Office of Naval Research, Asian Office, presents

A Detailed Report on R&D at
Indian Computer-Science Establishments

a report by Prof. Krithi Ramamritham

(Click on the author's name for information about the author.)
November 8, 1995

Executive Summary

India prides itself in having one of the largest technical manpower in the world. Her software industry has seen tremendous growth -- over 50% each year during the last 10 years -- which is the envy of many software exporting countries throughout the world. The students from India's top science and technology educational institutions are highly sought after by research universities in the US and Europe. India is one of just half a dozen countries to have successfully built and deployed their own satellites and launch vehicles. These accomplishments indicate that there is excellent potential for high-caliber research.

Computer Science (CS) research in India started in earnest only in the mid-80's, triggered by the establishment of post-graduate programs in many institutions throughout the country at that time. Today, almost all areas of computer science research are covered by researchers in India, including topics that are "hot" elsewhere such as multi-media, workflow automation, virtual reality, and hardware-software co-design. The territory covered by Indian researchers is impressive. Most of the research problems tackled are of current interest globally. Some of the research has even attracted international attention, including work on neuro-fuzzy systems, machine learning, genetic and neural algorithms, the modeling and control of flexible manufacturing systems, speech synthesis, databases, and complexity theory. However, a senior faculty member at one of the Indian Institutes of Technology summarized the status of computer science research at India's leading basic research institutions thus: "The averages are there, but the peaks are not."

Many computer science researchers in India have endeavoured to carry out high caliber research in spite of limited infrastructure and resources to conduct and communicate their research. Many in the community realize that it is time to generate a self-appreciation for what the Indian research community -- as a whole -- is capable of, develop a shared long-term vision, harness the potential of the community, and embark upon systematic efforts to break new ground. To this end, the Indian computing industry is being called upon to do its part, along with the relevant ministries in the government .

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Table of Contents

I. Introduction

In view of India's technical acheievements, as mentioned in the Executive Summary, an obvious question is: Has the potential for high-caliber research, indicated by the above facts, been realized? To address this question in the context of computer science, during the period Nov '94 - July '95, I conducted a study of the status of CS research in India. By attending a number of conferences held in India and visiting research and educational institutions, I appraised the current level of CS research at a variety of Indian institutions.

This document is a trip-report, summarizing the research conducted at each of the institutions I visited. The institutions are categorized as follows:

This report also has a description of the Education and Research Network and the Software Technology Parks that have been set up for software promotion.

In a companion report, I summarize the findings of my study. The summary report begins with a discussion of the nature of computer science research in India. The type of institutions in which computer science research is conducted is considered next followed by a discussion of the nature of students and faculty at the educational institutions. Support for conducting research in the form of equipment, infrastructure, and publications is the next topic discussed. I then examine how Indian researchers publish their work. Finally, I report on the impact on Indian computer science research of the phenomenal growth in exports by the Indian software industry and the arrival of multinationals since the recent liberalization and globalization of the Indian economy.

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II. Educational Institutions

There are six major research and teaching institutes devoted to science and Technology. These six institutes are the IITs (of which there are five, with one more coming up in Assam) and IISc, located in Bangalore. These institutions form a select group in the minds of the government as well as the citizens.

The next tier of institutions is made up primarily of the Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs), with one located in each state. Also, there do appear to be several less well-known universities where computer science research is being conducted. But a considerable gap does exist between the six top tier institutions and the next because of high teaching load imposed on the faculty, students, on average, lacking in quality, and finally poorer infrastructure, namely library and computing facilities.

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III. Government Sponsored Organizations

These institutions are funded by different government ministries and departments.

TIFR and the Institute for Mathematical Sciences (MatScience), perform research which is predominantly of a theoretical nature. These are funded by DAE.

Defence-related work takes place in a number of labs around the country, many located in Bangalore and Hyderabad, both in Southern India. A good example is the Center for AI and Robotics Research (CAIR) which can be described as a "think-tank" serving the AI and robotics needs of Indian Ministry of Defense. It is a component of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

The Ministry of Planning funds ISI, with its primary location in Calcutta. NCST carries out research in several areas of computer science and also has education and training among its functions. NCST is a successor of the erstwhile National Center for Software Development and Computing Techniques (NCSDCT) which was a component of TIFR.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is also involved in computer science work, but most of its work is of an applied nature, in the context of satellites and launch vehicles. ISRO has been building satellites for remote sensing as well as for communication. Its most recent success involved the launch of the Polar Synchronous Launch Vehicle capable of launching 1000-KG class satellites into sun-synchronous orbits.

