IIT-Bombay conference in NY enhances Brand IIT

By Parveen Chopra, IANS,

New York : The golden jubilee conference of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) held here over the weekend has achieved its twin objectives of enhancing the IIT brand and establishing the leadership of IIT-B when more IITs being set up will be competing for faculty and resources, the organisers said.

Support TwoCircles

The validation came, they said, when the over 1,000 IIT alumni at the conference were addressed by Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen and luminaries from the fields of science and technology as well as business.

During his keynote address Sunday, Sen praised the IITs, saying that during his travels as ambassador in the US over the past four years, he has been filled with pride that “so many IITians were doing so well and contributing to the economic progress of the country”.

Referring to the Dilbert cartoon introducing an IITian Ashok in the strip, he said, “IITs have become a symbol of new India.”

Others who addressed the conference, organised by the IIT-Bombay Heritage Fund and the alumni, included Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase; Frank G. Wisner Jr, Vice Chairman (external affairs), AIG, and former US ambassador to India; David Leebron, president of Rice University, Kristina Johnson, provost of Johns Hopkins University; and Rajat Gupta, senior partner, emeritus of McKinsey & Co and IIT Delhi alumnus.

The three-day conference titled “Looking Ahead: The Next Fifty Years”, was co-chaired by Victor Menezes, retired senior Vice Chairman, Citigroup, and Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman, Infosys, both IIT-B graduates.

During the conference, as much as $7 million was raised through private donations from IIT alumni, including $5 million from Romesh Wadhwani, founder of the Symphony Group, the organisers said at a press briefing after the conference concluded Sunday.

Defending having Dow Chemicals, current owner of the Union Carbide pesticides plant where the deadly gas leak happened in 1984, Suresh Shenoy, chairman of the conference planning committee, said: “In dealing with the byproducts of industrialisation and globalisation, we should not exclude dialogue with those who can be helpful in the process.” He added that Dow happens to be one of the largest employers of IIT graduates.

Some IIT-B alumni and faculty had in a press statement, released earlier in Mumbai and Delhi, criticised Dow’s sponsorship for the conference.

Uday Nadkarni, president of the Greater New York chapter of IIT-B alumni, said, “Dow sponsorship was limited to the conference and does not imply that we support their products or business practices.”

A key point raised at the panel discussions was the need to create centres of excellence in individual IITs to avoid duplication by all the IITs trying to do everything. Incidentally, IIT-B has been asked by the government to mentor IIT Gandhinagar and IIT Indore, two of the nine being added to the existing seven IITs.

The conference featured networking, knowledge-sharing and thought leadership on various subjects such as globalisation, energy, technology, career development, and social entrepreneurship.

One presentation at the conference gave details of the contest named ’10 Great Ideas to change the world in next 50 years (science and technology)’ floated by the IIT-B, which not only goes beyond the IITs but also beyond India for the benefit of the whole humanity.

During his presentation highlighting the IIT-B’s premier place as an educational institution of excellence, its director Prof Ashok Misra made a surprise announcement that he was quitting the post he has held since 2000. From October, he joins Intellectual Ventures, a private company based in Bellevue, Washington, that tries to create inventions capital network through developing a patents portfolio.