BITS celebrates 25 years of alumni association in Silicon Valley

Ritu Jha-

Industry leaders, BITS Pilani officials, alumni, and startups, converged at the BITS Pilani Alumni Association (BITSAA) Silicon Valley Chapter (BITSAA SVC) annual conference BITSync ’24, to build relationships, and celebrate the 25-year-long success of BITSAA Silicon Valley Chapter.

BITSAA SVC newly elected president, Aditya Bansal[Above right], a 25-year-old told indica he feels it’s an honor to lead the world’s oldest and biggest chapter of BITSAA. And that too when BITSAA SVC is in its 25th year.

The Bay Area has more than 10,000 BITS alumni and has been growing, with not just more engineers coming from BITS but many BITS veterans being well-established and successful entrepreneurs, and VCs in the US.

Bansal has already got his priorities lined up. He plans to hold smaller and regular meet-ups to connect BITS alumni for various programs like a golf event, picnic, or hike. The informal events where people talk to each other and help create lasting bonds.

The second is to help BITSians in their career growth. In BITSync they have launched a new initiative called Mentor Connect, where BITSians who are established, guide other alumni in 1-hour sessions. Guidance will be not only for startups, but also for executive growth, and, early career growth.

“This is an excellent way for BITS alumni to give back to the community with the help of mentee connect,” Bansal said. “We’ll try to have many such initiatives. And, my third focus is to scale up the big events of BITSAA and make them larger.”

Prem Jain talking to BITS alumni

There are 10,000 BITSians in the Bay Area and more than 25,000 in the US. The aim is to get them together in Silicon Valley and make these celebrations bigger. Today BITSians are coming to this event from across the US and India. A couple of startups attended this event to network with the investors and agents to fundraise. “So yeah, we want to make it bigger next time. We want to continue on this track and hopefully have much bigger gatherings,” Bansal stated.

Asked about recent layoffs, he said that BITSAA SVC also connects alumni with job opportunities. “We pair with BITSAA International, the global BITS alumni network. They run a job support initiative and BITSAA Silicon Valley has many influential members including industry leaders. We pair with them to help out in their job support initiative.”

Adding on he said the other support they offer is job offers to recent graduates back home and the vice chancellor and chief placement officer of BITS Pilani from India was at BITSync to seek the help of alumni so that they could get these companies to the campus for recruitment. They were here to seek the help of alumni, for fundraising, giving back to the campus.

The Vice Chancellor of BITS Pilani, Prof. Ramgopal Rao, who was also at the BITSync with his team told indica that this is their third visit to the US. “We have done two things during all these visits. One is to connect with alumni, engage with them, tell them about the initiatives, and see where they can support the institute. Not necessarily only financially, but teaching, providing career advice to students, engaging with research faculty, and acting as co-supervisors for the PhD students. The other thing we have also done is connect with US universities for joint degree programs. In the last visit, we signed agreements for undergraduate programs with two US universities. We will admit 120 students in each program this year.

 

From there the students will be admitted to BITSAT there and then spend two years as part of their curriculum here in the US and get a degree from here. For a student, instead of directly coming to us and pursuing higher education, they can come through BITS. There is a lot of research happening now in BITS, it needs to increase even more. BITS has always been known for its startups, even in the BITSync. BITS currently ranks third in India for nurturing startups,” Rao told indica.

Bala Subramanium, chief placement officer at BITS Pilani spoke to indica on the sidelines of the event. He leads the campus placement for all four campuses (three in India and one in Dubai). “I have come to the Bay Area to attend BITSync 2024 as a part of the delegation from the BITS Pilani campus. The objective is to connect with the BITSians of all batches and to ensure we develop a deep relationship with them and forge strong partnerships with the industry. We are meeting BITSians, many of whom are in Fortune 500 companies. We want to work closely with them to ensure our students get absorbed in this country and India.”

Jayan Ramankutty, the co-founder and the first president of BITSAA Silicon Valley laid the foundation in 1999. “At that time we were all trying to figure out if there’s a relevant organization to represent the alumni,” Ramankutty told indica. Now, it represents the alumni and has become a magnet, a source of encouragement and support for alumni who keep coming to BITSync every year, since its inception in 2016.

He added that when he came to the US in 1987, he found it hard to find jobs. “Today, BITSAA SVC has mushroomed into something bigger, we have different activities. Every two years, a new team comes in to take over the organization and craft it the way in which the BITSians in the valley need it to be,” he told indica.

Prem Jain, co-founder of BITSAA joined the alumni outfit right from the beginning, in 2000. Sharing his journey he told indica that the main idea was to do something for BITS. “We had two very successful programs – BITS Connect 1.0 and Bits Connect 2.0. BITS Connect 1.0 was to wire the whole campus with Internet connectivity. That was done in 2005 and the second one was completed in 2011 when all the campuses were connected so the students and faculty get the benefits of telepresence. We had a classroom where the professor could be anywhere and teach using video screens and microphones for every desk. The project has saved a lot of money and, it was all done by the BITSAA International with money raised from the alumni. The problem was that BITS didn’t approach the alumni, it started only in 2006. It took a while, but the BITSians have done very well.”

Sundi Natarajan, a BITS alumni of the 1988 batch is now setting up an angel fund. “Over the last few years, many alumni came together under BITSAA International to give back to the BITSian community in a big way. We have proposed to set up a platform called BITSpark where any BITSian can approach and meet mentors who advise them on scaling the business and may also fund these companies. We’ve also created a platform in the US to give back to BITS. A percentage of the money generated from exits is donated to BITSAA International, which gets deployed across all the campuses for infrastructure, research, and do-good projects. The funding is coming from the BITSian angel investors. So far, we have close to seven startups that have come in. We have already supported more than 40 startups.”

A BITS Pilani alumna, who came from Bangalore, Sanskriti Dawle, co-founder and CEO of Tinker Bell labs was at BITSync to connect with BITSians and raise funds for the second phase of her project. Talking to indica about her work said, “We make Braille learning devices for visually impaired children to make education inclusive. We’re serving customers across India, the US, the UK, and four or five other countries. With the pandemic, the importance of edtech and remote-enabled learning has grown. Edtech overall has undergone a massive revolution post-pandemic.”

The first-timer in Silicon Valley said, “I’m raising funds for our next round. We have a fairly niche space, but disability inclusion is becoming more mainstream. That’s a growing market opportunity. We work with institutional clients. In the US we partnered with American Printing House for the Blind, a nonprofit organization in Kentucky that administers federal funding for visually impaired children and assistive technology. In India, we have more than 100 centers in different blind schools. Internationally, we work with different partners and distributors based on whichever country we are in.”

During the conference, three people were honored by their alma mater: Preetish Nijhawan, cofounder of Cervin Ventures; Alagu Periyannan, co-founder of BlueJeans Network acquired by Verizon in 2021, and Sai Prameela Konduru, former CEO BITSAA International.

Related posts