Why "Everyone" In India Is An Engineer.

Did you ever wonder why India produces so many engineers? Well there is an answer. It is the culture. But not in a way you would imagine.

India is perhaps the only country in the world where parents decide the career of their children a few moments after birth.

This has famously been captured in the classic Bollywood movie 3 Idiots where the character of Farhan Qureshi played by R.Madhavan says "I was born at 5:15 am and at 5:16 am my father said: My son will be an engineer ".

The film which stars Aamir Khan (one of the most intellgent and biggest bollywood superstars) is an excellent depiction of what engineering education is like in India and how parents force their kids to pursue careers that are only meant to create a good standing in society for themselves (instead of pursuing what they love) . The movie was such an outrageous success that it is one of the highest grossing bollywood films of all time and is a treat to watch over and over again.

No wonder, because India produces 600,000 engineers from colleges across the country every year (read here for more) and in many families it is trait that has been passed on for generations. It is not uncommon to see three to four generations of one family ranging from immediate brothers, cousins, uncles and distant relatives all having an engineering background.

In my engineering career I have met more than a few engineers who were not in love with their work. They were piss poor engineers. I preferred to shunt them off into more important work like sorting resistors by color code. Work which could be double checked with an ohm meter. Just to keep them from mass producing a disaster by design.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 03.02.11 at 03:14 AM


One of the secrets of engineering colleges is that about half of all BS earners immediately leave engineering for some other activity.

Technical sales is ever popular. I recently met a young women (she recognized my Order of the Engineer ring and has one herself) who had a BS in Biomedical Engineering (a degree in high demand) and who was a part-time stewardess for the owner of a private jet (probably a Gulfstream) and a waitress.

Lately, our graduate schools have more Chinese than Indian students by far. The Chinese generally go home, but the Indians try to stay. It might be due to perceived opportunities. One Chinese student told me he was going home to get rich.

bob sykes   ·  March 2, 2011 6:33 AM

I think India will catch up - in attitude toward career choices, I mean. After all, in our glorious (and my tongue is only a tiny bit in my cheek with that adjective - I do think it's awesome) Western civilization until mighty recently, it wasn't so much that parents "decided" what their kids would do, but that everyone, parents and kids alike, took for granted that kids would do what their parents did. And in more affluent families where "work" as we know it was not financially necessary, it was all about the birth order.

As with pretty much everything in our absurdly privileged lives (and how I ended up so lucky as to be born when and where I was, I don't know!), we suffer from too much choice. I wouldn't have it any other way - but man, I still haven't figured out what to be when I grow up, and I'm at least halfway to death!

Jamie   ·  March 4, 2011 7:47 AM

Speaking as an American engineer, I've never met anyone from India that could do engineering. Sit in an office and pretend to be an engineer, but not do it. Hands on is not a virtue among the upper class of the Indian sub-continent.

Fred   ·  March 5, 2011 5:07 PM

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