Sunday, October 2, 2011

IIT-IIM Swami-ji; Examples of IIT students following one's dreams....

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Swami Mukundananda 

Spiritual teacher and founder of Jagadguru Kripaluji Yog system at IIT Delhi 

IIT-Delhi 1982, Mechanical Engg; IIM-Kolkata 1984 

Why he moved way from a typical IIT grad career? 

During the IIT years, many philosophic questions would come to his mind. The rigorous scientific education at IIT did not addressing these questions. Later, when he began studying MBA, he was exposed to humanities subjects. 

However, there too, he found no answers. The thirst to understand the Absolute Truth increased and he started reading Vedic scriptures. 

He also started practising personal spiritual sadhana. He did take a job, but the artificial environment of the corporate world was suffocating. 

When did he move away? 

After completing MBA, he worked with the Tata Group only for three months. After that he decided that he was not interested in materialistic advancement; his calling was in the spiritual field. So he resigned from the job to take sanyas in 1984. 

Did he think then he would be losing out on a career? 

He felt that there was no shortage of engineers and MBAs in India. Rather, there was a need in Indian society for educated young people who could understand spiritual science for themselves and explain it to others. So for his own fulfilment, and for the opportunity to serve God, he took sanyas. 

How has the IIT training helped? 

The IIT education was excellent training for the intellect to think logically. When he preaches in the West, a large segment of the audience is engineers and MBAs from India. 





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Two ex-IITians - VC Vinod Khosla and entrepreneur Bharat Desai - have just been named on Forbes' rich list of Americans. But India's premier tech school network is not only about riches. In fact, recently the IIT-Kharagpur alumni group was abuzz with two very different success stories - both these 'old boys' lived on campus around the same time. Arvind Kejriwal, the brain behind Anna Hazare's Lok Pal campaign, and social entrepreneur H Harish Hande, recipient of the Magsaysay award for 2011, were both out-of-the-box thinkers, even in their early IIT days. Friends remember them as dedicated to social causes. 

"The IITs offer excellent infrastructure not just for studies but also for sports and social and cultural activities. Our students are exposed to real challenges in life and it is no surprise that many go on to take up leadership roles in unconventional areas," says D Acharya, director, IIT-KGP. Yogeshwar Sangwan, director in the ministry of overseas Indian affairs and a graduate from IITDelhi, feels that the education at IIT was a rigorous regime that prepared him to face challenges. And it's not just government, we found former IIT-ians doing the most unlikely things. Here's what they had to say... 

Why he moved away from a typical IIT grad career? 

He felt that his IIT education was heavily subsidised by more than 600 million Indians who paid taxes. Hence he didn't want to join the traditional corporate sector like most IIT-ians, but would rather do something through which he could give back to the community. 

When did he do it? 

Even when he was a student of energy engineering at IIT, he knew that his work would be in the area of alternative energy. A trip to the Dominican Republic during his doctorate studies at the University of Massachusetts helped shape his larger vision on use of solar energy in rural India. Worries about earning less than his 

IIT classmates? 

No worries about his own income. However, the growing disparity in income in India, between the rich and poor worries him a lot. While the poor are just not making the next step in reaching sustainable income levels, the corporate salaries are going through the roof, he feels. 

How his IIT training helped? 

Rather than the official curriculum, the biggest takeaway from IIT was for him the lifestyle at the hostel. As Nehru Hall president in his final year, he interacted with many of his classmates and hall mates and helped solve different problems they faced, and that for him was the best training that he got at IIT. 

The IIT moment 

At his farewell speech at IIT, he criticised the authorities and drew attention to the poor infrastructure at the hostels. He advised the administration to take student issues more seriously and pay more attention to the needs of students. IIT-ian he admires 

His classmate Pankaj Kumar of Sterlite Industries. He admires Kumar because he has remained in the technology sector, which is what the IIT education is meant to cater to. Kumar did not get attracted to any other glamourous and high-paying sector but remained loyal to his IIT training. 


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PD Rai Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim 
IIT-Kanpur 1976, Chemical Engineering 

"I should have studied a humanities course, but definitely at IIT" 

Why did he move away from a typical IIT grad career 

He always wanted to return to Sikkim and contribute to his native land. Sikkim was not a part of India till 1975. He moved ahead in his career and got enrolled at IIM-Ahmedabad, and then he joined Bank of America. In 1980 the Sikkim governor called him to join public service in India's newly-added state. 

When did he do it? 

It was 31 years ago. The state government changed rules to woo him back to Sikkim, and he was given an offer to join directly as a deputy director in the state. He agreed to join at a much lower salary. 

Did he have any worries about earning less? 

He has an IIT-IIM background to go back to the corporate sector if things go wrong. There were hiccups in his government job and he left to become an entrepreneur during the rough political patch. Later, he was elected as an MP in 2009. 

