FC Kohli: The Man Behind Indian IT Revolution

FC Kohli: The Man Behind Indian IT Revolution

You must have heard about J.R.D and Ratan Tata. But did you know Tata Consultancy Services’ co-founder, Faqir Chand Kohli, who breathed his last on 26 November this year, aged 96? From designing India’s first course on control systems to being in-charge of establishing IITs in Mumbai and Kanpur, FC Kohli has done it all. Let’s dive deeper into his pioneering role in TCS and the subsequent impact on the entire industry.

Crux of the Matter

Checkpoint 1: TIFR
FC Kohli introduced the use of digital computers for power system design and control, including the use of the CDC 3600 mainframe computer at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Checkpoint 2: TEC
In 1969, he helped Tata Electric Company install a computer system to control the power lines between Mumbai and Pune, making it the 3rd utility company in the world to install it.

This was done to manage the power supply from multiple hydroelectric and thermal plants, controlling losses, ensuring continuity of supply etc. He utilized all tools including the basic analogue computers.

Implementing A Reliable System
By 1968, TEC had all the operations computerized via the Westinghouse Digital computer, which controlled hydroelectric and thermal plants of the Tatas, to hydel plant at Koyna. This way, Kohli made TEC one of the first in the world, to run their systems on a digital machine!

Checkpoint 3: General Manager @ TCS

  • Bagged TCS’ first outside software project: the Inter-Branch Reconciliation System (IBRS) for the Central Bank of India.
  • India’s first digital printing of telephone directory (200,000 subscribers in Mumbai) in 1971.
  • First Digitization of the PAN card for the Income Tax department in 1976.

Tata-Burroughs Collab
In 1974, Kohli made Tata’s joint venture with the world’s No. 2 computer company, Burrough, a reality. They converted a hospital information package from mainframe COBOL to small systems COBOL.

First Indian IT Company To Go Global
TCS became the first to obtain permission to set up an overseas unit in New York, all thanks to Kohli. In 1991, it became an ISO 9000 company and crossed the ₹100 crore mark with just 3,000 employees.

TCS grew from 10 consultants to 14,000 by the time he stepped down in the late 1990s and remained India’s largest private-sector employer, with over 453,000 of the world’s best-trained consultants across 46 countries, for a long time.

  1. As of 2020, India’s IT workforce accounts for 4.36 million employees. The United States accounts for two-thirds of India’s IT services exports.
  2. In April 2018, TCS became the first Indian IT company to reach $100 billion in market capitalisation, and the second Indian company ever after its market capitalization stood at ₹6,79,332.81 crores ($102.6 billion) on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
  3. The first software export zone, SEEPZ – the precursor to the modern-day IT park – was established in Mumbai in 1973. More than 80% of the country’s software exports were from SEEPZ in the 1980s.

CS-1: World’s Biggest Computing Chip

CS-1: World's Biggest Computing Chip

At the supercomputing conference SC20 held this month, makers of the world’s largest computer chip, Cerebras Systems’ CS-1, confirmed that the computing system has achieved a new performance milestone, achieving speeds far beyond what existing CPUs and GPUs could deliver. Is that why it is being called the “fastest AI computer in existence”?

Crux of the Matter

How Fast Is It?
As per reports by Cerebras and the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the CS-1 is 22x faster than the recently launched Nvidia A100 80GB chip and 200x faster than the Joule Supercomputer – ranked 82nd on the list of the top 500 supercomputers in the world – when simulating combustion within a powerplant.

How Was It Modelled?
The workload carried out to deliver the performance of CS-1, required modelling a number of real-world scenarios, including fluid dynamics and energy efficiency, via WSI.

Wafer Scale Integration is a rarely used system of building very-large integrated circuit networks, which use an entire silicon wafer to produce a single “super-chip”. Many companies before Cerebras had attempted to develop WSI production systems in the 1970s and 80s, but all had failed.

Z-Dimension Cooling
Cerebras co-founder Sean Li said that that rather than trying to move power and cooling horizontally across the chip as in traditional chips, both were delivered vertically at all points across the chip, ensuring consistency.

Why This Need For Speed?
CS-1 will be used to train neural networks and perform high-fidelity simulations of real-world scenarios, like calculating the best way for a helicopter to land on a flight deck by modelling air flow patterns around its rotors.

