We are pleased to publish interview with Ms. Sreevidya P., who is the founder of Business Infoware, Inc., an Analytics and Business Intelligence solution provider in Virginia, USA. She has also co-founded a company in India that provides multi-channel sales management solutions, with proprietary cell phone based platforms and occasional connectivity platforms to provide real time / near time information to users. Prior to her startup ventures, she worked with multiple MNCs and IT Companies in India, US and UK in Senior Management roles.
Yogesh K. Upadhyaya from Chronicle talks to Sreevidya about her start-up business ventures, which may inspire other fellow alumnae.
(Ms. Sreevidya P.)
Q-1: Welcome, Sreevidya. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
First of all, thanks for the opportunity and thanks to Arvind (EcE 92) for recommending my profile. And thanks to all the readers for taking time to read this article.
It may sound silly at the moment; still let me introduce myself as taught in ragging: “A murgi of 1988 batch, with hava of 1558”!!
As obvious now, I am a 1992 batch graduate (in Electronics) from IT-BHU. Having born and brought up in Sindri, Dhanbad in a simple family with emphasis on academic, social service, family ideals and Indian culture, I started my college life as a timid, small town girl (with 2 braid :)), totally confused even with a city as small as Banaras!
Whatever our college did, it did something right, apart from a valued Degree, to land this diffident mortal in a “then coveted” job as Graduate Trainee in Tata Steel. However, let me share a secret: I believe I made through this rather ostentatious interview, only due to generous commendation by my batchmates (both EcE & Mech. 92) to “Major Gupta”! Many of us may recollect Major Gupta as a significant figure in deciding the fate of “Tata Steel job aspiring” Engineering graduates for more than a decade!
Eventually, Tata Steel gave me a lot – it worked out to be an excellent launch pad. Earnestly, it groomed me in all aspects, some even unheard of in other companies – including an opportunity with a TV Commercial and potential opportunity in Bollywood films!!
With the Tata Steel foundation, I kept getting great opportunities with MNCs in India, US and UK as consultant, strategist, board member and other leadership roles. I have an unfinished effort on MS in Information Systems from IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology), Chicago and John Hopkins, Maryland – one of which may serve as an interesting post-retirement project!!
Q-2: How did you get the idea about starting the business venture?
Let me start with what inspired me to start a company (this was 1999/2000):
1. Hype, high TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and high % of overwhelmed / dissatisfied end-users in IT.
2. No globally recognized “Made in India” Software Product, in spite of India’s significant contributions*1 to the global software market.
*1Although only 1/10th of what it is today, India still provided about $5B worth software services in 1999-2000, leave apart the high % of India educated Engineers working in IT in US, Europe and various Software dreams of non-Indian MNCs!
I don’t know if it was finally the entrepreneurship or patriotism or a combination of both that made me start a venture. All I know is that starting a new venture seemed to be the easiest option to achieve the above objectives.
I was inspired by the power of Cell Phones, especially the computing power of SIM Cards (subscriber identity module in cell phones). Once while travelling in a train in India in 1999/2000 (where no other equipment is as handy as cell phone – even in economy class in international flights these days), I started to wonder as to why nobody had come up with appropriate interfaces and tools to utilize this powerful platform better. I started visualizing ways to shrink the gap between software and telecom industry by cross-utilizing this platform.
In the meantime, I had also worked on application integration projects. As many of you in IT may recollect, integration was one among the highly convoluted/hyped subjects in IT during that time, probably preceded only by Y2K and .com.
Since cell phone was too new a platform for a startup to venture at that time (in 1999/2000), I decided to start with an automated integration tool that would not only minimize TCO but also end user’s dependency on IT programmers. And dreamt about how people would look at data/information access differently when these two platforms would be combined in future.
I was fortunate to meet some like-minded people, and we together formed the core team of our business. All of us had our own set of ideas, our own objective to distinction, but what ultimately kept us together till date in this journey of creating business reality out of individual dreams, were a tight similarity in our business ideals and the intrinsic fire to succeed.
