At the outset I would like to thank TVC for inviting me to share my experiences in my academic and research career spanning over three and a half decades. In the field of engineering, an educationist has to play many roles. Fundamentally one starts to be a Teacher, Trainer and Researcher. In course of time, he contributes to academic administration like content (syllabus) revision, accreditation, introduction of relevant subject (elective) with the current industry requirement. He must have a strong industry connect to organise corporate trainings, project resourcing, consulting, laboratory development, interaction with industry for students’ placement etc. One can shape oneself and live a contented life with a properly planned academic and research career.

Mr. Anup Rakshit.

  • Share your Education and Professional Journey

I started my professional life with cotton spinning mill after graduation from University of Calcutta.  After a few years I switched to higher studies and started my first academic assignment with Government Central Textile Institute (currently UPTTI), Kanpur. After completing Ph.D. from IIT Delhi, I joined VJTI, Mumbai in 1989, to begin with my academic career. I continued with VJTI till 1997. At this juncture, it was felt that only classroom teaching and in-house research will not be enough to understand the requirement of the industry, both for the present and future.

I joined SASMIRA (Synthetic & Art Silk Mills’ Research Association, Worli, Mumbai) in 1997, a leading Textile Research Organization in Mumbai to pursue a career in research administration. That remains instrumental in popularising the then emerging field of ‘Technical Textiles’ in India. A proposal for introduction of technical textiles in India was prepared for ‘Empowered Committee on Technical Textiles (ECTT)’ and submitted to Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India for consideration. It later translated into the National programme and is a mission today. A concerted effort introduced by the Ministry of Textiles, gradually helped establish ‘Centre of Excellences’ in technical textiles across the country. 

I had managed more than 60 research projects sponsored by various agencies viz. Ministry of Textiles, Ministry of Defence, DST and Industry with the help of a pool of qualified Scientists. Besides large numbers of publications, I obtained one Patent in my credit.

The research career offered ample opportunities like sourcing and handling projects, consultation with industry, development of laboratories through outside funding, image building exercises for the organisation, strategizing internal engagement and development of scientist group, developing and manufacturing of textile testing instruments etc. Another opportunity was to be associated with top ranking international financial agencies to prepare Technical Viability study reports under Debt Restructuring Package (GOI) for four companies those were referred to The Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). The Power loom Service Centre (PSC) in Bhiwandi was also under my fold. This being one of the largest power loom cluster in India and being at the vicinity of office of Textile Commissioner, Mumbai; it used to be the platform for launching many schemes for the unorganised sector of Textile Industry in India. 

I served as an Editor for Man Made Textiles in India; a leading textile journal published by SASMIRA for more than a year. I am a Peer Reviewer for Textile Research Journal (TRJ), USA and Indian Journal of Fibre & Textile Research (IJFTR), published by CSIR, India.

In collaboration with FICCI, monograph series on different fields of technical textiles have been published. More than a dozen seminars, symposiums, conferences, colloquium, training programme and interactive talks were organised to support textile industry for diversification or to encourage part investment to technical products. 

In 2008 VJTI management invited me to re-join and continue the legacy of the oldest Department of the institute. I was placed in different capacities e.g., as Professor, Head of Department and Dean R&D. My active areas of interest were nonwovens, technical textiles, sports textiles, geotech, lean manufacturing, management of textile industry etc. My diverse experience helped me to set a time bound plan and strategic development of the department and the Institute (VJTI) in general. 

Academic development activities like the introduction of new courses and electives (industry relevant specific subject), MOU with other institutions, Collaborative research projects, accreditation of courses, industry sponsored laboratory development, customised corporate training programme, higher internal revenue generation through commercial testing services, tactical way to improved pay package for students, mobilisation of alumni association for department development and students’ placement etc. All these had been over and above the routine administrative activities of managing the department, addressing students’ grievances and counselling.

  • Being an educationist, what was your journey in industry and interaction

During the early 2000s, FICCI used to render technical support to specific group of industries. I was Consultant to Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industries – FICCI’s Western Regional Council for Textile Industry. I had a lengthy association with BIS and was member of various committees’ viz technical textiles, geotextiles, fabric forming etc.

It was a pride and pleasure to be associated with Research Advisory Committee (RAC) of Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA) and Wool Research Association (WRA). Their annual meetings were to set a pathway for the research projects and new developments of the year. Textile Machinery Manufacturers Association (TMMA) Mumbai used to offer award to best performing Member Company for their in-house technical development or commercialisation of new machinery. For nearly a decade I was member of their Research Awards Committee along with stalwarts from industry and academia. I was associated with Department of Science and Technology (DST) for evaluation of two schemes viz. Special Assistance Programme (SAP) and project proposals for Instrument Development Programme (IDP). For AICTE also I had contributed towards examining proposals for various schemes in research, faculty visit abroad etc. 

