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Indian institutes are stepping up efforts to connect students and alumni

International meets, back-to-school events, webinars and exhibitions are being used to build, strengthen and leverage global networks.

Updated: Aug 22, 2018 19:38:12

By Utsavi Jha

(Getty Images / iStock)

One thing premium institutes in India have not been known for is the strength of their networking among students, former students and industry bigwigs, even though there is considerable overlap between the latter two.

This is now changing. In recent years, alumni efforts have gone far beyond the traditional email alerts and monthly newsletter.

The Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B), for instance, has seen its 10-year-old annual meet go global. Anusmaran (Hindi for Recollections) was first conducted in 2009, in Bangalore, New York, San Franscisco, Singapore and London. More cities have been added over the past decade and the annual Anusmaran meet in May this year was held across 18 cities — 8 in India and 10 overseas. These included New York, London, Tokyo, Dubai, Stockholm and Sydney.

IIMBue, a two-day annual leadership conclave held in Bangalore annually since 2015 is attended by hundreds of business leaders, thought leaders and alumni from around the world, including Sonjoy Chatterjee, chairman of Goldman Sachs India; K Radhakrishnan, former head of ISRO; Mathew Cyriac, a former senior managing director at Blackstone India; Vipul Parekh, cofounder of BigBasket.



IIM-B also holds Back to School events that connect alumni via webinars from anywhere in the world. And IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has an initiative called Synchrony that supports meet-ups between incoming students, senior students and alumni.

Mumbai’s SP Jain Institute of Management and Research has started an online webinar series titled For Alumni, By Alumni, where former students and faculty discuss evolving issues in the sphere of business management.

The JD Birla Institute in Kolkata organises an exhibition titled Caritas, of products made by alumni; and conducts an annual Alumni Holi Meet.

“Alumni can act as a bridge between the institute and industry, even an extended arm of the institute,” says Aditi S Divatia, head of alumni relations at SPJIMR. “Indian institutes have started realising the value their alumni represent for the growth and development of the institute and its students. Alumni too are finding value in returning to the institute whether it is to network, keep learning, or to contribute to the institute and its students.”

At IIM-B alumni, and the Indian Institutes of Technology in Mumbai and Guwahati, former students have set up funds to aid economically weaker students and the differently abled.

“Alumni are important stakeholders of an institution and can easily connect with students of their alma mater. Besides adding value as experts and consultants, they are also excellent mentors,” says Sharayu Bhakare, head of the Entrepreneurship Development Cell at Symbiosis, Pune.

Most of the alumni meets are informal events where better connections are forged and vital impressions are made. “Bonding over common experiences such as campus life and professors results in a stronger relationship. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a corporate professional, getting to know the alumni helps,” says Amey Asuti, an IIM-A alumn who is also founder and MD of digital media agency Futuready.

THE US DOES IT BEST

The next step would be to have alumni provide steady mentoring and internship opportunities to students as they explore career options — and to be involved in philanthropic fund-raising for the campus community, as has been done very successfully in the US.

There, alumni meets are a time-honoured tradition. Stanford organises lakeside camps, Memorial Day weekend programmes. Ohio State has alumni golf tournaments and leadership symposiums. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has leadership conferences spread across three days where students and alumni deliver keynotes and presentation. New York University holds alumni award ceremonies to honour high-achieving alumni.

“When students think of which university to attend, one of their deciding factors is how active the alumni are of that particular university. Several overseas universities invest heavily in keeping alumni engaged,” says education consultant Karan Gupta. “Alumni associations are likely to get more active as more Indian students return home and seek to engage with their peers.”

First Published: Aug 22, 2018 19:38:12

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