EDU: We find leading IT companies have dedicated verticals addressing the needs of the education sector. Is this a recent phenomenon?
Himanshu Seth: HP has targeted education as a focused segment in India since 2002. We seek to provide a ‘campus on the move’ to students through our initiatives – bring technology closer to colleges and bring the corporate world closer to students who get theoretical knowledge. Our offerings have now evolved into HP Learning Solutions (HPLS).
EDU: What are the services you provide under HPLS?
Himanshu Seth: HPLS is a proposal to a college in building a relationship, by offering any or all of five solutions. The first of these is Educenter, in partnership with NPTEL (National Programme of Technology Enhanced Learning), which is a joint venture between the Indian Institute of Science and the IITs. In Educenter, we provide learning content – best-in-class lectures prepared by professors in these premier engineering institutes – in five streams: electrical, computer science, electronics, mechanical, and civil. We already have 5,000 hours of video content, which is put on servers within the college campus, for students to access anytime, from anywhere, using their desktops or laptops. We also encourage engineering and management colleges to record their own faculty’s lectures and put them on the Educenter server. Students can then revisit these lectures, say before exams or before a job interview; faculty can use Educenter content to improvise; and students also get different perspectives on the content they’re learning. Just like in engineering, we plan to build a repository of best-in-class lectures in management as well.
The second solution we offer is setting up a Wi-Fi network in campus, through ProCurve, a $1.5-billion company that belongs to HP, and is the second largest networking company in the world. ProCurve equipment comes with a lifetime replacement warranty.
Third, we offer to set up HP Workstation Labs, for which we have partnered with SolidWorks, AutoDesk, Maya, Avid, and other solution providers, whose solutions are used in the corporate world. We tie up with ISVs to set up CAD/CAM labs in colleges, whereby we provide the hardware, software and the certification on having completed training. The certification comes in handy during job interviews.
Fourth, we have HP Education Services, a training and development organisation, which provides courses to people engaged by software service companies, such as TCS, IBM, Wipro, Accenture, and Infosys. Freshers from colleges get trained for 16-18 months using these courses. We are also taking these courses to colleges to embed them as optional or compulsory subjects, depending on the curriculum. HP also gives certification on completion of the course, which proves to be quite lucrative in the job market.
Lastly, we have HP Financial Services, where we enable colleges to lease IT related equipment and pay us on a quarterly basis. We offer aggressive interest rates, more competitive than what is available in the market; and by setting this credit line with us; their expenditure on IT gets linked to their cash flow, instead of being a capital expenditure.
EDU: How many colleges or universities in India utilise these services?
Himanshu Seth: HPLS is only four months old; but we have implemented one or more of these solutions individually in various colleges. About 100 of them use HP Education Services, while Educenter has been deployed in about 17 colleges/universities. We have established six to seven HP Workstation Labs in India, while HP Financial Services are used by 200-250 colleges.
EDU: How do colleges and universities view the role of IT in education?
Himanshu Seth: Colleges have started to understand that notebooks are a tool for better learning. But at least 40 per cent of the time that students spend on their notebooks should be productive time, where they collaborate, access and compare lectures and so on. Colleges are very receptive to solutions such as Educenter which can help in this.
EDU: In purchasing desktops and laptops, what are the services and support you offer to higher-education institutions?
Himanshu Seth: Desktops usually have a three to four year lifecycle, so we have models with three-year warranties. For notebooks, different colleges require different services, so we are flexible there. We can provide one-year warranty, remote support, a resident engineer on campus and other such services through our partners. For ProCurve equipment, we provide a lifetime replacement warranty.
EDU: Would you say that different institutions and universities would need different configurations, based on the curriculum they offer – for instance, engineering colleges vis-à-vis management colleges? What is the configuration that you would recommend for each?
Himanshu Seth: When it comes to desktops, the AICTE sets the norm for the configuration of machines bought in engineering colleges, such as P4 and above processor, etc. Apart from that, TFT screens have become default. The lowest configuration available in the market today is higher than what is specified in the AICTE norms. But there are no norms for notebooks. I would say that for management and engineering colleges, the lower-end configurations available on notebooks are sufficient and more cost-effective too. Technology moves at a fast pace, but we don’t have to go with the latest. The CPU speed is ahead of requirements today, so any Intel or AMD processor would do. Similarly 1-2 GB RAM and the hard disk size available on notebooks today is enough.
Yes, engineering colleges also need to invest in high-end machines for CAD/CAM and similar work. For this, the workstation type of machines is more suitable, and they should not do cost-cutting in providing these. Colleges that offer courses in multimedia and animation should also look at setting up Workstation Labs.
EDU: Considering that most academic institutions have fixed budgets, what would be a value-for-money configuration of desktops/laptops for them?
Himanshu Seth: Most colleges today are aware of pricing in the market and their requirements, and budget accordingly. For colleges with smaller budgets and requirements, say 100-200 seats, we offer cost-effective configurations. Colleges also have the option of using HP Financial Services to lease equipment from us and pay over three to five years. And in specialised fields, such as CAD/CAM, graphics and animation, we offer discounted pricing.