Today, our business model has evolved way beyond in the value chain. We took advantage of bottom-up evolution, with integration as a backend. We utilized domain expertise in the team to identify a niche in the value chain. And with our innovative cell phone & mobility platforms and innovative technology designs, we bridge significant gap between IT and non-tech savvy end users in our domain where limitations in IT infrastructure as well as resources are also common.
As a result, today many of our end users themselves are evangelists of our solution as they find our solution to be a wonder IT tool which “even they” could use without any help from their IT Department!
We still have a long way to go. As a team, we are confident of achieving our final goal of a “truly global Made in India software product” that would escalate India’s pride to even greater heights in the Global Software Map.
Q-2b: Can you elaborate on your journey till now? What is the learning for aspiring Entrepreneurs?
One thing we have always been sensitive to is the market. And unlike the norm in innovation startups, we have always addressed a mature market space. Our core competency today is our ability to address the dynamically changing “current mature market in an untraditional way”.
As mentioned, our journey started with “a highly ambitious” automated integration tool. We built probably one of the first “almost fully” automated integration tool with even the adapter*2 creation 90-95% automated! But we soon learnt (the hard way!) that the key to success is not just technological uniqueness. So when this market began to get crowded, we swiftly moved into specialized areas in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence, with the advantage of integration tool at the backend.
In the process, we identified critical gaps in the CRM and SCM space, especially in case of multinationals in highly competitive and unpredictable markets, like that of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) / CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) in emerging markets. Moreover, they are posed with a new type of challenge today with the changes in economy and liberalization.
Our company was re-launched with this new concept of unCRM.
Our sensitivity to market gave us a distinction here too. Instead of going by the general trend of building tools suitable for retail mature markets of US and Europe, and expecting all emerging markets to simply follow their footprint, we were sensitive to the key differences and limitations in such markets. Due to the same reason, our technology has competency to support innovative price models more pertinent to such markets, while many other solutions available today still require price points not supported by the current IT trends.
Apart from being market sensitive on the business front, we also watch technology aggressively. As most you in IT may know, telecom and mobility solutions witnessed historical transformations in the last 6-7 years. We were quick to launch our unique cell phone and mobility communication platform in 2003. This when combined with our unCRM model and our data management capabilities, give us an unrivaled competitive advantage in our target market. Today we beat competition from even the former Big 5 consulting firms.
*2For our non-software readers, integration adapter means set of codes that translates data between two enterprise systems being integrated.
Some of my learning I would like to share are the following:
1. Don’t get stuck to your ideas – move the way market changes.
2. Identify right people with good stake in your dreams – don’t be a do-all person.
3. As a startup with small budget, stick to what market needs NOW. What it needs in future can be built in future.
4. Keep technical complexities at the backend, not in the forefront of your product.
5. Build team judiciously. Get people to dream with you. As a startup with practically no HR development/motivation budget, hire only self-motivated people who believe in your dreams. One bad fish will spoil the whole pond.
6. Contrary to the general belief of “selling yourself first to make a sale”, what I experienced is “sell your products genuinely and you will never have to “sell” yourself”!
7. Last but not the least, as primary stakeholders, you and your core team should never lose optimism. Pessimism trickles faster than optimism.
Q-3: Please tell us more about your company
As mentioned, we are a software products company. We focus on business analytics & intelligence in Sales Management of multi-channel trade.
Our solution is available as SaaS (Software as a Service) on desktop, web, mobile web and ordinary cell phones. It comes packaged with its own automated integration adapters, configuration tools, maintenance tools and user support tools, automating the implementation and reducing go-live time by more than 80%.
We currently sell subscription licenses in India and consulting services in similar domain in the US.
Q-4: What advice would you like to provide to women engineers to start an IT business venture?
