On 31 July, hearts of audience in Narasimhaiah Memorial Hall, National College, Bangalore, swelled with pride watching a video showing one of the Cartosat-2 series satellites of India tracking the traffic on US roads, each vehicle distinctly visible. This was a part of Bangalore Science Forum lecture by Dr. AS Kiran Kumar, the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This is one of the 20 satellites launched by PSLV vehicle of ISRO on 22 June – a record, one of the many by the organisation. 17 co-passenger satellites were international customer satellites from Canada (2), Germany (1), Indonesia (1) and the United States (13).
We are among leaders in Satellite technology. From its inception in 1960 till today, the organisation has proved this with series of achievements.
However, if you ask students in colleges about their dream jobs, working for ISRO is not one of them. ISRO is a government organisation and their starting salary would be less than 40% of what the toppers in good institutes would get in the market. The gap was much bigger before the 7th pay commission, when the current scientists of ISRO had joined.
While ISRO does not attract majority of academic achievers and the industry is happy to poach experienced scientists from the organisation, how do they achieve such great feats? It is not brand IIT and IIM; it is a great culture that makes ordinary people achieve extra-ordinary results and sustain. We have many mediocre companies in public and private sectors, which could learn from ISRO and a very few other such organisations.
PS. I am grateful to Dr. P. J. Bhat, Distinguished Scientist, ISRO/ISAC (Retd) for reviewing this short post.