VIKAS GUPTA writes about how powerful alumni associations have become in India and what they are doing for the alumnus and the country as a whole.
Getting admission into IIMs and IITs is in itself considered a major success. What adds to the initial success of getting selected is that years down the line, a huge helping hand comes in the form of solid backing from prominent alumni who have passed out of the same institutes and have fond
So is there a magic potion that these universities have that instantly makes a student a ‘Sachin Bansal’ (Flipkart) or a ‘Bhavish Aggarwal’ (Ola cabs)? People often argue that the intake process of students is so difficult in itself, that only the smartest people in the country are selected. And that, their success was inevitable, irrespective of the university that absorbs them. Apart from the curriculum and quality of faculty, a less talked about facet is the university’s alumni networking.
Globally, the alumni network is so important that the best universities are judged on their alumni base. Indians donating towards foreign universities is no surprise. A good example is Ratan Tata, who donated $50 million to HBS (Harvard Business School) for the construction of an education building, now named the ‘Tata Hall’. According to Ganesh Natarajan- president of HBS alumni club “Harvard business school has 1,200 HBS alumni in India. HBS organizes various networking sessions like “Chai pe Charcha”, Conferring Alumni Achievement Awards, and more, to stay connected.
Advantages of alumni network to universities, students and alumni
Donations: IIM-A raised INR 16 Crore through alumni corporate. “We have some of the brightest alumni in this country and abroad, who feel strongly a desire to contribute to their alma mater. For example- Raghuram Rajan, Governor- RBI; KV Kamath, Chairman- ICICI Bank; Dr.Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman- NABARD; and KV Srinivasan, CEO- Reliance Capital are all a part of the distinguished IIM-Alumni group who came forward to contribute and maintain IIM-A as a premier institution for management education and research,” said Ashish Nanda, Director- IIM Ahmedabad. According to IIT Madras Alumni Association President V Ravi, “They [Alumni] have contributed approximate of INR 20 crore in 2014 and approximate INR 50 crore through 2015. The money is used for research, distinguished chairs of professorship, infrastructure, scholarships”.
Jobs/Networking: Business is all about relationships and what could be a better way to bond than to talk about sharing the same classroom, campus, professors, canteen, chai and so on.
Flipkart Founders- Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal; IIT Delhi, Infosys – Narayan Murthy; IIT Kanpur, Google- CEO Sundar Pichai; IIT Kharagpur are some of the graduates from IIT who prefer to hire an IIT-ian- and in turn their companies are top recruiters of the IITs.
IIT employees are considered expensive by many traditional businesses. Having said that, India has recently witnessed a burst of start-ups, that are in the high growth phase and are cash rich, with several rounds of funding.
The weight age for these companies seems to lie in the quality of work-force, and not in the pay-scale. Anand Subramanian, Director Marketing Communication- Ola cabs says, “the company needs talent from IITs, as these students have a far steeper learning curve and add a lot of personal value, much like entrepreneurs themselves.”
Nostalgia/ Meet ups: Most successful CEOs are known to feel immensely nostalgic about their ’good old simple days’ and are happy to help others from the same community. For example IIM-Kozhikode with Alumni strength of 3,600 annually arranges an event called ‘Nostalgia’ which offers the Alumni a chance to meet their batch mates, tocatch-up and to relive their days of glory at IIMK. IIMK also arranges for a mentorship program wherein the Alumni help second year students in making their career choices. If a celebrity entrepreneur is your mentor (who is also in need of talent) and share time with you, there are very high chances that he will hire you, if you are able to convince that you are a good fit.
Broad base of friends: IIT has one of the largest and most active Alumni associations in India. IIT Bombay has over 35,000 members and regularly host distinguished Alumnus Awards and meet-ups.
IIM-A (Ahmadabad) has one of the largest Alumni base with over 3,400 Alumni in Mumbai, 1,500 in Delhi and 1,000 in Bangalore, and also international chapters like the USA, the UK, Muscat, Singapore, Dubai and Nepal, which adds to its legacy of being one of the top institutes of India.
Not just universities and students, but alumni also benefit from networking. According to Advitiya Sharma, Co-Founder Housing.com, when he started the company, he thought he was alone and would not get any support. However, one of the initial angel investors was Zishaan Hayath, an IIT Alumnus.
Elite club: IIT Bombay Alumni Association organized an event called ‘Global Business Forum’ in Goa on 16th October 2015, which was attended by 15,000 people including Alumni, Students, Ministers, Investors, Industrialists, etc. Which means one would secure an invite if he/she was a Minister, an Industrialist, or an IIT alumni!
Time and again it is argued that Alumni networks have become the powerful social elite society that only allow the smartest people to join, so as to keep their power and success within the same group by supporting each other.
Indian Universities have recently started understanding the importance of an Alumni Network when most of the associations became active after the year 2000. Alumni networks give students unprecedented access to contacts and leverage that would otherwise take a lifetime to build.