Sumant Sinha Image

In an interesting chat with on Friday, Sumant Sinha, chief financial officer of the Aditya Birla Group, shared his thoughts on the forthcoming Pan IIT Global Conefrence 2006 to be held in Mumbai [ Images ] in the third week of December.

With a market cap in excess of $20 billion, the group is among the largest players in India [ Images ] in areas like telecom, financial services, aluminium, copper, cement, and among the largest global producers of fibre, carbon black, insulators, yarn, etc.

Here is the transcript:

Sumant Sinha says, hi, everybody. Sorry for joining a bit late.

Raunak asked: What are the challenges that India faces in the new millennium?

Sumant Sinha answers: to my mind the major challenges facing India are fundamentally poverty, lack of invetsment in the social sectors, bad governance, poor infrastructure.

Rajib asked: What is the significance of this year’s theme?

Sumant Sinha answers: This goes back to another question that Raunak has asked – how can IIT-ians help address these challenges. IITians need to be involved in dealing with the country’s challenges. We do not need incremental solutions but transformational changes. And we can do so through personal leadership by inspiring others to follow our example. Hence Inspire, Involve and Transform.

Kiran asked: Hai sumit How did you enjoy your life in IIT

Sumant Sinha answers: Every IITian will tell you that the IIT experience was one of the best of their lives. Same for me. It was a great learning about how smart people can be, about handling pressure but having fun as well. That is why there is such a bond between IITians and an instant respect. Same is not true for the IIMs where I also studied. Also you are in the IITs at the most formative years of your life. So you end up forming life long friendships.

Joy asked: How does IIT education helps groom entrepreneurs?

Sumant Sinha answers: It gives people the confidence in themselves that they can handle pressure and deal with unforeseen situations. Mostly personality development rather than any specific skills that are imparted.


Sumant Sinha answers: Investment in social sector includes education which as you observed is very important. But so is health for example

Wadhwani asked: Hello Sir, From which IIT and in what year you completed your B.Tech?

Sumant Sinha answers: From IIT Delhi. 1987 batch. Long time ago….

Amitkumar asked: Good Day Mr Sinha, how do you see retail in garment business. is AVB group planning to come with any such idea and tap the hidden mid income group market.

Sumant Sinha answers: I won’t really asnwer any AV Birla GRoup related questions as this is not the proper forum for it. Hope you all dont mind.

Ramki asked: hi sir how are you sir?

Sumant Sinha answers: I am good how are you

Abhay asked: Has any of the previous Pan-IIT meet resulted in any contribution to India? Or has it just become another platform for people to network?

Sumant Sinha answers: Abhay – thats an excellent question. TO be honest I am not close enough to the organizers to answer, and this will be my first pan IIT meet. At the very least networking is not a bad thing – it throws up ideas too and can be useful from a career perspective.

Mkj asked: I am employed with monthly salary of 12000/.I want to start a business but I dont have any capital.What should I do?

Sumant Sinha answers: MKJ – thats a tough one and only you can answer it for yourself. There are no magic answers to these sorts of issues.

Ramki asked: what is your contribution to the nation till ur post as a cfo?

Sumant Sinha answers: Frankly not much. But you have to mature to get to a point to be able to contribute. Working outside India was a good learning experience and I was able to use the skills I learnt there to the Indian context.

Saif asked: How do IITians plan to give back to the country?

Sumant Sinha answers: Another good question. When I was finishing IIT there was always a hue and cry about IITians leaving India and brain drain and so on. I think IITians who went overseas have ended up becoming great ambassadors for India, they have put money back into the country (maybe not as much as they could have), and they have brought back skills and experience which Indian businesses can use to grow in a global environment. Over time you will see this becoming even stronger as IITians become more senior, earn more and become older and start looking for self actualization type of issues – where better to gain recognition than from your homeland, rather than in a different country?

Jayant asked: Any message for those currently studying in IIT?

Sumant Sinha answers: The world is your oyster. Be cool, be confident and you will do well in life.

Raju asked: Hi, Sumanta sinha, According to you to get into IIT is that studying at good school from primary to 12th standaerd is important or do you think one should have born with good IQ int he genes itself.Please answer my question.

Sumant Sinha answers: I think you need some basic degree of inteligence and that does come with genes. But on top of that you have to put in enormous hard work to get into IITs irrespective of how intelligent you are. And that applies to the rest of ones life too. Beyond a point inteligence really does not matter that much – unless you are in a very technical field. What matters more is how you can manage and relate to people, chart the course of your career, the decisions you make and so on. Good schoolin is important but its the intelligent hard work that counts for more.

Somesh asked: Hi Sumant…which hostel were you in?

Sumant Sinha answers: Aravalli – the best hostel

sanjeev asked: i am working in London [ Images ] with an international consulting firm and wondering if I should head back to India to contribute to India’s growth and benefit from it but am nervous about HR attitudes of Indian firms. What would be your advise?

