Excerpt 4 from Karthik Varada’s interview
by Arasu Arun
“A face to the clubbing activities at IITH for the outside world, enabling more industry collaboration to bring exciting projects which will improve participation and trigger student interest.”
– Karthik Varada, on CET
Me: So.. you told me a lot about the academic reforms you’ve pursued. You’ve also mentioned you wanted to enhance the social life of the college students. How exactly did you approach this problem.
KV: Ah… like usual, we started with “Why?”. We tried to classify students in some categories and this is what we’ve arrived at:
- Ones who know what they want in life and from college
- “Why did I join engineering?” They have no interest in academics and fail courses regularly. They either look into other areas of interest, or sadly, some just slog around.
- Those who are not inclined in any particular direction. They just need a little push somewhere to excel.
We decided that our prime focus must be on the third category. That’s where the clubs come into play.
Me: I don’t know about your tenure, but this year, the clubs were very dormant. As an enthusiastic fresher, I was heavily disappointed and lost a lot of motivation.
Anyways, even the Director seemed very unhappy with the clubs this year…
KV: Well, the situation wasn’t much better in my time. I would blame it on the lack of proper organization and leadership among the clubs. I felt that they needed to pursue many ventures among themselves as a club. By ventures, I mean meetings among themselves, projects for the college, going to external fests and competitions. Even if some clubs try participating in some external events, the results are not very satisfactory as the teams are not organized or trained well. Aside from that, the clubs need to organize events for the general student body. These events could be for people with even a small interest in that subject.
[VARADA’S PROPOSALS FOR THE CLUB ACTIVITIES]
I proposed that all clubs focus heavily on the second kind of activities in the Fall semester, when new students come in. The current core team of the club will also pursue those ‘ventures’ among themselves parallely.
In the Spring semester, the clubs will make additions to their core teams and rev up the first kinds of activities while slowing down the second. This would make the clubs very active and also effective in helping students find their passion and grow their talents.
Me: Wow.. this would be very nice to have. Why isn’t it being implemented.
KV: Well, like I said, there needs to be proper coordination and leadership from the club heads. Even in my tenure, I didn’t see that. As we are a new institute, we can’t expect much proactivity and enthusiasm from the crowd… I believe the situation will gradually improve in the coming years and the implementation of my proposal will be gradually enhanced.
Me: Hope so.
[THE CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND TECHNOLOGY (CET)]
KV: There is a lot more we planned out for the clubs. We believed in more inter-disciplinary work and more relevant projects. We also felt that there was no connection between the industry and the clubs, or the Gymkhana in general.
A student (Karthik R) approached us with a solution that unites the clubs and the E-Cell. A couple of us from the Gymkhana, namely Nilesh Negi, the then SciTech Secretary and myself were personally very enthusiastic about it. The idea was polished after numerous hours of discussions among us three and the concept of the Center of Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) was born.
Me: I’ve actually heard about that. What exactly is it?
KV: CET is an umbrella organization for all the clubs and the E-Cell. We felt that they could progress much better if they all worked together. CET was like a face to all the activities at IITH for the outside world – enabling industry collaboration and bringing exciting projects for the clubs.
Moreover, CET would be the link between the outside industry and the clubs and the Gymkhana, in general. It would bring in real-life projects that the clubs together would work on. Aside from that, CET would promote learnings among the students by bringing them together for discussions, sessions, talks and much more.
Me: Wow… it sounds so necessary. Why was it never brought in?
KV: Well, not yet, you mean. It was quite hard to make everyone understand the big picture.
In the end, the clubs didn’t agree to be put under an umbrella organization. All of them felt they would work better by themselves, instead of together. Some of them were narrow-minded and didn’t understand what it meant to function as one.
Me: Oh… but there are similar initiatives this year, like the Design Club** (dLabs), kickstarted by the same team. They focus not only on technology, but other aspects of life as well. There are other programs like the Student Satellite Program which also bring interesting projects for the students.
KV: Yes, I’ve heard about them. I really believe that many such initiatives, similar to the CET, have brought exciting opportunities to students, while enhancing our image to the outside world and promoting club participation.
** To see the official draft of CET or dLabs or if you want any more information regarding those, contact me.
— Arasu Arun