IIT-ians across the world will soon be able to contribute to their alma maters every time they use a credit card, provided they used the soon-to-be launched Indian Institute of Technology affinity card.
Suresh Shenoy, vice president of IMC and chairman of the organising committee for IIT 2005, to be held May 20-22 in Washington DC, announced at a media conference April 29 that the IIT 2005 will be the platform for the announcement of the credit card.
"Given the spending power and habits of IIT-ians, we should be able to raise $500,000 annually for the Indian Institutes of Technology," he said.
The press meet at the Consulate General of India in New York to announce one of the most ambitious global IIT alumni conferences so far also had heavyweights like Rajat Gupta, senior partner worldwide of McKinsey and Company, Anil Bhandari, vice president of Smith Barney and chairman of programme agenda for IIT 2005 and Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America.
Shenoy also revealed that the states of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia have announced May as India Heritage Month.
Among the other aims of the conference, Shenoy said, was the launch of a IIT Review, a magazine along the lines of the MIT Tech Review that would showcase the best research going on at the IITs, as well as the launch of the IIT Alumni Resource Center, a virtual space for IIT chapters worldwide to meet and share ideas.
"Earlier we saw them as part of the brain drain, but now they are transnational citizens and if anyone is responsible for the change of India's image, it must be IIT-ians," admitted Pramathesh Rath, Consul General of India in New York, adding that of an estimated 140,000 IIT-ians, up to 35,000 are in the United States.
IIT 2005 is expected to draw about 1800-2000 participants from across the world, and will feature speakers such as Jack Welch, former chairman and chief executive of GE and Larry Summers, president of Harvard University.
The conference will have a number of focused panels across industries, as well as for women graduates. "IITs have always been seen as male-dominated so we decided to have a separate forum for our women alumnae this time," said Bhandari.
Gupta, however, cautioned that efforts must be made to ensure that the conference was not episodic. "We want to make sure there is continuity, that this provides attendees the opportunity to work and collaborate between such conferences."
A large part of the conference will focus on how to grow the IIT brand, and more specifically, the IITs themselves. "All the IIT directors are going to be present and we are interested in talking with them about reform of the IITs, the evolution of the schools into being the premier institutes in the world," said Gupta, a mechanical engineering graduate from IIT-Delhi who went on to Harvard Business School, which he said was easier to handle than IIT.
"We want the IITs to create a culture of innovation through discovery," added Shenoy.
While Gupta spoke about big brands establishing themselves "not by shouting, but whispering" and pointed out that the IITs had established their reputation quietly over 50 years, Miller advocated that IIT-ians and Indian immigrants also needed to promote themselves more aggressively.
"Immigrant communities such as the Jewish-Americans or Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans have been blowing their horns," he said. "IIT-ians need to talk about what they have done for this country, not just in India, immigrants need not hide their accomplishments, they have to talk about them."Ashok Siddhanti, the moderator for the event, pointed out that IIT-ians alone have created about 150,000 jobs in the US.