Chancellor Berdhall of UC Berkeley makes himself scarce whenever the 60 Minutes crew [a well-known American TV newsmagazine] comes to the campus since they invariably end up doing an expose. So he was amazed when Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes described the Indian Institute of Technology as 'may be the most important university you've never heard of'.
The Chancellor was wrapping up the 2-day celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the founding of IIT. The event ended on a high note when IIT alumni and their families watched an episode of 60 Minutes on two huge TV screens during dinner at the Imperial Ballroom of Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.
The morning session started with an address by Ambassador Blackwill, who labelled IITs as a global force. "The US has profited enormously from your presence in this country," said Blackwill. He said IITs were a crucial component in the transformation of relationship between India and the US. The rest of Blackwill's speech was devoted to the changing nature of the Indo-US ties under President George W Bush, and how New Delhi has emerged as a strategic partner of Washington. The US has a vested interest in the propulsion of the Indian economy, he added.
Victor Menezes, Senior Vice-Chairman, CitiGroup, reminded IITians of the work that lies ahead in delivering on the brand that they have built. The rest of the morning session was devoted to panels that dealt with various issues, including one on leadership.
Arun Sarin, who moderated the panel on leadership, said, "Leaders do right things right all the time." Leaders, according to Sarin, have to have passion, integrity, operation and sales skills. A leader has to know every aspect of running a business, he said. There has to be a little voice that urges you to be a leader, Sarin said, adding it helps 'if you catch early that you want to be a leader'.
Narayana Murthy, Sailesh Mehta, Vinita Gupta, Manoj Singh and Subrah Iyar also spoke on leadership.
"Leadership is about being a change agent and making people believe in themselves," said Murthy.
Gupta, an IIT-Rourkee alumnus, said women have some natural qualities to be a leader. But as women 'we are not accepting of criticism of ourselves'.
Manoj Singh, Managing Director-America, Deloitte Consulting, said leadership is about knowing and pushing oneself.
Subrah Iyar said great leaders project a vision and stay committed to it. Vision and passion are the twin forces that should drive a leader, according to Iyar.
The afternoon session involved a presentation by the directors of the various IITs.
Dr Purnendu Chatterjee of the Chatterjee group read a message from Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who was unable to attend the event.
Professor Sanjay Dhande, Director, IIT-Kanpur, struck a chord when he said, "We want the Nobel Prize. This is our only goal." He said, "This event has reduced the emotional distance between the IIT's." He also asked the alumni to help IITs understand the intellectual property culture. Prof M S Ananth, Director, IIT-Madras, asked the alumni to help in faculty recruitment efforts and to establish research ties with US universities.
The remark of Prof Mishra, Director, IIT-Bombay, that the institute has the 'right fundas' drew an enthusiastic applause. He acknowledged the contributions made by Nandan Nilekani and Kanwal Rekhi. "Kanwal was the first one to show the way," he said.
Vinod Khosla, Stanford alumnus, introduced John Hennessy, President of Stanford University. Henessey praised the research and work done by the IITians.
"It was a great opportunity to meet old friends," said Sudhir Mallya, (IIT-Bombay) currently working at NEC in Silicon Valley.
Sudhakar Shenoy, (IIT-Bombay), CEO of Information Management Systems of McClean, VA, echoed his nephew Mallya's thoughts. "I have met people that I have not seen for 30 years. Good to see the younger people," he said.
Shenoy's classmates were Victor Menezes, Ramani Ayar of Hartford Financial and Romesh Wadhwani, the well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor.
"At IIT you go through a grinder and it is the best thing that has happened to me," said Sanjeev Sharma (IIT-Kanpur), Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
Sharma agreed that IIT gave him confidence and helped him become an entrepreneur.
Dr Sanjay Mittal, President and CEO of Selectica, also attributed his success to IIT.
D D Sharma, IIT alumnus and Principal Architect at SBC, said, "What can we do beyond the check book? How can we actively participate is not clear to me after these 2 days."
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