My advice to both men and women alike is to primarily listen to your heart – make sure you start your own business only if you feel strongly about it.
The excitement of a new business will soon fade with the struggles and hardships, very different from your erstwhile experiences in established companies. It is only your optimism, conviction and “dying to reach your goals” that will keep you going. (Well, isn’t this true for all major decisions in life?)
Once you have wholeheartedly decided to start your new business, it is all about understanding the market and deriving a thorough execution plan, while managing your financials smartly. Another very important thing is to identify your limitations critical to the business and get partners/stakeholders to bridge these limitations.
To my women contemporaries, I have only one special advice: not let our emotional inclinations / weak spots bother us. We can convert these to our strength and in combination with our inherent nurturing skills, we can make good managers out of us. After all, today all industries talk of EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient)!
Q-5: Please describe your college days
IT-BHU gave me one of the most treasured memories of my life.
And probably hostel life was the best among all.
Although we were told that the Girls Hostel lacked in amenities, I do not specifically remember what we lacked. From what we were told, the management was overwhelmed with 10 girls in our batch!; and hence had to make some rushed arrangement by converting an old Director’s bungalow into a hostel. Some say the bungalow was haunted!! – a nice strategy by the management to drive the spirits away!! Maybe it worked! The planchets suddenly had faster response in Vish!!
All jokes apart, I think the best take away from these types of hostels and the college in general, are real good lifetime friends. Probably it’s the age too. While we are all just mature enough to form realistic friends, whilst the innocence of a teenager still being there, I guess the friends we make in college are a genre apart from any other friends we make later in life.
Another thing I remember about Banaras is its temples with all those eateries, the Kachori & Jalebi breakfast at the corner end of Lanka, the burgers at the back gate and of course all the maharajas and maharanis. Before you all conclude that I am just a foodie, let me name some other memories like Kashi Yatra, SPICMACAY programs, IT Gymkhana matches (with its terrible quality of girls’ tournaments, still with a huge audience! On hindsight, while we already made a joker out of us, we should have at least made some money in tickets!), occasional genuinely “attended” classes, and even less genuinely derived lab results!! The Freshers nite is another great memory – the pride factor, for whatever we were convinced about, is strangely incomparable to any other growth seen in future!. Just one more on food –when in 4th year, finally some of us girls mustered the courage for a restrained, sneaky visit to a chai shop in front of DG (Dhanrajgiri Hostel)!! - One dream that we finally lived up to!! Today these and such restrictions seem unreal, but I guess that’s what increased the “perceived excitement and adventure” in our college life.
And the more silly an incident seems today, the more treasured I feel about it, strangely!
Q-6: Please tell us about your family life
My immediate family is my mother, brother, his wife, my sister, her husband and my world is my nephew! My father died in 1994.
My mother is the reason for my continued faith in the care and righteousness of the Creator, and my father’s advice and ideals still provide me endurance in my dark moments. My brother has been a guidance and support and both he and my sister have been my strength when all other options wane. My 4-yr old nephew has taught me things that none of my managers or any incident from my otherwise eventful life could teach!
I am obliged to my family, close friends and all my colleagues at work, for whatever I am today. I am influenced by Mr. Nandan Nilekani of Infosys and highly inspired by his book “Imagining India”.
Sreevidya, it was nice talking to you.
Sreevidya Perilakalam can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(We thank Arvind Gupta (ECE 1992) for forwarding us the info about Sreevidya)
1) Business Infoware, Inc.
2) DirectioAllCell brand
We are pleased to publish interview with Mr. Varun Grover, who is creating buzz in Film and TV industry by his unique style of writing scripts.
After passing out from IT-BHU in 2003, Varun worked for short time with a software company (Kanbay Software Solutions, now CapGemini, in Pune). With urge to work in a different field in a creative way, he came to Bombay, developed some contacts with Bombay’s glamorous film industry and started accepting assignments for script writing. He has written scripts (sometimes as co-writer) for several films, including children’s films and for TV serials. He has also produced and directed a 30-minute documentary film “Towers of Mumbai” about Bombay’s human pyramid event celebrating Dahi-Handi on Krishna Janmastami.
