‘If we try to recruit from IIT, no one joins’ – ISRO struggles to attract top talent from IITs due to salary disparity


Indian Space Research Organisation was lauded for the successful launch of Chandrayan-3 a few months ago. Many thought it would be a prime destination for young graduates from premier colleges in India due to the sheer amount of patriotic feel that it encompasses. Reality however is very different.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been facing a unique challenge when it comes to recruiting top talent from the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The issue, according to ISRO Chairman Dr. S Somanath, is primarily related to the organization’s salary structure. While ISRO strives to lure the best and brightest engineers, it has encountered difficulties in drawing IIT graduates into its fold.

“Our best talents are supposed to be engineers, and they are supposed to be IITians,” Dr. Somanath explained in an interview with Asianet News. “But, they are not joining ISRO. If we go and try to recruit from IIT, no one joins.” According to him, the percentage of IIT graduates choosing careers in space science and technology is minimal, “hardly less than 1 percent or even lower.”

Dr. Somanath recounted a telling incident when ISRO’s recruitment team visited an IIT to present career opportunities to students. After providing insights into the nature of work at ISRO, the team presented the salary structure. When students saw the highest pay they could expect at ISRO, many became disinterested. “After seeing the presentation, 60 percent of people walked out,” he noted.

The issue has been brought to the forefront by those who believe IIT graduates often prioritize attractive salary packages. Notably, the starting salary for engineers at ISRO is approximately Rs 56,100. This contrasts with business tycoon Harsh Goenka’s tweet last month, stating that the average placement package in top IITs is Rs 2.5 lakh. This trend of favoring higher salaries over public service was also emphasized by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who acknowledged the contributions of engineers from unsung colleges like CET to ISRO’s success.

Also read: Why astronauts don’t use pencil in space

Dr. Somanath clarified that ISRO is committed to hiring “adequate talent” for its projects and underlined the diversity of talents across different educational backgrounds. He highlighted that many talented individuals do not get the opportunity to take IIT entrance exams, but this doesn’t diminish their capabilities.

No solution in sight

Somanath’s revelation that less than one percent of IITians choose ISRO has ignited a debate about how to attract top talent to the space agency. Some argue that ISRO should make packages more attractive to fresh IIT graduates. Others contend that the government also shares responsibility in addressing the issue, as a passion for national service alone may not suffice for many graduates.

The challenge faced by ISRO highlights the complex dynamics between job preferences, salary structures, and public service in India’s competitive talent landscape. The discussion surrounding ISRO’s talent recruitment will likely continue, as stakeholders weigh the importance of offering competitive salaries to graduates from the nation’s top engineering institutions.

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