Balakrishnan and IIT-B administrators broke down on some issue or the other (for example, IP rights, or, access to Rediff's data). It is also possible that Balakrishnan felt that IIT-B's policies and rules were unreasonable -- either by themselves, or in comparison with those at other similar institutions. Instead of articulating these issues so that better outcomes become possible, Balakrishnan chose the low road by claiming that "the process for such an engagement is unchartered territory" for IIT-B. This is a legitimate issue for non-Soumen and non-Balakrishnan entities to comment on.


  1. vatsan said...

    ive replied to this in the earlier post, have a look, i still think you dont have enough information to comment.

  2. vatsan said...

    //Like I said at the end of my post, it is entirely possible that negotiations between Balakrishnan and IIT-B administrators broke down on some issue or the other (for example, IP rights, or, access to Rediff's data). It is also possible that Balakrishnan felt that IIT-B's policies and rules were unreasonable//

    punakku, did u sit in the negotiations? why couldnt the prof had decided he was better off working outside the system? is he a silent spectator while the negotiations happened? you paint the picture that the prof is a 'chinna kozhandhai, who vaila veral veccha kooda kadika teriyadha range' stupidity, he of course is better off with the current deal. secondly, if the code was that good, then its possible for the prof to sell it to the highest bidder (he owns the IP i guess) yet he choose this deal, there should be some good reason, why did he do it? unless you can answer this question you cant pass judgements. and passing judgements is plain madathanam.

    like i said earlier, idhu teriyamal summa punakku madri pesathai. mada sambrani.

    and laws merely existing, companies existing does not mean they function effectively.

    basic law of deal making, unless both parties are better off (compared with the alternative) they wont agree. here clearly the prof and ajit were better off working outside the system. so they choose to work outside the system.

    appadina find out wat problems in the system motivate them to work outside the system. and summa dont blame ajit alone, the prof had equal part in choosing the current system, he owns the bloody IP. adhai purinjiko da punakku!!!

    such stupidity is irritating!!

  3. zen babu said...


    1) First you guess that the prof owns the IP. Then you proclaim that he does actually own the 'bloody IP'. In reality, the client can claim full IPR - or they may be shared as per a drafted agreement. Really, you need to cool down, read that document, and stop making it a socialism vs capitalism issue.

    2) Now some insider info about how consultancies work at these institutes, specifically IIT-B. They have been permitted since 1964, but there were upper limits to these sums. This could count as one example of an inefficient and draconian bureaucratic control. In 1993, these upper limits were relaxed, and the institute agreed to this policy on the basis of a higher cut in the consultancy fee. That the insti demands a consultancy fee is not a problem for anyone, because the fee is usually extremely large.

    3) To give you an idea, a decent product-based Computer electronics firm in Bangalore shells out Rs 15,000 per day to get consultancy from a top CSE prof from IIT-M or IIT-B. Many industry sponsored projects of significant quantums of moeny have been running in IIT-B for quite some time now. Have you even heard of an entity called Media Labs Asia, and its lab in KRESIT at IIT-B?

    4) Did you bother to check the exponential growth in the number and the amount of money of consultancies and industry sponsored projects which is illustrated in that document?

    5) The conclusion from all this is simply this - Ajit B's claim that a commercial agreement with a corproate entity is 'uncharted territory' for IIT-B is absolutely baseless. His own negotiations with IIT-B may have broken down for whatever reason, but they certainly could not have broken down due to the reason he claims, which can be considered a below the belt shot at IIT-B.

    6) To address your point of 'did you sit in the negotiations?..blah blah', did you read Ajit B's article? He says that the prof recommended two of his students to join Rediff, and the work is actually done by these two. When they run into a problem, they contact the prof. This kind of personal relationship based two-way information flow happens very frequently between top institutions and top corporate entities, an example that I personally know of is between the NLP group at IIT-B and Google. This happens because not every decision is based on the consideration of 'Oh option A is of more monetary value to me than option B'. So, Abi may have stretched it a little when he said that Ajit B was ripping off the prof, because yes, the prof is in the agreement with mutual consent, but this doesn't change the fact that Ajit B's accusations of 'uncharted territory' are baseless, and that he could have still found other ways to pay/reward the prof, instead of just 'feeling guilty' as he does in the article.

  4. vatsan said...

    before ajit bought rights to use the code, the IP would have been with the prof. he cud have sold it ot the highest bidder. (probably more than wat he is currently getting)

    considering all that you say if both parties decided on the current format, then there shud be a good reason for it. Both parties are better off with the current deal rather than the option of using the IITB system.

    ajit uses the IITB machinery to please his ego.

    the point is why should he use the IITB machinery? wat is wrong with the current deal? abi seems to suggest that ajit shud use the iitb machinery. my point is if abi feels ajit has made a mistake (You also say that) then first read the contract and list specific clauses that you have a problem with. without such information you cannot comment. as long as the prof and ajit are happy, i dont think its any of you business to pass moral and value judgements on the deal.

    if abi has a problem with the deal, he can structure a deal with any company the way he chooses it. and if someone says its wrong, like he is doing now, i will say the same thing, if both parties are happy, its none of the third party's business to pass value judgements on the deal as long as its legal.

  5. vatsan said...

    @ Zen babu,

    look @ my comment in the earlier post, i have provided a way to conclude that the IITB machinery is bad or not, i am not wiling to conclude either way. You have not provided sufficient information.

  6. vatsan said...