Yogesh K. Upadhyaya from Chronicle interviews him for his non-technical but interesting career in glamour media:
His biography is attached here
Q-1: Welcome, Varun. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
First of all, it's a privilege being featured in the alumni magazine. IT-BHU has been the biggest influence in my life, and to share the lead-up to and the by-products of those four years is a bit of a surreal experience. I did my schooling from Dehradun (up to class 5th) and Lucknow (rest of it), as a standard-format middle-class Kendriya Vidyalaya kid. This explains my choice of Maths-Science after class X and the choice of IIT-JEE after 12th. Thankfully, a lower rank and no charm of M.Sc. from IITs helped me land at IT-BHU (Civil Engineering).
Q-2: Why did you decide to jump into script writing profession?
Soon after joining the 'software job' at Kanbay in Pune (in 2003), I realized I am not at all cut-out for a code-decode-uncode job. I already had plans of shifting to writing (journalism, ad agency, TV or films) and started saving money, thinking I will quit in 2 years. But 6-months into the job and I realized two things – one, I can't wait for two years. And two – it will get more difficult to quit as time passes...a kind of fear of Stockholm-syndrome, me falling in love or submission with my abductor.
But with no friends, contacts or even basic idea about how the TV or film industry worked, it would have been stupid to quit. And stupidity worked, of course after a struggle of one year. For the first year, I mainly did ghost writing (i.e. writing for other people with no credits and very little or no money) and kept on networking. The first big break came in the form of 'The Great Indian Comedy Show' in 2005 – a niche satire-based show with one of the best creative teams Indian TV has gathered in the last 15-years or so. (It had Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak, Shekhar Suman and a creative team that later created gems like 'Dasvidaniya', and recently 'Quick gun Murugan')
Q-3: Please tell us more about script writing.
Script-writing is in simple terms, taking the germ of an idea to the written form of expression where it's ready to be translated on to the visual medium. So unlike a short-story or novel form, a script for TV or film will always be crisper, technically detailed (location, mood, setting etc.) and written in a standard format. There is a very simple flow-chart for the whole process. Idea → Short story → Step Outline (Plot Points with Event flow) → Screenplay (Scene break-up with content details of each scene described) → Final Dialogue Script (adding specialized dialect touches to the screenplay).
It is not difficult to find people specializing in a few of these different areas of expertise. Ideally a person should be able to develop a screenplay as well as write the dialogue, but sometimes people choose to focus on only one of these areas. And of course, all this work is generally done in collaboration with the Director of the film (or TV show), with generous interference by the Producer. Most of the TV shows I did (like The Great Indian Comedy Show and now 'Jay Hind'), were content-driven non-fiction shows and hence solely my creation with little interference from Director or Producer.
Writing is not a very high-paying job but as one gains more experience, the fees too gains some logic and respectability. The current rates for a 30-minute episode of a TV show are anywhere between Rs. 20,000 to 30,000 for screenplay and dialogue. For a small-budget film, say less than 3-Crore film, a writer may get close to 4 Lakhs for the entire project (which generally ends in 3-months). The only sore-point - film and TV industry are highly disorganized and payment schedules are generally hay-wire, sometimes ending in heart-burns and legal fights.
Q-4: Your advice to people planning to make career in film & TV industry as a script writer?
First of all – don't shift (or quit your job) if you are looking for glamour, big money or fame. All of these three are mostly illusions and come only as a bonus, sometimes as a curse too. Script-writing, of all, is a very lonely profession. So, if you love your own company, if writing ANY kind of stuff gives you a kick and sense of completion in your life, and if it doesn't matter to you what happens with your script once it's written, then and only then make a move.
