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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 17:41 GMT
Cartoon fame for Indian tech school
By Chhavi Dublish in New Jersey

Dilbert cartoon
Copyright: United Feature Syndicate Inc.
The world famous Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) have made their way into Dilbert, the enormously popular comic strip about the corporate world.

IIT graduates occupy a prominent position in the US economy.

Researchers say that some 10% of infotech start-ups in California's Silicon Valley have been founded or co-founded by IIT engineers.

Dilbert, written and drawn by Scott Adams, is syndicated in more than 2000 publications and generates $200 million every year.

The satirical strip dwells on the corporate world and high-pressure work places.

There are seven IITs in India offering undergraduate and post-graduate degrees.

The rising corporate status of the IIT alumni in the US prompted Mr Adams to feature the celebrated engineering college.

In Dilbert, a comic character called Asok claims he is from IIT and therefore "mentally superior to most people on Earth".

In one strip, Asok says: "At the Indian Institute of Technology, I learned to use my huge brain."

"But I try not to frighten ordinary people with any gratuitous displays of mental superiority.

"For example," says Asok, "I no longer reheat my tea by holding it to my forehead and imagining fire."

Mr Adams, who began drawing cartoons in the 1980s while working in a telecommunications company, said he has several friends who graduated from IIT.

"I have known several IIT graduates over the years. The character Asok is named after an ex co-worker from my days in the tech world," he told BBC News Online.

"I thought it would be a funny contrast to have Asok come from the most competitive school system in the world only to find out that intelligence doesn't always help in the workplace."

Asked how IIT graduates differed from engineering graduates from all over the world, Mr Adams said: "They are smarter."

'Friends like it'

There were mixed reactions from IIT alumni to the cartoon strips.

Amit Pamecha, an IIT Delhi graduate and chief of Webrizen, an US-based networking company, said: "[It] was too stereotyped and this is not true for most of us."

But he agreed that IIT's reference in a Dilbert cartoon was a recognition of the colleges' fame.

"Everyone knew Harvard, MIT, Oxford. Not much was known about IITs outside India other than in certain special fields," Mr Pamecha said.

"But this has put IIT and us right in the centre of happening things."

Cartoonist Scott Adams
Scott Adams's friends from IIT inspired him to mention the school
IIT alumnus and senior vice president of a New York-based investment bank, Jetendra Swarup, said that IIT's mention in a Dilbert strip added to the college's reputation and "brand building."

Mr Adams said his IIT friends liked the strips.

"They like the attention, especially in the US where most people have never heard of the IITs," he said.

Mr Adams is not sure whether he will mention IIT again in his strip.

"Asok is a regular character. I am not sure whether I will mention IIT again - but I might," he said.

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