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India turns to Alumni fund

IIT Bombay Alumni network

Indian B-schools and Tech colleges are taking a leaf out of their global peers Harvard and Standford universities. It is commonly believed that India lags behind leading American universities in attracting alumni sponsorships.

But now the storyline is changing. Recently, Technology entrepreneur Romesh Wadhwani pledged $5 million for a new bioscience and bioengineering research facility at his alma mater, IIT Bombay. Patu Keswani, BTech from IIT Delhi and Chairman and Managing Director of Lemon Tree Hotels, a chain of full service budget hotels, has committed Rs.20 crore to construct a Research Centre for his alma mater. Vinod Khosla, another distinguished alumnus of IIT Delhi, and Co-founder of Sun Microsystems has contributed $5 million for theSchool of Information Technology.

The Kusuma Trust, a UK-registered charity working in the field of education, made IIT Delhi a grant of £2.8 million towards research facilities for the School of Biological Sciences. Trust's co-founder and UK businessman Anurag Dikshit is an alumnus from IIT Delhi. Dikshit has also contributed £0.9 mn towards a Faculty Research Travel Award and 80 Outstanding Young Faculty Fellowships designed to attract young faculty.

Big flow to Harvard and Stanford

After a life-changing experience in the b-school/tech college, a student most often land into a plum job. But once get into the bright corporate world, many used to forget their past. Why don't Indian management and tech guys give anything back to their Alma mater? Blame is always on the institutions. Unlike European and US institutions, Indian entities won't turn into their former students for a helping hand.

See the big contributions that have flown from Indian businessmen to Harvard and Stanford. Ratan Tata, The Chairman of Tata Sons had made headlines last year when he committed $50 million on behalf of the Tata Group, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and Tata Education and Development Trust to Harvard Business School to fund Tata Hall, a new academic and residential building on the campus. The renowned institution acknowledged the gift as the single largest contribution received from an international donor (and alumnus of the executive MBA programme) in its century-old lifetime.

Interestingly, a same-sized endowment made by Tata to his alma mater Cornell University, in 2008, had created a big buzz as well. That $50 million helped establish the Tata-Cornell Initiative in Agriculture and Nutrition, to advance India-focussed nutrition and agriculture research, and the Tata Scholarship Fund for Students from India, to attract bright students to Cornell from India. 

Narayan Murthy and Anand Mahindra donated $5.2 million and $10 million to Harvard respectively last year.

IITs lead the way

But in India, still the quench for Alumni fund is limited to IITs, India's premier technology colleges, only. IITs have understood the value of establishing channels of communication with alumni early. IIT Bombay (IIT-B) established its Alumni Association as far back as 1964, soon after the first convocation of the institution.

“Alumni engagement has greater relevance today than ever before. The world is more competitive and globalization has created an environment in which students stand to make significant gains from connecting with well placed alumni,” says Prof ML Singla, FMS Alumni Association and IT Faculty, Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi.

Of late, IIMs, India's top-rated B-schools, are also looking seriously for alumni funding. With the inventions of modern digital communications and the infrastructural spending, the higher education centers are looking for more funds in order to move with the times. It is still pity that not all Indian institutions are open to tapping the readymade network alumni provide, nor know how to convert positive sentiments into substantial contributions to further development.

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