I won't say luck matters in film industry (as many would like to believe or propound), but persistence matters. So persist till you get lucky, is a better way to put it. Contacts matter a lot, and with right contacts one can get the best support for his/her ideas. The field is very competitive, but in a very surreal way. As I said, writer's world is lonely and just like an actor's narcissism; a writer has to be in love with his/her writing. So much so that any one paying him/her to write is always a bonus, no matter how much is paid and by who and what is being done to the script after it's paid for.
Q-5: Please describe your college days
I basically did a part-time Engineering and full-time extra-curricular at IT-BHU, with due apologies to my good Professors at Civil Engineering (though I must add, my final grade was above 8). Thanks to the ever-bustling notice boards in our hostels, I soon realized that this place has all the options in the world. Initially for few months, I was really surprised to see that the telephone-area at the hostel entrance was always full of new posters, notices, and calls for various kinds of activities.
I chose to be a part of Theatre Club and our lovely magazine 'Reverberations'. In Theatre Club, dedicated people like Vivek Roy (Electronics 2002), Abhishek Chandra (Electrical 2002), Animesh Hazra (Ceramic 2002), Nishant Verma (Chemical 2002), and Pradeep Singh (Metallurgy 2001) were really helpful in showing me the way. While in 'Reverberations', I was lucky to be able to work with Kundan Kumar Lucky (CSE 2001) and Saurabh Chandra (Mechanical 2001). During those four years (1999-2003), I got to write and co-direct (for our theatre group GAP, with Animesh Pathak and Pranay Arya being A and P of GAP- both CSE 2003) many skits and plays. Thanks to Prof. S. K. Sharma, (Mechanical Engineering) and Prof. A. K. Mukherjee (Chemistry), we never fell short of encouragement or infrastructure.
I also edited the final two issues of the college magazine 'Reverberations'. Unfortunately (I blame it on the batches that followed) the magazine was shut down. I feel that a college which lacks its own magazine lacks its own voice. I digress, so coming back to the question: college days were as fun as they are for any generation which respects its time, place, and resources while making the cultural history every moment.
And being in a city like Banaras was like the rabri-on-top. A city so rich culturally, and what amazing food, spiritually, and still hiding little secrets for crazy travelers – it was a blessing to be studying there.
I remember that once just before we were to leave home for Holi (after playing a messy Holi in Raman Hostel) few of us went out to have some sweets at Lanka. But then we started craving for Rosogullas of Kshir Sagar so we extended the trip. At Kshir-Sagar we felt like having Gulab Jamuns of Gaudoliya, so went ahead. Upon reaching there, we felt like going to Neechi Baag (at the other end of Chowk) for some chaat at 'Kesari Chaat Bhandaar'. And all this while, we were in Baniyaan and Bermudas, with rubber chappals!
Q-6: Please tell us about your personal life
There is not much to share except that I still feel very nostalgic and depressed about the days spent at IT-BHU and Banaras. No matter what I achieve and no matter what life has in store for me, those four years will remain the greatest treasure; a treasure lost or may have been placed in recovery-package of brain. But may be nostalgia is the greatest tool of a writer, and in a way it's my need too, to keep the image alive.
Varun, it was nice talking to you.
Thanks Yogesh ji! It was great talking to you. And thanks for the persistent efforts our alumni group is making for the IIT conversion. Hope we achieve it soon!
Varun Grover can be contacted at: email@example.com
Professional Experience of Varun Grover
* Mahayodhha Rama (Releasing in 2009), Produced by Contiloe Pictures and Pixion. Starring Kunal Kapoor, Sameera Reddy, Gulshan Grover.
* Accident at Hill Road (Releasing in 2009), Produced by Magna Films, starring Farooque Sheikh, Celina Jaitley, Abhimanyu Singh.
* Zor Laga Ke Haiyya (Released in June 2009), Produced by Gemini Films. Starring Mithun Chakrabarty, Mahesh Manjerekar, Riya Sen, Seema Biswas.