Matrix Style Simulations
Researchers have also claimed that CS-1 can predict the future “faster than the laws of physics, which produce the same result”. This is similar to what philosopher Nick Bostrom stated in his Simulation Hypothesis of 2003 i.e in the future, enormous amounts of computing power will be used to run realistic simulations of the universe.

  1. A Turing machine is a mathematical model of computation that defines an abstract machine. Despite the model’s simplicity, given any computer algorithm, a Turing machine capable of simulating that algorithm’s logic can be constructed. 
  2. The Apple M1 is the first ARM-based system on a chip (SoC) designed by Apple Inc. as a central processing unit (CPU) for its line of Macintosh computers. Apple claims that it has the world’s fastest CPU core “in low power silicon” and the world’s best CPU performance per watt.
  3. The experiment, known as Laplace’s Demon, was first described in 1814, hypothesizing “an intelligence” that could predict the future and reveal the past by calculating “all positions of all items of which nature is composed”. In his Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, Laplace wrote: “For such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.”

How Does A GSLV Work?

How Does A GSLV Work?

Recent reports suggest that the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) is engaged in a collaborative venture with ISRO, for India’s Venus orbiter mission ‘Shukrayaan’. As the rocket for the launch is set to be on GSLV Mark II, let’s understand the basics of GSLV and how it is different from PSLV.

Crux of the Matter

What Is A GSLV?
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) project was started by ISRO in 1990, for launching Indian capability for geosynchronous satellites. Since its reception, it has carried out 13 launches from 2001 to 2018.

Role Of Each Component

  • Fairing: Wider than the rest of the launcher, this provides aerodynamic efficiency and shields the payload from mechanical damage during the atmospheric phase of flight.
  • Third Stage: The cryogenic upper stage of imparts a high velocity to the payload and detaches at the periapsis.
  • Second Stage: The high thrust, liquid propellant has a high chamber pressure, which is activated 156 seconds into flight.
  • First Stage: It is ignited 4 seconds after the ignition of the 4 liquid strap-on motors, which help extract maximum thrust.

What About GSLV Mk III?
Also called the Launch Vehicle Mark 3, it has a higher payload capacity than the similarly named GSLV Mk II. It has launched India’s space capsule recovery experiment module: CARE, second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2. It will now be used to carry Gaganyaan, the first crewed mission under Indian Human Spaceflight Programme in December 2021.

  • Shukrayaan-1 is a proposed orbiter to Venus by the (ISRO) to study the surface and atmosphere of Venus. It is expected to be launched in December 2024 with a backup date in 2026.
  • Vyommitra is a female-looking spacefaring humanoid robot being developed by the ISRO to function on-board the Gaganyaan. It will accompany Indian astronauts in space missions and will also be a part of uncrewed experimental Gaganyaan missions prior to the crewed spaceflight missions.
  • ISRO has developed a desi version of Google Earth called Bhuvan which allows users to explore a 2D/3D representation of the surface of the Earth.
  • Assuming that the average distance between Moon and Mars is 225 million kilometres, the cost of India’s Mangalyaan mission was around ₹20/per km while that of Nasa’s Mavern Mass was around ₹180/per km.

Bajaj’s WhiteHat Jr. V/S Pradeep’s WhiteHat Snr.

Bajaj's WhiteHat Jr. V/S Pradeep's WhiteHat Snr.

The Indian EdTech Platform, WhiteHat Jr, has been in the news ever since CEO Karan Bajaj filed a defamation lawsuit against WhiteHat Snr.’s Pradeep Poonia, who has been a constant critic of the company for its alleged misleading advertisements and malpractices. Let’s see the timeline of the entire case.

Crux of the Matter

Who Is Pradeep Poonia?
Pradeep emerged as one of the main whistleblowers, taking on the marketing gimmicks of Jr.’s with videos of their inexperienced teachers. A total of 15 complaints were filed with ASCI for 7 such ads and 5 ads were pulled down.

Is He Behind WhiteHat Snr.?
Yes, Pradeep is an ex-product manager at ed-tech firm NextEducation. He runs WhiteHat Snr., a YouTube channel that claims to offer a curriculum similar to WhiteHat Jr. for free.

Case of Disappearing Negative Reviews
Apparently, many of Pradeep’s videos and social media accounts (on YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Quora, and LinkedIn) were taken down, after he started sharing screenshots and videos of the company’s toxic work culture and questionable practices, via their slack channel.