National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL), Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), and Center for the Development of Advanced Computation (CDAC) have had the development of parallel processing platforms for solving computational science problems as the main focus of their computer science research. Recent overhaul in the Indial telephony is due to Center for the Development of Telematics, (CDOT). Development activities take place at the Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL).

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IV. Private Organizations

Tata Research Development and Design Center (TRDDC), supported by the Tata group of companies and the SPIC science foundation (SSF), sponsored by SPIC, a petrochemical corporation, are good examples. While the latter is primarily involved in theoretical computer science research, TRDDC is geared up to "result-oriented research" to meet the needs of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and its clients, and more generally, the Tata group of companies. The uniqueness of TRDDC comes from its self-supporting R&D effort. Even though most of the projects are done for TCS, TRDDC also has funds from DST, MoD, and other government organizations.

In addition, there are several labs that are sponsored by many multinationals in India, such as Texas Instruments, which led the way, as early as in 1987, Motorola, and Oracle. But, at this point, these labs are mostly involved in developmental activities defined and subcontracted by their parent organizations.

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V. Infrastructure

This section provides a summary of (1) ERNET that has come to be the mainstay of communication for researchers in computer science as well as other fields and (2) Software Technology Parks that small and emerging enterprises involved in software and hardware development, mainly targeted at exports, have come to rely upon.

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Many computer science researchers in India have endeavored to carry out high caliber research in spite of limited infrastructure and resources to conduct and communicate their research. Many of the researchers are involved in collaborative activities with institutions abroad, primarily in the US. Given the untapped potential that exists, researchers abroad may find it profitable to seek collaborators within India to further their research goals. I hope the detailed report on CS activities in India is helpful for identifying the topics being investigated in various universities as well as the researchers involved.

Funding agencies such as ONR and NSF do provide funds to foster Cooperative Programs through exchange visits, and also for organizing conferences and workshops in India. Attending these meetings is a nice way to learn first hand about the potential opportunities for mutually-beneficial collaboration. Unfortunately, funds for travel entailed by collaboration are often limited and it is believed that with the exhaustion of PL480 funds in India, new sources may have to be identified. Several Indians have also made use of fellowships through the United Nations Development Program to visit institutions abroad for extended periods. Having hosted such visitors myself, I can say that both the visitors as well as the hosts benefit a lot from such fellowships. They are worthy of further promotion.

Another message that is worth conveying to researchers in developed countries concerns the attitudes towards publications from developing countries like India. As I mention in my summary report, there is a general feeling within India that reviewers of submissions to conferences and journals do not give them the attention they deserve. As I have mentioned in several places in my report, exciting and important work does get done in developing countries, even though they may may be rarer occurrences than in the West. Hence it is important and fair to judge a piece of work not with respect to its origins but from the viewpoint of its contributions.

Also, it is worth pointing out that many in the Indian CS research community do realize that it is time to obtain a self-appreciation for what the research community -- as a whole -- is capable of, develop a shared long-term vision, harness the potential of the community, and embark upon systematic efforts to break new ground. Many established researchers along with those returning to India after studies abroad have made headway, by not letting the systemic constraints tie them down to the development of incremental ideas and solutions.

Indian computing industry must play its part, providing challenging opportunities that will bring out the potential in its employees. It cannot afford to sit on its current laurels for too long. The country needs technically-oriented leadership in the government to make this possible. Areas requiring attention include better incentives and appreciation for good research productivity, prudent management and use of research funding, enhanced salary levels for researchers at all ranks, appropriate means to set and demand accountability, and improved opportunities for peer interactions within India as well as for interactions between industry and academics.

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I am grateful to Andre van Tilborg at the Office of Naval Research for his support and blessings for this endeavor. I am indebted to Prof. C.R. Muthukrishnan for hosting my sabbatical at IIT, Madras and for the many discussions we had during my stay. Thanks also to my hosts at the many institutions that I visited during the sabbatical year. Special thanks to M. Vidyasagar for his detailed comments and for correcting some of the data reported in an earlier version of this report. I am much obliged to Nehru Bhandaru, Jayant Haritsa, D. Janakiram, Mohan Kamath, C. R. Muthukrishnan, Cristobal Pedregal-Martin, Srinivas Prasanna, and Satish Tripathi for their comments on previous versions of this report.

