PanIIT USA President Chowdhary Charts Vision for Development

Siddhartha Chowdhary

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Washington, DC –Kolkata, The City of Joy on the Eastern Indian shore, is expected to host more than 3,000 IIT delegates December 7-9 during the 2012 PanIIT Conference, where IIT alumni from all over the world will interact, network, listen and learn from great iconic leaders, and determine how they will participate in India’s nation-building efforts.

Siddhartha Chowdhary, the President of PanIIT USA and the CEO of Credence Management Solutions, spoke to India America Today in detail about the history, activity, and vision of PanIIT, as PanIIT USA prepares to participate with a sizeable contingent in the 2012 global meet and conference, to be held for the first time in India’s eastern region at the Science City Auditorium in Kolkata.

With thousands of IITians in the US, what do you see as the vision for PanIIT USA?

PanIIT is an umbrella organization representing an alumni network of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) system. IIT alumni around the world have created sustained value for organizations and communities with their “thought leadership,” business acumen, and sense of social responsibility, all of which are the tenets of the IIT brand of education.

Given our history, we have a bold vision for PanIIT USA, which is to be the best, most respected alumni association in the US. We measure respect as a combination of success and giving back.

To implement this Vision we are focusing on activities that:

• Promote the success of our US alumni and help those who are striving to succeed

• Connect our alumni across North America, both physically (conferences) as well as virtually (social media), so that they can leverage the power of our alumni network

• Give back to the communities in which we live in both our individual and professional capacities

With the common thread of the IITian brand, what are other themes and interests you see PanIIT promoting?

PanIIT is focused on the four core principles we have adopted:

1. Branding:Unlike “branding” as it may apply to consumer products, branding the IIT alumni community is about “thought leadership” – showcasing the achievements of our alumni, entrepreneurs, and the IITs themselves.

2. Alumni Services:The value of networking amongst IIT alumni cannot be understated. We have numerous IIT alumni in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. Recent alumni, and even some who have been here for many years, see the benefit of meeting and getting to know people with similar education backgrounds, experience and challenges of living and bringing up families in our adopted country. In addition, there are several examples where the PanIIT affiliation has directly helped alumni in distress.

3. Advocacy:PanIIT’s voice is increasingly an important force to reckon with, not only in India, but also in Washington. Recent efforts to weigh in on the IIT entrance examination policies has had a positive impact. In Washington, PanIIT was visibly prominent when the Indian community worked for a civil nuclear agreement. Major organizations in India, such as CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) and FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) have several of their leadership drawn from the IITs. This is an important connection for us to continue so that future leaders are also drawn from the IIT system.

4. Giving Back:Programs such as WHEELS (Water, Health, Education, Energy, rural Lifestyles and Security), iCreate, Gurukul, Village Knowledge Centers, and Akshay Patra, started by IIT Alumni and encouraged and supported by PanIIT, lend a lot of credibility to the well meaning contributions by IIT alumni to society and communities in India and elsewhere. This single initiative ties all of our other 3 initiatives – it enhances the IIT brand, offers alumni services for those who are inclined to be social entrepreneurs, and impacts government policy on important social and policy issues.

In this election year, outsourcing is highlighted; do you think it is being blown out of promotion?

Outsourcing is always going to be an election year issue in the US. What PanIIT wants to focus on as part of our branding activities is the economic impact and contributions that IITians have made in the US and worldwide.

As reported in the media, IIT alumni worldwide have created more than 20 million jobs, $500 billion of economic value, and control annual budgets of $1 trillion.

In the US, IIT alumni achievements and contributions include: creation of of over 200,000 jobs; pioneering such technologies as cellular communications and HDTV; being the CxO or founder of 60% of startups; leading executives at firms such as Citicorp, Hartford Financial, Harman International, Google, Cisco, and Microsoft; deans at leading universities such as Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT; and director of the National Science Foundation.

As a public recognition of our contributions, we have been honored by the US House of Representatives (HR 227) for the economic innovation attributable to graduates of the IIT.

IITians are quite prominent in Silicon Valley. What are the expectations there?

As the economy continues to struggle, one of the major expectations that IITians have in Silicon Valley and elsewhere is how PanIIT can help those alumni who need help with their careers be successful, irrespective of whatever phase they are in their careers or line of businesses.

When we say our vision is to promote the success of our alumni, we do not merely mean promoting our successful alumni, but we include how we can make all of our alumni successful in the career of their choosing. To help implement this vision, we are creating an Alumni Services roadmap of the different phases of the life of an IIT alumni, from the time they arrive in the US (as a student or for their first job) through their retirement, and try to systematically address their needs through all these stages.

Indian Americans are crossing the 3 million mark, while eligible Indian American voters are more than a million, but there are no Indian Americans on The Hill. Do you think PanIIT can work to show the leadership?

As part of our advocacy efforts, PanIIT works with the elected leaders in the US to ensure that our voice is heard. Senator Warner, who heads up the India Caucus, has drawn on IIT alumni inputs on important policy matters. Governors O’Malley from Maryland and Bob O’Donnell of Virginia both met with PanIIT members in India at our insistence. PanIIT members in other states have been similarly active, but such activity should be better coordinated through PanIIT leadership.

Our advocacy program is what helps PanIIT to recognize its political voice and help impact the governance of the IIT system and lend its voice to important policy issues in major trading countries like Japan, USA, Australia, and the UK.

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