Mr Baba Kalyani, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Forge; Mr. Subodh Bhargava, Chairman of the Board of Governors; Members of the Board of Gov- ernors, IIT Mandi; Members of the Academic Senate; Faculty and Staff Members of the Institute; graduating students and their family members; and distinguished guests: I welcome you all on the occasion of the 7 th Convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi. I offer my congratulations to all graduating students on successful completion of their degrees. I am sure this would be a memorable day for you and your families.
Today, we are delighted to have with us Mr Baba Kalyani as the Chief Guest. Mr Kalyani is the Chairman & Managing Director of Bharat Forge. He has transformed Bharat Forge into one of the global leaders in its domain. Mr. Kalyani was conferred the Padma Bhushan and was made Commander First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star by the Swedish government in recognition of his contribution in further- ing trade and business cooperation between Sweden and India. He has received many other awards. It is an honour for us to have him visit our campus on this august occasion
During the past 10 years, our student strength has grown steadily from 97 to 1,620. Our degree programmes have expanded from the initial 3 BTech programmes to 7 BTech + 13 Master’s + MS and PhD today. Notably, we have an MA (Development Studies) run by the Humanities School, and a BTech (Data Science & Engg) that is the first in the IIT system.
In February 2010, the first batch of 97 BTech students plus the Director visited the Kamand campus for the first time. The campus in the scenic, remote Uhl River Valley in the Himalayas was home to some horses. At that time, 8 new IITs had been started. IIT Mandi was considered by many to be a folly, destined to lag well behind the other 8.
The small band of students, the first ~20 faculty and other well-wishers set out to prove the naysayers wrong. We soon crafted a strategy for success: growth on par with our peers, define academic USPs that would attract talented faculty and students, excel by focussing on a few regional and national priorities, quickly develop and use our campus, and build an ethos of cooperation, responsibility and accountability. Individually and as an Institute, we put in place a system of annual goal setting and self-appraisal.
By mid-2012, the horses in the stables gave way to our first sophisticated instrument, an XRD costing Rs. 1.75 crores. The 1st Industry-Academia Conclave was held it the stable with 100 Mb/s connectivity to the world.
By 2014, construction was underway and by 2015 almost all students were living and studying the Kamand, along with about half the faculty. Despite the remote mountainous terrain, we accomplished this ahead of the other 7 new IITs.
In the 7th Convocation today, IIT Mandi is graduating 276 students: 130 B.Tech. including the first batch of B.Tech. (Civil Engineering); 60 M.Tech. including first batches of M.Tech. (Power Electronics and Drives) and M.Tech. (Communications and Signal Processing); 54 M.Sc. including first batch of M.Sc. (Physics). Of the 32 research scholars, 10 are being awarded M.S. (by Research) degrees and 22 are being awarded Ph.D degrees.
The total degrees awarded since the 1st Convocation is 1,135 which includes 89 Ph.Ds; 50 M.S. (by Research); 87 M.Tech.; 121 M.Sc. and 788 B.Tech. While the graduands have reached milestones after 2 or 4 or more years spent at IIT Mandi, IIT Mandi has reached a milestone after its first decade since inception. It is hence appropriate at this juncture to outline the development of the Institute from 2009 to 2019.
To prepare students to become technology-based leaders in a rapidly changing world, IIT Mandi has an unusual design-oriented curriculum. From day 1 until graduation, students work on real-world projects, work in teams, deliver working solutions. For the BTech, we have Reverse Engineering in year 1, quick prototype development in year 2, a unique socio-technical practicum in year 3, and a major technical project in year 4. Teams from the graduating batch built this automated cooking station and a wall-climbing kit in their 2nd year. In their 3rd year, they worked on social problems such as dispensing of medicines in rural areas, and combatting drowsy driving in the hills.
Thanks to the rigourous foundations coupled with many opportunities for learning by doing, our students have fared very well after graduation. Their record of achievements and placements is on par with the older IITs. We are proud that Nitesh Kumar during the past 2 years while doing his BTech has won 13 gold/silver/bronze medals for India in international Para-badminton events, in Ireland, Turkey, Indonesia, India and other countries. During the past 10 years, generations of students have developed the Gymkhana for self-governance. In the last 1 year, the Gymkhana and its Societies and Clubs organised 240+ events, a remarkable achievement given the student strength of 1,280. About 40% of these events were technical, in keeping with the priorities of this institute of technology.
Starting with just 20 faculty in 2010, IIT Mandi adopted a strategy of focussing on a few areas based on regional and national priorities. IIT Mandi started the AMRC, BioX and C4DFED Centres. Each has 10-25 faculty with a shared research vision. Seeded by total funding of about Rs. 100 crores, the Centres have state-of-the-art equipment that is among the best in India. The open web-based reservation system gives access to all researchers in the Institute. The faculty in each of these Centres have brought in external funding of Rs. 10-25 crores.
