Last year, a record number of 140 students received their PhD degree in various engineering disciplines from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. It was the largest number in the institute’s history. And with a huge demand of research scholars from the industry, the numbers are all set to rise.
“Research in engineering is in and the career prospects of PhD holders are changing continuously,” said M. Balakrishnan, Dean, Post Graduate Studies and Research at IIT, Delhi. “Industrial Research and Development (R&D) is becoming big in India. Today, the private sector employs PhDs in all disciplines — automobiles, energy, environment, materials,” said Balakrishnan.
Moreover, the largest stumbling block in research studies — salaries — has taken a shift for the better. “A PhD in any engineering discipline is today paid anywhere between Rs 8 lakh to Rs 16 lakh per annum,” said Balakrishnan, adding that companies involved in technology startups pay the highest. “Companies such as Yahoo and Google, which work with new technologies pay the highest,” he said.
With the setting up of big research facilities in India and companies outsourcing high-end research jobs here, opportunities in the field are opening up. The John F Welch Technology Centre (JFWTC), Bangalore, is the first and the largest integrated, multi-disciplinary research and development center of the General Electric (GE) outside the US. It employs close to 3,000 scientists, researchers and engineers. Intel and Microsoft too have research labs in India.
“Earlier, low-end back office operations were being outsourced to India. But now high end research jobs are also coming to us,” Balakrishnan said. An increase in PhD students would attract faculty to come back to India, said Niloy Mitra, assistant professor, Computer Science at IIT Delhi. “Most of my colleagues in the US did not want to come back to teach in India because of lack of interest by students in doing further research after a BTech,” said Mitra, who has a PhD from Technical University, Vienna.
“By the time they realise the worth it is difficult to come back to academics,” Mitra said.