IIT Startups founder Monishi Sanyal recalls Umang Gupta’s vision and generosity

Ritu Jha-

Monishi Sanyal, founder, board member and chief evangelist at IIT Startups based in Santa Clara, California, and a long-time friend of Umang Gupta, who died April 9 aged 72 after suffering from bladder cancer, described him as a man who was encouraging, motivating, generous and articulate.

Gupta, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, was a trailblazer who took his company, Gupta Technologies, public. He was also credited with writing the first business plan for Oracle Corp.

Sanyal, an IIT Madras alumnus, shared with indica how Gupta, who was also co-founder of the IIT Kanpur Foundation and served as global board chairman of PanIIT, which has over 200,000 alumni of the various campuses of the Indian Institute of Technology as members, was a generous donator and huge supporter of his alma mater and its products aka people and startups.

Sanyal said that in 2002, when the leadership team of the various IIT campuses in the Bay Area asked him to lead the team to create the umbrella organization to be known as the Pan IIT Alumni Association, he sought out the most influential IITians from each campus to create the steering committee as he himself was mostly unknown outside IIT Madras circles.


The steering committee, a veritable who’s who club, lent credibility to the PanIIT founding event. It had Umang Gupta (IIT Kanpur), Kanwal Rekhi (IIT Bombay), Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande (IIT Madras) and Purnendu Chatterji (IIT Kharagpur) and Rajat Gupta (IIT Delhi).

“Umang wrote the first $10,000 check to launch our program,” Sanyal recalled. His philosophy was that by putting money behind the accelerator organization he would be able to help it grow faster.

“Umang stood out with his generosity when he handed a check of $10,000 to kickstart our event called IIT50,” he said. “I found him very encouraging, motivating, generous and articulate. He was a great speaker and moderator, (a skill) which I used whenever we had to make a pitch at any event or to any other organization or the press.”

Gupta later became chairman of PanIIT and led it through the integration of the U.S. and India wings to become a global organization.


In 2018, at the inauguration of IIT Startups, he moderated the fireside chat with Vinod Khosla and of encouraged everyone involved in shaping the organization. “I would give him regular updates on our progress even through his last days,” Sanyal said. “A good man, a good heart that unfortunately beats no more, but his legacy lives on.”

In 2014, PanIIT ran an innovation summit program to use technology to enhance primary school education in India. “The program was Gupta’s brainchild,” Sanyal said, “and he asked me to execute it. I believe he invested in some of these education startups as he was passionate about education.”

Sanyal was unsure if Gupta had invested in IITian-led startups mentored by IIT Startups. “We were addressing early-stage startups, so it may have been too early for him,” Sanyal said.

About Gupta’s views on India, he said, “I did not delve into much of that as we were razor-focused on PanIIT. He did once mention that his mother was a socialist and he turned out to be a capitalist.”


[Above photo caption: Monishi Sanyal (left) with Arjun Malhotra(middle) and Umang Gupta]