* Ghoom – a spoof of ‘Dhoom’ (Released in 2007), Produced by MTV. Starring Sumit Raghavan, Purbi Joshi, Gaurav Kapoor.
* Oye It’s Friday with Farhan Akhtar, (2008-2009) on NDTV Imagine.
* Still Moving Still Shaking with Shekhar Suman. (2008), on NDTV Imagine.
* Ranvir, Vinay aur Kaun, (2007-2008) on Star One.
* Aisi ki Taisi with Raju Srivastava, (2007) on Aaj Tak News Channel.
* The Great Indian Comedy Show (2005-2007), on Star One.
* Dus Ka Dum (Season 1) (2008), with Salman Khan on Sony.
* Big Boss (Season 1) (2007), with Arshad Warsi on Sony.
* Chakmak, Baal Vigyaan Patrika, (2008-present) published from Bhopal.
* Pratilipi, Bilingual Literary Journal, (2008-present) published from Jaipur.
* Towers of Mumbai – a documentary on the streets. (2008)
* Zor Laga Ke Haiyya- a children’s film (story co-authored by Varun Grover)
“Bachhon ki film? Who cares” A review of the film written by Varun on Passion For Cinema.com
* Jai Hind- a late night show on Internet - written by Varun (started August 15, 2009)
Micro Site: http://jayhind.buzzintown.com/
Along with teaching, Prof. Lakhtakia is involved in research on electro-magnetic waves, optics, nanophotonics and nanomaterials. He has received several awards and honors, including two Nano50 Awards. He is one of just 12 engineering faculty members to have received the Faculty Scholar Medal at Penn State over the last 28 years. The University of Utah made him a University Distinguished Alumnus in 2007.
Yogesh K. Upadhyaya from Chronicle took the opportunity to interview him for his teaching and research work:
(Prof. Akhlesh Lakhtakia)
To view his bio-data, visit his home page (http://www.esm.psu.edu/~axl4/)
Q-1: Welcome, Sir. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I was born in Lucknow, and was schooled there (St. Cathedral School, St. Francis’ High School) and New Delhi (Cambridge School). My parents were salaried middle-class folks, very focused on education for their children. My father worked for the UP State Government, My mother was a homemaker. In later years, I came to greatly appreciate their financial sacrifices for our education.
I passed the Indian School Certificate Examination, then an 11th-grade school-leaving examination, and chose in 1974 to study at IT BHU. In those days, the B. Tech curriculum spanned 5 years. I opted for Electronics Engineering, as it was then an emerging area in India. I chose IT-BHU over IITs, because I felt that education at a university was somehow going to be more enriching than at an academically monocultural institution. That feeling was vindicated some years later by my experiences at US universities, and even IITs are no longer narrowly focused on engineering.
I received MS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, in 1981 and 1983, respectively. I liked that city immensely and fell in love with mountains. Even today, whenever I behold a mountain (not a hill), I feel that 10 minutes have been added to my lifespan. I also fell in love with an Argentinean student of meteorology, who consented to become the spice of my life.
We moved to Penn State in 1983. I was a post-doctoral scholar there for a year. I joined the faculty a year later. Mercedes went on to finish her PhD at Penn State, carried out research for about ten years thereafter, but in 2001 elected to become a Spanish teacher. She now teaches that language at Penn State.
We have a daughter, Natalya, who is currently studying for a professional MS degree in speech language pathology at the University of Utah.
Q-2: Please tell us about your teaching experience at Penn State University?
Pennsylvania State University is the land-grant University of the State of Pennsylvania. Chartered in 1855 to teach industrial and agricultural arts to the youth of Pennsylvania, it is now a comprehensive university with 25 campuses, 16 colleges, and numerous departments. The total number of students is in excess of 80,000, with 43,000 at the University Park campus, where I teach. The Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) index ranks it as the 43rd best university in the world. The same index ranks our College of Engineering as the 9th best worldwide.
The Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics is a cross-disciplinary department. We have run the first honors BS program in engineering in the state of Pennsylvania for over 50 years. We also award MS, M. Eng., and PhD degrees in Engineering Science, Engineering Mechanics, and Engineering Science and Mechanics. Out undergraduate program is ranked 5th in the US among programs of its kind. The research we do spans many traditional disciplines, so much so that I like to call us a department of engineering and scientific misfits. I love being in an interdisciplinary atmosphere.
I joined the faculty in 1984, and was promoted to Associate Professor (1991), Professor (1997), and Distinguished Professor (2003). From November 2005, I hold an endowed professorship. For the last three years, I also serve as the founding Editor-in-Chief of SPIE’s online Journal of Nanophotonics.
Teaching talented undergraduate students in an honors program is a great joy. These students are eager to learn and many of them are eager to change the world. Teaching undergraduate students from outside our program is a great opportunity. Helping them to realize their full potential is a welcome challenge that tests the mettle of an educator. Graduate students require a different kind of mentorship. They must be turned into self-propelled enquiring minds that create new knowledge.
Q-3: You are actively involved in research work on materials. What kind of work do you do?
A huge part of my research over the last 30 years has been focused on electromagnetic fields in complex materials. These days, my research encompasses nanophotonics and nanomaterials. I also work on scattering of acoustic, electromagnetic, and elastodynamic fields; fractals and chaos; biomedical applications of nanomaterials; and, most recently, on bioreplication.
If I could lay claim to two significant contributions, these would be (i) the formulation and elucidation of electromagnetic field behavior in isotropic chiral materials, and (ii) the conceptualization of sculptured thin films as a platform nanotechnology. Isotropic chiral materials are exemplified by amino acids, proteins, sugars, indeed, thousands of organic materials. Our bodies are made of many such materials. Isotropic chiral materials can also be artificially manufactured, with perhaps the first person to make them being Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. Sculptured thin films are assemblies of parallel, shaped nanowires that too can be traced back to Sir J.C. Bose. These materials can guide light and alter its properties in ways determined by the nanowire shapes. I am also establishing their potential as substrates (i) for cell culturing to enable faster pathological tests and (ii) for ex vivo tissue growth to assist renewal of damaged organs. Most recently, my research also focuses on bioreplication, the idea being to make exact copies of structures such as the eyes of flies and the wings of butterflies for solar-energy-harvesting devices, light-recycling devices, and colored fabrics produced without using paints.
Q-4: Your advice to electronics graduates looking to involve in electronics engineering teaching/research work?
The world or research and development is spinning faster than every before. Do not pigeon-hole yourself as some who can do only this or that. You are going to be an engineer. Engineers can do anything. They enabled the emergence of art, poetry, music, and commerce, by inventing paints, writing implements, musical instruments, coins, and so on. Without engineers amongst us, we might as well have remained like bonobos (nearly extinct species of dwarf chimpanzees in Congo).
You must become mentally agile. Be a sponge for ideas, and then share them liberally with others. Not only must you think, but you should also act. Proper action stems from careful research.
I teach courses that had never been taught to me. Twenty years earlier, I could not have envisioned the kind of research my students and I carry out these days. A couple of years ago, after I had delivered a seminar at the University of Utah, one of my former professors, Prof. Om Gandhi enquired: “But we never taught you such things, did we?” I replied: “No, but you taught me to learn and think.”
When I was in the 5th grade, my father taught me a poem. It has guided me since then. In 2006, I told this to one of my students who was about to receive a PhD. A couple of years later, when we met at a conference, Dr. Joseph Geddes presented me with a framed copy of that poem. It hangs in my office, connecting my father to one of my brain-children. It is entitled: A Psalm of Life. It was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Other pieces of free advice: do not spit on the ground; do not litter; do not consume paan, cigarettes, and liquor; do not routinely make false allegations against the sisters and mothers of others; praise others for their accomplishments; encourage those who have fallen to get up; volunteer; do not accept injustice and unfairness against strangers; love all children. These actions will make for a harmonious world, where you will realize your own potential fully among a crowd of equally accomplished peers. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Q-5: Please describe your college days.