This work was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research under Grant No. N00014-95-1-0126. The information in this document does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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Glossary of Terms

Educational Institutions:

Government Sponsored Organizations: Private Organizations: Professional Organizations: Infrastructure: Government (Funding) Agencies Conferences:

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Contact Information

Prof. Jayant Haritsa
Computer Science & Automation
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore, 560012, India

Prof. N. Sarda
Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology
Bombay, 400076, India

B. N. Jain
Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering
Block 6, Haus Khas
Indian Institute of Technology
Delhi, 110016, India

Prof. Pankaj Jalote
Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology
Kanpur, 208 016, India

Prof. A.K.M.Majumdar
Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology
Kharagpur, 721302, India

Prof. C.R.Muthukrishnan
Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology
Madras, 600036, India

Dr. Hemalatha Diwakar
Department of Computer Science
University of Pune
Pune, 411007, India

Dr. N. P. Gopalan
Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering
Regional Engineering College
Tiruchirapalli, 620015, India

Dr. Uma
Dept. of Computer and Information Sciences
Univ. of Hyderabad
Central University P.O
Hyderabad, 500134, India

Prof. V. Ganapathy
School of Computer Science & Engineering
Anna University
Madras, 600025, India

Prof. C. S. Moghe
Professor of Computer Science
Visweswarayya College of Engineering
Nagpur, 440011, India

Dr. Vidyasagar
Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
Raj Bhavan Circle High Grounds
Bangalore, 560001, India

Dr. Atul Tulshibagwale
Center for Development of Advanced Computationf
Pune University Campus
Ganesh Khind
Pune, 411007, India

Dr. Bishnu Pradhan
Center for Development of Telematics
9th floor, Akbar Bhavan, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi, 110021, India

Surendra Kapoor
General Manager (R&D, ISG)
Computer Maintenance Corporation Center Gachibowli
Hyderabad, 500133, India

Dr. R. Narasimhan
National Fellow in IT
Computer Maintenance Corporation Ltd.
Mithra Tower
10/3 Kasturba Road
Bangalore, 560001, India

Gopala Rao
Computer Systems Group
Electronic Corporation of India, Ltd.
Hyderabad, India

Dr. Bhargab Bhattacharya
Indian Statistical Institute
203 B.T. Road
Calcutta, 700035, India

Narayanan, Head
Software Assurance Group
Vikram Sarabhai Space Center
Trivandrum, 695022, India

Prof. Deekshatulu, Director
National Remote Sensing Agency,
Balanagar, Hyderabad, 500037, India

Dr. A. Pedar
Aerospace Electronics and Systems Division
National Aerospace Laboratories
PB No. 1779
Banllgalore, 560017, India

Dr. S. Ramani
National Center for Software Technology
Gulmohar Cross Road No. 9
Juhu Mombay, 400049, India

Dr. N. Vijayaditya
National Informatics Center
A Block, CGO Complex, Lodhi Rd.
New Delhi, 110003, India

Dr. C.S.R. Prabhu, Technical Director
National Informatics Center (Southern Region)
A Block GO Complex
Tank Bund Road
Hyderabad, 500029, India

Prof. R. K. Shyamsundar
Computer Science Group
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Homi Bhabha Road
Bombay, 400 005, India

Dr. P.S. Thiagarajan
SPIC Science Foundation
92, G.N. Chetty Rd.
T. Nagar, Madras, 600017, India

N. Jayaraman
Tata Consultancy Services
12, Cathedral Rd.
Madras, 600086, India

Dr. Keshav Nori
Tata Research, Development and Design Center
1, Mangaldas Rd.
Pune, 411050, India

Dr. Anand Deshpande
Persistent Systems Privaate Limitedbr> Kapilavastu, First Floor
397/9 senapati Bapat Road
Pune, 411053, India

Dr. Ramani
Naational Center for Software Technology
Gulmohar Cross Road No. 9
Juhu Mombay, 400049, India

Dr. Choudhry, Director
Software Technology Park
407 Maitrivanam, Sanjeeva Reddy Nagar Post
Hyderabad, 500038, India

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Prof. Krithi Ramamritham
Dept. of Computer Science, LGRC
Campus Box 34610
University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, Mass. 01003-4610.

Comments and questions about this report should be addressed directly to the Prof. Ramamritham. Comments, suggestions or questions about the Asia-Pacific Science & Technology Information Archive should be addressed to: