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My Fair Techie, starring Infosys

india Updated: Jun 14, 2007 18:49 IST
Narayanan Madhavan
Narayanan Madhavan
Hindustan Times
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What do you do when you have to hire 24,000 people in a year, ensure they are of good quality, and keep costs low as well?

Managers at Infosys have tried to mix some social work with a smart strategy to ensure that the humongous appetite for skilled, committed engineers in the software industry is matched with some creativity.

In a programme called Campus Connect, Infosys acts a bit like Professor Higgins in the movie “My Fair Lady,” polishing up the basics and teaching some vital skills to engineering students in small towns and less known colleges to make the corporate grade.

The programme launched by the Bangalore-based information technology giant, is gearing students to be more sensitive towards customers and oriented towards solving problems.

In the process, it is changing the method of learning in these institutions.

While the Indian Institute of Technology, the National Institute of Technology and a handful of other universities and companies like NIIT enjoy a “Tier I” status, these cover only a fraction of the 1,500 engineering colleges in the country.

Started with a southern focus, Campus Connect, targeting the so-called Tier II and III institutes, now covers 360 colleges nationwide, and of late, has shifted its focus to the north, where it has 53 institutions that cover colleges in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan.

Smaller towns have been an integral part of Infosys strategy to recruit talent. It now has software development centres in places like Bhubaneshwar, Mangalore, Thiruvananthapuram and in the north, Mohali, but Infosys says it is more interested in generating a large pool of useful engineers for a broader purpose.

“We are not looking at it for as for Infosys by Infosys. It is by Infosys for the country,” MP Ravindra, senior vice-president, education and research, at Infosys, told Hindustan Times. “The objective is to make the talent pool industry-ready in large numbers.”

The company, in touch with university managements and college faculties, has fanned out into places such as Patiala, Ghaziabad and Chandigarh in the northern region to come up with projects in which practical developments in industry are shared with students.

Action plans are worked out and faculties are exposed to a different style of teaching. Technical issues are geared to orient candidates towards picking up different aspects of knowledge needed to solve problems, going beyond academic learning, somewhat akin to the case studies taught in business schools.

Some 900 faculty members have already been trained under the programme.

For instance, students are taught software languages in colleges, but they need to learn systems analysis so that they get a bigger picture when real problems of corporate clients have to be solved.

Under Campus Connect, candidates are also taught hardware architecture, data storage, and other such basic concepts so that students who deal with programming languages can also delve a bit deeper and come up with solutions.

Also, techies often lack the “soft skills” needed to listen to customers, engage with them, question them properly and respond to their needs, which are introduced as part of Campus Connect.

“They actually do this by enacting this drama (of simulating customer situations)” says Ravindra, adding that typically, technical issues are taught for 15 days, and soft skills can take up a week or so.

About 70 batches have also undertaken visits to software development centres and 169 technical seminars have been conducted under the programme so far. Twenty-two professors have had sabbatical exposure to Infosys.

The programme is divided into nine modules.

A foundation programme has been completed by more than 12,500 students. Such exposure enables better employment prospects in the IT industry clamouring for talented workers who can quickly solve customer problems in industries such as retail, infrastructure, financial services and manufacturing.

Infosys has itself recruited 3,000 people who have gone through the programme, says Ravindra. This is social work that helps the human resource department.