In the last two decades, India has produced some of the world's finest industry professionals, particularly in the field of IT and engineering, who are highly sought after by companies in the Silicon Valley in the U.S. and the world over. Yet it managed to escape one of the maladies synonymous with such an achievement - brain drain. How was it possible? Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) Advisor T. V. Mohandas Pai said this was because India has an excellent education system - an ecosystem that helps it retain the best and the brightest. "What is special about the Silicon Valley is that there is an ecosystem of venture capitalists, universities and entrepreneurs," he recently told Bernama during an interview at Manipal University's Bangalore campus. "For that to happen, the education sector needs to work very closely with the industry. You need capital and entrepreneurs who will start small companies." India has successfully done this and the proof is its IT hub, Bangalore. IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, and Sun Microsystems are just a few of the world's top software companies which have set up bases there. It is not a surprise that the city has, for some time now, earned the nickname of the Silicon Valley of India, taken from its namesake in Santa Clara Valley, California. Big names are coming in droves and becoming major contributors to India's phenomenal growth in the field of software engineering. This was reflected in Bangalore's gross domestic product (GDP) last year - a whopping USD65 billion, said Mohandas. The field of IT alone has contributed some USD23 billion to the figure. GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PAY Naturally, Bangalore's IT professionals are highly paid. "The rule India follows in IT is that when they choose to work here, we pay them a better compensation compared to what the average is in the country. But if they choose to go abroad they get paid like anybody else there," Mohandas said. Mohandas should know, being the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of one of the world's best global technology services company, Infosys Limited. That stint earned him the "Best CFO in India" by Finance Asia. He later on went to become its Human Resources Director and board member, before resigning recently. Currency conversions aside, IT professionals in Bangalore are paid handsomely for their services. Bangalore-based career portal Cybermedia Dice Careers Ltd and custom research firm TNS reported in 2006 that IT professionals were earning as much as Rs.5 million (RM339,384) annually. The latest report by online company PayScale on the salary, benefits and compensation given to IT professionals revealed a median salary of up to Rs. 1.1 million (RM75,000) annually. Added with generous perks and higher purchasing power, these companies have sealed the deal for many. "Furthermore, they have their families here. They may travel - but they will come back," said Mohandas. But attracting these Fortune 500 IT companies is no easy feat without enough rigorously educated youngsters, he said. "You need people. But not just anyone - you would need the cream of the crop." This is certainly something that is happening in India, in a very big way. It is rich pickings for the nation with a population of over a billion people. Graduates in popular fields, like IT and engineering, number in the millions. Mohandas said India can afford to pick the best and offer them lucrative job prospects within the country. Bangalore, itself, has 650,000 people employed in the IT sector, who could also work overseas, he said. INDUSTRY READY With hundreds of thousands of students graduating every year and job prospects in the best of multi-national corporations, India's best students scramble to gain the edge that will give them an added advantage over their competitors. Academic excellence alone is insufficient, as it is simply too easily earned by many. In meeting this need, the Manipal Group has teamed up with India's largest private bank, ICICI, to set up the nation's first corporate university. The ICICI Manipal Academy for Banking and Insurance (IMA), located in its Bangalore campus, trains personnel handpicked by the bank itself and turns them into 'industry ready' graduates. IMA's Deputy Director, Col C. Krishnan, said the syllabus and training modules at the academy were a result of detailed discussion and planning between the university and ICICI. "This way the students are always up to date on the current industry needs and practices," he said. ICICI also handles the entire screening process and selects 350 students in each new batch for the University, four times a year. Training is very rigorous at the academy, with emphasis not only on application of knowledge but also on overall development of personality. A group of Malaysian journalists had the privilege of visiting the academy recently and witnessed the students engaging in role-playing as bankers and clients, simulating real-life transactions. Krishnan said students enrolled at the academy have completed their first degree and are between 23 and 26 years of age. The one-year programme, which includes three months of industrial training, will give them an extraordinary advantage over their peers from other institutions. "When they have completed the programme and are absorbed into the banks, they will go in as assistant managers in top-tier management. That is how valuable they are," he said. The joint venture is so successful that other banks in India have started discussions with the university for possible collaborations. The university is also collaborating with the Corporation Bank, one of India's largest public sector banks. Sharing the same building with the academy is its Media and Entertainment faculty. In a similar fashion, the faculty has also produced graduates who are absorbed into some of the world's best animation studios with setups in India, including Dreamworks and Pixar. The faculty uses blended learning methods that include e-games, simulators and online learning. In line with the industry needs and development, the faculty is also introducing a Master's degree in game art, with a course content endorsed by the industry. ENSURING GRADUATES ADD TO HUMAN CAPITAL Meanwhile, the Manipal Education and Medical Group is set to open the Manipal International University (MIU) here in September. Its vice-chancellor, Dr Ravindra, M.P said that MIU would engage the corporate sectors while determining university courses and syllabi to ensure marketability of its graduates. He said the move was in line with the Manipal Education Group's philosophy of ensuring that their graduates were also adding value to the country's human capital. "I personally believe that Malaysia is complete in terms of infrastructure and overall environment. But unless you have a larger number of highly educated people, you will only get jobs at the bottom of the pyramid." Dr Ravindra said the objective was to ensure that Manipal graduates in Malaysia move higher in terms of the value chain in the market. This would be done by replicating the formula used in its most successful institutions in India, while tailoring it to suit the Malaysian environment. Dr Ravindra, who was also formerly with Infosys Technologies, has accumulated vast experience as a systems analyst, developer, consultant, and solution architect, as well as in education management and market development. MIU's temporary campus will be at the Malaysia Airlines Academy in Kelana Jaya and is expecting around 600 students for its first group. It is targeting to have 20,000 students by 2021, with an investment of USD200 million (RM602 million) for its development over time.