Washington, DC – More than 1,500 engineers, academics, scientists, and other select professionals are heading to Houston this weekend (December 5 – 8) to attend the 2013 PanIIT Global Conference (http://iit2013.org), with the baton being passed last December in Kolkata, India at the conclusion of the PanIIT Global Conference 2012. PanIIT is the umbrella organization bringing together the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) from across India.
The PanIIT Conference has been held every year since 2003 with the venue alternating between the US and India. Sid Chowdhary, the incumbent chairman of PanIIT USA, said of the upcoming event, “The IIT 2013 Global Conference celebrates the completion of the first decade of the PanIIT alumni movement. To match the success of the first decade and to prepare for the next, PanIIT USA is positioned as an inclusive organization that is focused on providing services that benefit our alumni as well as the IITs; and to undertake initiatives that would allow our alumni to come together to solve the problems that we face in our communities, both here in the US as well as in India.”
Thanking his team of close to 100 volunteers who have worked tirelessly for the past 18 months, Witty Bindra, chair of the conference executive team in Houston, said the goal of the conference is, “To inspire young folks to think and work together to make this world a better place to live. The fact is that by 2045, the world’s population is expected to grow to about 9 billion people, from about 7 billion today, and we should be able to provide 50% more food, 30% more water, and 50% more energy than it consumes today.”
Bindra’s strategy, marketing and PR committee head, Partha Sarathi Chatterjee, looked forward to “giving back to the greater humanity and leaving a tangible mark for the future.” “We hope to achieve that through the conference. Bringing together over 1,500 engineers, technologists and scientists, the conference will feature an elite list of speakers, panelists and discussions focused on identifying and developing innovative solutions to an ambitious global challenge,” Chatterjee added.
The first PanIIT conference was held on January 8, 2003 in San Jose, CA under the leadership of Monishi Sanyal, with the intent of “branding” the IITs.
“At that time no one had heard about the IIT system and yet many of the well-known institutions in the US were either headed by IIT alumni or had been founded by them,” said Suresh Shenoy, chairman of the PanIIT USA Conference Advisory Council, while giving an account of the history of the conference over the last decade.
The keynote speaker at the first event in 2003 was Bill Gates, who famously credited the IITs for producing the best minds in industry, while CBS (60 minutes) ran a segment on the competitiveness of the IIT entrance system which included a quote by Naranyanmurthy of Infosys who lamented the fact that his son could not get into IIT and decided to attend Cornell as a back-up college.
In 2005, the second PanIIT conference was held at the Marriott Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland with over 2,300 attendees and 85 marquee speakers including Jack Welch, Tom Freidman, and Larry Summers.
Also that year, the US House of Representatives passed House Resolution 227 – the first of its kind – which recognized the contribution made by alumni of the IIT system to the US economy. It was introduced by Congressman Tom Davis and co-sponsored by Congressman Bobby Jindal.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referenced this resolution at his address at the joint meeting of the 109th US Congress as a major step in forging close ties between India and the US.
The PanIIT movement then expanded its mission from branding to include alumni services, advocacy and “Giving back to the communities in which we live.” Shenoy explained that, “The last objective was translated to “nation building” in India and to help find technology-based solutions to problems common to both India and the US. This has further led to the “WHEELS” initiative – the six areas that pose the greatest challenge to humanity in the coming decades: water, healthcare, energy, education, rural lifestyles and security.”
“Each year since 2007, the conference has had a track on WHEELS and over $100,000 has been donated to various causes that leverage technology to implement solutions such as clean drinking water, providing solar power to remote villages and distributing food to needy children,” said Shenoy.
Next year’s conference is scheduled to take place in Bangalore, India and the 2015 conference will be held in Santa Clara, CA. There are also regional events conducted in Delhi, London, Paris, Tokyo, Toronto and Washington, DC in between these annual conferences.
Commenting on the vision for 2014 and onwards, Arjun Sen, the president-elect of PanIIT US, told India America Today, “PanIIT USA just celebrated the first 10 years and we are excited to jump into the second decade with energy and enthusiasm. Today we have the infrastructure, we have passionate volunteers, visionary distinguished alumni and amazing leadership from each campus president. Together we are confident we will take PanIIT USA to the next level and position our organization as one of the best alumni organizations in the world.”
“There are 60,000 IIT alumni in the US. Some of the high level executives from IIT are Victor Menezes (Vice-Chairman of Citigroup), Arn Netravalli (President of Bell Labs), and Ramani Aiyer (CEO of The Harford Insurance),” said Shenoy.
IIT alumni entrepreneurs who have built notable companies include: Vinod Khosla of Sun Micro Systems, Vinod Gupta of EVEREST group, Shailesh Mehta of Providisn, Kanwal Rekhi of Excellan Systems, Anand Jagganathan of Banyan Networks, Nandan Nilekani of Infosys and Arjun Malhotra of HCL.
Summing up the welcoming sentiments, Ashok Rao, current chairman of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Global and an alumnus of IIT Delhi, told India America Today a few months ago, “I am delighted that PanIIT Conference is coming to Houston, my home town and am looking forward to welcoming a whole bunch of IITians to Houston and am sure we will be putting together a program that will delight you, entertain you, educate you and inform you.”