Opportunity came in to travel overseas with various assignments like training, University Collaboration, Research Collaboration etc. to UK in 2001, Europe (Germany, France & Netherland) in 2008 and Czech Republic, Austria in 2011; Mauritius & South Africa (Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth & Johannesburg) in 2013.

I was Ph.D. Examiner for many Universities and Institutes of national importance of which IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, NIT Jalandhar, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, M.S.University, Vadodara etc. are to name a few. I was invited to be the search committee member for SVITS, Indore. 

Through this journey of academic and research career, lot of support from different quarters, made me learn the art of managing and negotiating with agencies that led to the development of the organisations I served. Research and academic process offer a plethora of opportunities and professional engagement, one can enjoy working with. 

  • Being in the industry for quite a long time and now as College Principal, how different is the feeling and experience?

Starting as a classroom teacher to managing research centre, project, consultancyy and then as Professor, Head and Dean of a prominent institute, it was a progressive career. Each phase made me learn different skill sets, that are useful to contribute completeness in the organisation as a whole or the department. Collaboration with other institutions (both in India and abroad) and agencies including corporate training is an exemplary experience. 

As Principal, it is an extension of service in the career spanning over the decades. From a textile background I took over the charge of a College that runs UG programmes in mechanical, electrical, electronics, civil engineering, and computer science courses. Strategic approach for institution building, student centric developments, welfare measures on all fronts, faculty development schemes, satisfying requirements of approving or affiliating authorities (AICTE/University) etc are the key activities as the Principal. Complete managerial and financial decisions are key issues to be addressed. Besides, stakeholders’ response and queries are to be handled diligently. At every stage, to adopt innovative and creative approach in strategy and planning works best; to build confidence among the faculty and students, promotion of research culture, grooming and motivating faculty members towards research was a task. 

  • As a Mentor, what qualities, capabilities do you see in your Ph.D students

Universities in India choose two schemes for the PhD students. One, full time students with scholarship and the other as part-time sponsored candidate (QIP etc.). Students with an urge to learn, to truly enrich their academic credentials and research, do not bother about the financial loss or gain, join full time. The topics and the content delivered by these students towards their doctoral programme contain a certain level of quality as compared to the part timers. The education system has a set of career development programmes and all QIP candidates wait eagerly to get their turn. Moreover, the government pays them a stipend for the duration of Ph.D programme; which is over and above the salary they receives from their institution. Therefore, their goals are to somehow obtain the degree and acquire promotion. Therefore, it is apt to consider candidate who has a true zeal to excel in his own field, work independently, confident and possess certain skill sets like communication, whether it is in written form or oral presentation. 

  • The Education industry has changed by 360 degrees from classroom to online teaching-learning, what is the trouble faced by professors / teachers and students. 

Any change in the conventional process should have a resistance… and the current scenario is not an exception. It is true that the trainer and trainees’ physical presence and interaction gives the best result, but if the situation does not permit, one has to adopt a new system. In the beginning of the pandemic, last year, things had almost collapsed. Then digital delivery process came into being and now it is a way of life. Except for practical classes where a student needs to handle some equipment, instruments or chemicals, majority of the experiments went in demo mode and examination and evaluation process changed accordingly. In future the education system would continue in mixed mode, partially physical and the remaining virtual. Let us take an example, those who have learnt driving in an advanced training school; ibeing exposed to simulators in the beginning and then take them to the vehicle or as it happens for pilot training in aviation industry. Our systems and process would also adopt the same in future.

In classroom teaching, which was more one way delivery from the teacher, the teacher could examine the level of learning in students through their gestures and class interaction, the online delivery is more based on feedback and short assessments after every module to ensure that requisite level of learning has taken place. Here lies the contrast. The teaching process has been upgraded to teaching-learning process, where students’ participation and feedback are equally important, even if the learning is done either in objective mode or exhaustively in an open book manner. 

Just look at the format coaching classes have adopted. Within a year’s time, they have gone online or ‘through app’ delivery. A central classroom studio caters to the nationwide micro classrooms. We need to respect and adopt the new system, there is no respite.

  • Share your opinion on Future of Education as an Industry, its opportunity, and threats

Education is the fundamental need to build a nation; therefore, it can never die; only issue is how much priority it receives from the government.  In India, at the school level, different boards are prevailing and the process of course delivery is equally diverse. Therefore, the students’ understanding, and maturity level varies. At the secondary and tertiary level of education the students are unable to cope up with the challenges. Homogeneity is required. However, Indian students are very competitive on the international platform. It is an opportunity for our education system to recognise the gaps and fulfil the same with a fresh Policy. Indian schooling and higher education system need to be overhauled to fill the same. Besides, threat from the overseas is obvious. And the approaches of the New Education Policy (NEP) is to combat the problem and to rationalise the entire education system; not only intra and inter board, but to be at par with international standards.