He also claimed to show how employees used personal and fake accounts to get negative reviews – including videos showing the inexperience of teachers – removed as well as harass their critics like Anirudha Malpani, an angel investor.

Did This Happen To Others Too?
A rival kid’s coding platform, Tekie, also accused Jr of posing as a student in their classes to understand and copy their model of teaching. A 12-year-old YouTuber Jihan Haria, who roasted an advert, had his video taken down, too.

Battle Shifted Offline
Last week, Jr filed a ₹20 crore defamation case against Poonia, accusing him of defaming the coding startup, accessing internal communications, and violating its name copyrights. A ‘copy-paste’ lawsuit of ~₹14 crores was filed against Malpani too.

What Did HC Say?
At the Delhi HC hearing on Nov. 23, Justice Mukta Gupta granted an ad-interim injunction in favour of WhiteHat Jr. Poonia has been barred from accessing their internal communications and using the name WhiteHat Sr online, until the next hearing on January 6, 2021.

Likewise, Malpani was also restrained from making defamatory commentary against WhiteHat Jr and next hearing for him would be January 14, 2021.

  • Byju’s was Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s first investment in Asia. Currently, it was the world’s most valued EdTech company with a valuation of $11.1 billion.
  • Coursera is an American massive open online course (MOOC) provider that has online courses, certifications, and degrees in a variety of subjects. edX.org is another well-known MOOC.
  • Founder of Khan Academy, Salman ‘Sal’ Amin Khan attended MIT and Harvard Business School. Khan was named one of the 11 inaugural members of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship by Barack Obama in 2014.

Is WhiteHat Jr. Watching You?

Is WhiteHat Jr. Watching You?

The Indian EdTech startup WhiteHat Jr. has recently drawn the wrath of parents and tech experts for its unrealistic marketing gimmicks and data breach of personal information of minors from their servers. Let’s understand what exactly is going on.

Crux of the Matter

What Is WhiteHat Jr.?
It is a Mumbai based Ed-Tech platform founded in 2018 that teaches students live coding through one to one video classes with instructors. The startup offers 4 major courses – beginner, intermediate, advanced and professional – for students in grades 1-12.

Why Did Byju’s Acquire It?
Byju’s, valued at ~$11 billion, acquired WhiteHat Jr. for $300 million as the former believed coding is fast emerging as a key skill for the future. So this acquisition helped Byju’s grow overseas and achieve an annual revenue run rate of $150 million in the US.

What Went Wrong?
As per the accounts of an independent security researcher to WhiteHat Jr, personal data of 2.80+ lakh students including names of their parents were exposed to outsiders, due to a vulnerability on the company’s server-side.

The personally identifiable information (PII) included students’ names, age, gender, images, user IDs, parents’ names, and progress reports. Moreover, salary documents of the company amongst other internal company documents were also lying out in the open.

Personally identifiable information is any data that could potentially be used to identify a particular person.

State Of Denial
WhiteHat Jr sent the researcher an acknowledgment mail separately, stating that all vulnerabilities were fixed within 24 hours and the company’s AWS servers were restricted, as of November 20. However, publicly they kept their stance of “no potential data breach”.

Case Of Misleading Adverts
September 2020: Jr received criticism from parents to celebrities, for bombarding them with deceptive ads on social media platforms and TV. Estimates from media planners cited money spent on adverts as between ₹10-15 crores.

The Advert That Started It All
One of the deceptive ads showcased a 7-year-old kid as a TEDx speaker and the youngest app developer. Then videos of Jr’s teachers as inexperienced professionals also started emerging. Subsequently, a total of 15 complaints were filed with the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) over 7 such ads.

WhiteHat Jr. has been embroiled in other such controversies. Read more about it here: Bajaj’s WhiteHat Jr. V/S Pradeep’s WhiteHat Snr.

  • Byju’s was Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s first investment in Asia. Currently, it was the world’s most valued EdTech company with a valuation of $11.1 billion.
  • Coursera is an American massive open online course (MOOC) provider that has online courses, certifications, and degrees in a variety of subjects. edX.org is another well-known MOOC.
  • Founder of Khan Academy, Salman ‘Sal’ Amin Khan attended MIT and Harvard Business School. Khan was named one of the 11 inaugural members of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship by Barack Obama in 2014.