Sumant Sinha answers: Sanjeev, there is no better time to come back to India. The economy is doing well, there is a shortage of good people and comp levels are going up. Plus you get a much better satisfaction of being back in India. I would highly recommend for all young IITians to think about heading back sooner than later. Why not contribute to growing your own coutnry and do well for yourself too in the bargain?

Padiyarnaresh asked: hello, i would like to know how u shifted ur carrer from iit to iim to finanace and what u feell about students doing iim and iit and joining foreing companies or moving outside country.

Sumant Sinha answers: People will go wherever the better opportunities are – you cannot prevent that. The trick is to create better opportunities in our country to hold such qualified people back. In my case, it was quite by accident – i studied at Columbia Univ in New York and then Citi hired me, and thats how I got into finance.

German asked: Sumant Sinha how do you plan to contribute to PAN IIT @ mumbai and indirectly to the Indian constitution?

Sumant Sinha answers: With a name like “german” you are the last person who should be asking me about my contribution to the country!

Nitin Gupta asked: In recent years, due to academic pressure or some other reasons number of suicide (/attempts) at IIT’s have really gone up. What you as an individual think or done about it and what do you think IITians as a community should be doing to bost moral of students.

Sumant Sinha answers: That’s a serious question. There is so much pressure on young people these days and those who show up at IIT think they are doing well until they come up against the pressure there. A lot of people cannot handle it. But has the rate of suicides been increasing over the years?

Ram asked, which branch would you recommend for those who want to join IIT

Sumant Sinha answers, Computers, Elec – the typical prioritisation that exists. Really depend supon your rank

Bunty asked, what type of industry will u suggest for an Engg. Graduate & MBA from A category B school.(not A+)? Perticularly want to work in the field of Brand management. Hope I am very specific…………… Sumant Sinha answers, Try Retail – its a fast growing industry that will suck in people for many years.

Rahul asked, What do you think is the biggest contribution of IITians to India?

Sumant Sinha answers, Self confidence!

Mandar asked, How do Americans view IIT-ians today?

Sumant Sinha answers, I think very positively. When I went to the US more than 15 years ago, not many people had heard of the IITs and India was not a great star. Today its quite different – in financial services and consulting and industry as well there are many IITians who are doing phenomenally well.

arvindsharma asked, sir how can a person devlop the outstanding qualities like an iitan if he belongs to a nonIIT field9c.a.)?

Sumant Sinha answers, Lets not make too much of a distinction between IITians and non IITians. A good student is a good student and will usually do well in life. I know so many bright people who chose other walks of life – pls note that I am using the term IITian a little loosely to describe any smart and achiving Indian. And I agree with arvind that determination and hard work are what matter in the end. Just cracking one exam is not sufficient.

iitan asked, Hello Mr. Sinha. What effect due you think the new reservation policy (OBC quota) of the government will have on IIT education? What are the realistic measures that must be taken to maintain the standards in the future?

Sumant Sinha answers, Frankly I am against reservations on the basis of caste. It must be on economic criteria. Else we as Indians will end up dividing ourselves into so many different groups over time and there will be so much hostility between different groups that we wll end up becoming many different counries. We must put a stop to this beyond a point. In IITs in my time there was a clear difference between the reserved category and the general category. Even between different branches such as computers and textiles for example. With 50% of the class belonging to different entry criteria the quality of difft types of students wil become too diverse and the pace will have to slow down. For the IITs its a retrograde step.

Raju asked, Hi, Sumant. Thank you for answering my question about intelligence. This question I asked because childrens from the rural background cannot aim for IIT not even RECs and good engineering colleges. Is it not this because poor education and awareness in rural schools. But the same childrens would have studied good schools they could have make it to IITs, RECs. Do you agree with me?

Sumant Sinha answers, I agree and that is why education for all is so critical. Think of all the talent lying waste simply because we as a country could not educate and develop some of our best people.

Balaji asked, Good Afternoon Mr.Sumant, In the recent times especially on rediff we are hering a lot about the IIT Aura.Is IIT the only Flagship Institute of India/ Are not the REC’s doing good job. And the IISC , the leasding institute in ASIA for Post graduation and research?

Sumant Sinha answers, Since this is a pan IIT meet, it is about IITians. Of course others also contribute as I have said earlier.

Ramesh asked, One hears of very few IITans in engineering jobs and even fewer doing anything creative. So how do you claim that they are ‘Transforming India’ ? There are hundreds of others too selling soap and shampoo. Sumant Sinha answers, You have to look at the larger picture. Its easy to criticise selling soap and so on, but a lot of these people aslo are dedicated to doing somehting useful. Give IITians a few more years and you will see more of them in public policy type roles contributing more directly to nation building.

Ramesh asked, One hears of very few IITans in engineering jobs and even fewer doing anything creative. So how do you claim that they are ‘Transforming India’ ? There are hundreds of others too selling soap and shampoo. Sumant Sinha answers, Look at the larger picture. Give IITians a few more years and they will be ocntributing more directly nation building.

Sumant Sinha says, Got to go guys. Thanks a lot for the enthusiasm in posting questions. Sumant.