    @ zen babu,

    and assuming 5 collaborations work, and thts out of a proposed 100, then id say the machinery sucks. efficiency is wat matters. just quoting the successes isnt sufficient, it has to be based on how many proposed such deals, and how many failed, and the reasons for their failure etc needs to be analysed. without that any conclusion, ajits or abis, is plain stupid.

    being a person of science i assume abi can understand my logic :-)

    krish dhaan kenaiyan madri ellam evidence/data avoid pannitu oru post potta, neenga prof-a irundhindu, data illamal avanuku jalra potta unglukku vekka kedu!!

  7. zen babu said...


    1) You really don't get it do you? There is no formal contract. Only an informal arrangment based on personal relationships channeled through grad students of the prof who are now working in rediff at the Prof's recommendation.

    2) Abi has not suggested that Ajit should necessarily go through IIT-B machinery. He has said that Ajit has no right to claim that such a functional machinery is not even existent - "uncharted territory" - when it has been existent and been consistently successful (in my books, you are skeptical, handled in next point) and improving since the mid 80's.

    3) Off the central topic, but since you clamour on to your concept of 'what percentage of collaborations have worked out". The total number of proposals etc is irrelevant - a proposal can be rejected for a thousand reasons, which may or may not include the 'stifling government controlled IIT-B machinery'. For an institute with 1500 odd undergrads and 1000 odd graduate students, the total number of collaborations is in excess of 1000 at present. The topmost professors have industry-sponsored reserach grants in excess of 1 crores per year and draw a consultancy fee of around 15,000 per day, in contrast to their salary of around 30,000 per month. (I can tell you this due to the inside knowledge of having worked in a reserach lab there) If this doesn't count as functional and successful research and consultancy machinery in your books, I don't know what will.

  8. Krish said...

    Abi and Zen babu,

    Thanks for exposing the lies in the propaganda. I was in IITB from 93 and the collaboration was there at that time and hence my response. From the document I see that it was there from the 80s. Thanks again for exposing the lies of fundamentalists.

  9. vatsan said...

    zen babu, i do agree its aninformal contract, unless you do know the terms its impossible to pass judgements on it. at present neither of you have access to the terms of the informal contract.

    //The total number of proposals etc is irrelevant - a proposal can be rejected for a thousand reasons, which may or may not include the 'stifling government controlled IIT-B machinery'// i do agree with this, find out how many fell through because of the machinery.

    once again you do quote the success %. my point is that unless you know the total % of amount wiling to be issued as grants, and how much comes through its impossible to judge whether its successful. you just dont get this. if the total willing investment is 1000crs and only 100 crs materialises, then its a bad institute, the machinery sucks. 10% conversion rate is low.

    but of course since 100 crs materialises as grants, it wud on paper look like a successful research university. you dont get this do you?

    all i am saying is that neither of you, those who say its a successful institute and those who claim otherwise have sufficient data to prove your point.

    and zen babu read my comments before commenting. mada sambrani

  10. vatsan said...

    dei mada sambrani krish, debate is not whether collaboration exists or not. its whether there is sufficient data to conclude machinery sucks or not. adhuku data illai adhu dhaan matter. dei vennai unnoda jalra tangalai, S#$$HA moodindu poda vennai

  11. vatsan said...

    zen babu, the point of the system aimed at attracting grants is to streamline the process of grants being given to profs. if the situation is that a system which is supposed to attract grants can tap only 10% of the total available investment, then the system in my books is called inefficient. for this the point is not how much materialises, but the total potential investment.

    you keep quoting what materialises, i am asking for data on the total potential investment. without this data its impossible to conclude whether the machinery is good or a burden.

    in my comment in the other post ive explained how to conclude if the machinery indeed stifles investment. do read that.

    and prof saar, enna voi, ippo ellam unglukku badula indha zen babu va badhul solla samblam kuduthu vechirukkela?

  12. Pratik . said...

    @ Vatsan.

    You dont see the point. Neither the prof, nor Zen babu, nor Krish makes any claims that IIT-B machinery is a resounding success. What they do claim is that industrial consultancy has been going on for aeons at IIT-B, and there is a well-defined machinery which deals with this (emphasis: nobody claims that the machinery is perfect - do get that clear first). The data provided in Zen babu's link backs it too, since the question being addressed is the existence of an established mechanism for dealing with industrial consultance and NOT the success/ills of it.
    Hence, the remark "The process for such an engagement is unchartered territory" is unwarranted. The process exists, and has been used by many. Whether it is a good one or not is a different question altogether.

  13. vatsan said...

    @ PRatik,
    you dont take the statement by ajit at face value. his point is actually two fold, one the machinery for engagement with rediff (the nature of the deal, is uncharted territory?) consultancy is uncharted/non existent. two what ever machinery sucks and doesnt work.

    unless one knows wat kind of deal ajit wanted to strike, its hard to decide if he was right or wrong. simple point.

    there are numerous kinds of deals, and IITB strikes only of one kind, while ajit and prof wanted another kind. this makes the deal uncharted territory, ajit is right. there is not enough information. plain and simple.

  14. vatsan said...

    and abi shud really make up his mind, in an earlier post titled "ajit is unworthy of your trust" he claims that the prof has been cheated (the title clearly indicates that). he should make up his mind on wat he wants to say then make posts.

  15. Abi said...

    1. I have had to delete three comments (two in this post, and one in the earlier one) because of their potentially libelous content.

    2. This is specific to Vatsan's most recent comment: Ajit is unworthy of our trust because of the way he chose to deal with the IIT-B authorities who negotiated with him and Rediff. That he didn't pay Soumen is immaterial to me, particularly since Ajit himself owned up to it! This post is supposed to clarify this point, and I guess I failed yet again ...

    I am closing the comments section on this post. If any of you wish to add anything to the discussion, do please e-mail me.