My college days at IT-BHU were a lot of fun and very stimulating too. I lived in Vivekananda, Limbdi. Morvi, and Raman hostels. I ate in a hostel mess, with my fellow students. For one year, I enjoyed membership in a South Indian mess, and my wife has been infected with love for dosas and uttapams too. I would often miss Sunday dinners in favor of a lavanglata at Pahlwan’s, but sometimes would go to Sindhi’s hotel for mughlai chicken and parathas.
One year, I saw a lot of Indian movies. Most of them were copies of each other, and so my movie trips to Lanka became less frequent after that. In those days, Lanka had several bookstores. I could not afford to buy many books, but the owners of those stores were very kind and let me read the books on the premises. The Gaekwad Library was also a great gem, where I read literary and historical magazines from all over the world.
Friendships begun in those days have stood the test of time. My best friends were Vijay Khare (Mechanical) and Pradip Jain (Electronics). I lost touch with them for several years, but satellite communications and the internet brought us together again, our friendship undiminished by the passage of time. It is usually a great pleasure to meet my batchmates again, though I confess that a few have given me equally great pleasure by keeping these meetings short. I was saddened last year to learn that Manoj Gupta (Civil) was brutally murdered by a politician.
Among the professors who shaped my life, I must rank Prof. Prasad Khastgir the highest. He was a true mentor, unconfined by disciplinary boundaries and other protocols, but one who loved to guide young minds to think. Prof. V. V. Menon was a great favorite too. He introduced me to an esoteric topic (the theory of non-differentiable curves), which guided me many years later quite smoothly to the world of fractals. I was always impressed by the devotion of Profs. R.P. Singhal, Nagesh C. Vaidya, and Onkar N. Singh to research, and of Profs. V. V. Chalam and A. K. Ghose to teaching. Other memorable instructors included Keshav P. Singh, S. Balasubramaniam, and Dina Nath Verma.
I never liked to draw, mostly because I perspired a lot, and am so happy that programs like MacPaint and Adobe Illustrator have obscured one of my major shortcomings. One year, I learnt vocal music at the School of Music, and transformed into a successful bathroom singer who irritated Vikas Suri (Electronics) mercilessly. Pramod Joshi (Electronics) and I were once nearly expelled, allegedly for ragging, but we were merely late onlookers; fortunately, the wise counsel of Prof. Vaidya prevailed.
At the University of Utah, my research advisor, Prof. Magdy Iskander was superb. He was very enthusiastic about research. He worked day and night, it seemed. He taught me not to pay attention to irrelevant issues.
At Penn State, Profs. Craig Bohren and Russell Messier became my mentors, friends and intellectual-stimulation partners. By their talent, energy, enthusiasm, and innovation, a host of students, undergraduate as well as graduate, and research collaborators worldwide have enriched me beyond what I probably deserve. I am paid to do what I love to do. Who could ask for anything more?
Q-6: Please tell us about your personal life
I have already told you about my wife and daughter, both of whom are indispensable. My mother was hugely influential too, perhaps not always in ways she may have wanted to be. I am very close to my brother and sister and their families. All four of my nieces are delightful.
My philosophy of life is straightforward: I try my best to do what my conscience tells what is right.
Sir, it was nice talking to you.
My thanks to Chronicle team for bringing out the Chronicle regularly.
Prof. Akhlesh Lakhtakia can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Prof. Akhlesh Lakhtakia
CV: February 4, 2009
M. S. Thesis: Radio–frequency absorption of near–field energy by prolate spheroidal models of humans and animals.
Ph. D. Thesis: Near–field scattering and absorption by lossy dielectrics at resonance
Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005, UP