This strategy has borne rich fruits. IIT Mandi ranks near the top of the 23 IITs in measures of scientific publication. Publications from IIT Mandi have made it to the cover pages of a number of leading international journals. I’d like to give a sampling of the many successes of our researchers.
In the area of VLSI, starting in 2012 with a grant of $300K from Intel, US, IIT Mandi faculty have been at the cutting edge of resist materials, going from 20nm in 2014 to 10nm in 2018. This has led to commercialisation with SCL, Mohali.
Driven by the need for affordable healthcare in rural areas, IIT Mandi has contributed to a low-cost product by Aindra, Bangalore. The Manas Group has developed AI-based image processing for screening for cervical cancer.
The FarmerZone project, funded by DBT, aims to provide AI-based crop management advisories to small and medium farmers. This multi-institutional, multi-national project is led by IIT Mandi. The initial sentinel is working with 1,000+ potato farmers in Punjab, UP and HP.
IIT Mandi has a Botanical Garden for research and recreation. Here, medicinal plants of the region are conserved and studied. A herbal tea formulation is being commercialised.
Dry pine needles are a forest fire hazard in the Himalayas. IIT Mandi has developed an eco-friendly, economically viable method for converting pine needles into fuel briquettes.
With India’s desire to achieve 100% e-vehicles by 2030, IIT Mandi is working on adapting e-Autos for this hilly terrain. Interestingly, this project is a collaboration between an economist and an electrical engineer.
Landslides are an ever-present danger in the Himalayas, leading to much loss of life and property. IIT Mandi researchers have combined AI, IoT and soil mechanics to develop a low-cost landslide warning system. This is being commercialised through our first faculty-led startup, IoTs.
The best research universities today are strongly global. In 2011, the fledgling IIT Mandi signed a strategic MoU with the TU9, the leading technical universities of Germany. Under this, over 25 of our faculty have made visits of 3 months to a TU, with reciprocal visits by German academics. Significant academic collaborations and output have resulted. When MHRD started the SPARC scheme, IIT Mandi was selected as Nodal Institute for Germany.
Attracted by our unique academic ethos and the sylvan setting in the Himalayas, IIT Mandi has attracted dozens of foreign faculty and students for short visits. Since 2018, foreign students have registered for degrees at IIT Mandi, a result of recruitment visits by our faculty to targetted countries.
A spinoff of 2 years of BTech ISTP projects, faculty at IIT Mandi started EWOK, a business incubator for rural women. Working towards an ecosystem of women-centric entrepreneurship and employment in the villages surrounding IIT Mandi, EWOK has already achieved significant successes: these include the first women-owned businessed in Salgi village, the first women PWD labour contractors, 12+ startups and 60+ jobs created.
Given the paucity of industry in Himachal, IIT Mandi Catalyst launched in 2016 is Himachal’s first technology-business incubator (TBI). Funded largely by DST and IIT Mandi, Catalyst has already begun to change the mindset of Himachalis and our students towards entrepreneurship.
Starting from 97 students and 1 Director in a green-field in the Kamand Valley in 2009-10, in 10 years IIT Mandi has grown to 1,630 students, 125 faculty, 1,135 alumni and a fully residential campus with 1,30,000 sqm buildings completed and 86,000 sqm in progress.
At the end of our 10-year odyssey, the table indicates where IIT Mandi stands. Overall, in the NIRF ranking, IIT Mandi is 4th among the new IITs and 13th out of all 23. In Outreach and Inclusivity and in percentage of female faculty, we are No. 1 among all 23 IITs. It is a matter of great pride that we are in the middle or near the top in many measures, a great improvement over our last position in 2009.
In this report, I have focused on IIT Mandi’s achievements over the first decade. Thanks to the efforts of legions of faculty, students and staff, IIT Mandi has transformed the bucolic Kamand Valley into a bustling hub of academic activity. Already, Himachal is benefitting from technology interventions by IIT Mandi. Over the next decade, IIT Mandi aims to make major contributions to India’s development, and to become the best in the world in some area of endeavour. In what areas these occur will depend on the passion, innovation and hard work of IIT Mandi’s highly talented faculty and students.
I thank Mr. Baba Kalyani for visiting and honouring us with his gracious presence on this occasion. Sir, we hope that your visit will lead to cooperation between Bharat Forge and IIT Mandi. Mr Subodh Bhargava’s guidance and support during the past 3 years have been invaluable in achieving IIT Mandi’s goals – I hope he will continue as Chairman for a 2nd term. Finally, I congratulate the graduating students for your truly remarkable achievement of becoming IITians today. IIT Mandi is proud of you. I am sure that as you scale the heights in your careers, you will carry ever higher the name of IIT Mandi, fulfilling the expectations of the Nation!