Is less money a worry now? 

Not at all. He feels MPs in general do less work to justify the money they earn. 

Why did he choose public service as a career? 

He is convinced that a small state like Sikkim needs better representation in New Delhi. 

How did the IIT training help? 

It helps developing one's analytical skills which can be used in every field. There are key learnings on how to position oneself. 

The IIT moment 

The IIT graduation ceremony. He still finds IIT a valuable brand. 

The IIT-ian he admires 

NR Narayana Murthy of Infosys. 
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MG Venkatesh Mannar 

President & Executive Director 
Micronutrient Initiative, 
Ottawa, Canada 
IIT-Madras 1970, 
Chemical Engineering 

Why he moved away from a typical IIT grad career? 

He had a strong interest in technology development even as he started working in his family business in Chennai. He developed the concept of double fortified salt. From the early 1980s he got seriously interested in nutritional enrichment of salt and undertook short-term assignments with UN agencies across Asia and Africa. 

When did he do it? 

In 1990, he had the opportunity to immigrate to Canada. He sold his interest in the salt company and thereafter the involvement in nutrition became full-time. The Canadian government's new Micronutrient Initiative approached him to head the organisation. 

Did he have any worries about making less money than his former IIT classmates? 

Strangely, he never did worry about the money. He was strongly driven by what motivated him and was also getting frustrated by the difficulties in doing business without compromising his principles. 

Is money a worry now? 

Having moved to Canada and heading a well- funded organisation he makes a reasonable amount of money that keeps him comfortable. 

Why he chose nutrition as an alternative career? 

The huge potential of tackling nutritional deficiencies, especially in women and children in developing countries, became his dedication and passion as he moved into the role of an expert on the subject. 

How did IIT training help? 

IIT Chennai was a life-changing experience for him. Besides the best curriculum, the intense competition among peers also helped in shaping the future leaders in different walks of life. 

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Nitin Gupta 
CEO, Attero Recycling, an e-waste management start-up 
IIT-Delhi 2000, Electrical Engineering 

Why he moved away from a typical IIT grad career? 

He wanted to combine his engineering skillsets and his strong environmental concern. Electronic waste management in India was not being addressed at all. 

When did he do it? 

After an MBA from the NYU Stern School, he came back to India and felt the need to do something for the environment. 

Did he have any worries about making less money than his IIT classmates? 

A simple powerpoint presentation got him the first round of $6.3 million venture capital funding from the biggest names in industry - NEA-IUV & DFJ. He had the confidence that his business plan was strong enough to be able to make money from a socially-focussed enterprise. 

Does it worry him now? 

There are moments when he is bothered about the fact that his former IIT classmates are making much more money than he is. 

How his IIT training helped? 

The confidence to take the risk and become an entrepreneur was something that he imbibed at IIT. It came from the safety net of an IIT degree and the strong network. 

The IIT moment 

When NEA-IndoUS Ventures, MD, Kumar Shiralagi described Attero Recycling as a research driven technology company. 
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Shreesh Jhadav 
now Swami Sarvottamananda 

Computer Science faculty at 
Ramakrishna Mission 
Vivekananda University, 
Belur. IIT-Kanpur 1995, 
Computer Science; PhD 1995 

Why he moved away from a typical IIT grad career? 

He is himself a bit perplexed on how circumstances conspired. He thinks it is God's grace and past karma that were paramount. 

Friends and well wishers at IIT Kanpur were instrumental in the decision. Being member of Vivekananda Samiti there was one the important factors. When did he do it? 

He wasn't sure till the last moment. But once he became a monk, he had an intuition that it was the right decision. It was in August, 1994, after he had finished his PhD thesis. 

Did he think then that he would be losing out on a career? 

Not so much. He was young and quite adventurous. 

Is there any sense of regret now? 

No, a sannyasi's life is the most carefree life. It is like an extension of student life. 

Why did he choose education as a career? 

In India at that time, career was decided more or less by which entrance examinations one cleared. Indians, he thinks, start thinking about life and other details at a later stage. 

How has IIT training helped? 

He was at IIT-Kanpur for almost all the formative years and considers himself a product of that time and place. 

The defining IIT moment 

The defining moment is difficult to pinpoint, since he has lots of memories of IIT. But if he has to pick one, it would be when he started his PhD. Suddenly all his BTech friends had gone abroad, and he was, as if, left alone to ponder. 

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Just like the yogi-grad says, social work needs brilliant minds too. All those drones graduating IITs and AIIMS/MAMC/Andhra colleges need to pay their respect to the millions of Indians - rich or poor - who fund their careers with their hard earned money. It's a karmic debt that needs to be repaid, whether they do so by choice or otherwise.

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