In our April 2011 issue, we at TSA featured the My Imprint program by the Alumni Cell that gave the outgoing students a chance to give back to their alma mater. My Imprint is just one of the activities that are being carried on under the aegis of the Institute Development (ID) Program. TSA caught up with Mr Chinna Bodapalli, a 1972 batch alumnus and the Managing Director of the ID Program to find out more about the ID Program, its activities and its aims.
A: The Institute Development (ID) Programme is a new intiative of our Institute. The purpose of the ID programme is to facilitate the institute to help reach its vision of excellence. Every university in USA has a ‘development’ program. For example the University of Chicago raises 300 million dollars every year and has a 200 member strong development-team. What we are trying to do is follow their footsteps and raise our standards to match theirs and become one of the premier institutes of the world. In this regard we are the first of the IITs to institutionalize the development program and now all the other IITs have started to follow suit. Although we have nothing to do with academics or day-to-day administration of KGP , we do play a supporting role in a number of areas. For example, we provide R & D or industry partners to IIT Kharagpur which is absolutely essential. We handle public relations. We also oversee alumni connectivity, where incidentally, a lot of our ideas and funds come from. In addition to that, we also raise funds. However our primary focus is on alumni connectivity which is one of our core functions. None of the above tasks can be achieved without a very strong alumni supportbase. The earlier approach was about what the alumni could give to the institute but right now, we look at what the institute can give its alumni. If that is addressed, then there will be a symbiotic relationship between the institute and the alumni.
Q: What are the things that have actually been put into place as of now to achieve the aforementioned goals?
A: In order to create alumni connectivity, we created a portal, the phase 1 of which is complete and the phase two will be starting soon. To reach out to everyone, we need everyone’s contact information. We reach out to each and every city, hold alumni meetings and explain to them our vision for IIT Kharagpur and how they could contribute. Actually the fund-raising is just a small part of it all. The alumni connectivity helps IIT Kharagpur in a number of ways. For example, if you want to recruit somebody in some department, our alumni can help you out. If you want a project from say General Motors or IBM, our alumni are right there, making connections with the right people. They play a central part in helping our institute reach its goals. Our alumni are our brand ambassadors!
As a part of the ‘My Imprint’ programme, for the first time this year, the institute gave the students who were graduating a chance to donate their caution money which is refunded when you graduate. Almost 90 students signed up for donating it. Maybe this number is really small, considering the size of the passing out batch, but this is a start since it is the first time that something like this has happened. Most impressive was that with almost no campaigning, these 90 people came voluntarily to donate. Actually ‘My Imprint’ is a programme which allows the out-going students to contribute to the students who study here. All the money that has been received will go into an endowment for student services and only the interest will be used to provide facilities to the students in a sustainable manner.
Q: How many batches are you reaching out to presently?
A: All of them! In fact our target is to communicate with all of our alumni, which number approximately 50000 and that is why we started KGP Connection, which is a newsletter that goes out to our alumni telling them about the good things that are happening on campus. Take the case of a couple of student projects and innovations that we showcased in this newsletter. When we did this, quite a few alumni were interested in helping these students both financially and otherwise. So you see, it is not only about the building of brand IIT KGP. These things that we do actually connect the alumni with the students and are mutually beneficial for both.
Q: Apart from the financial means, how else do the alumni contribute to this?
A: One thing that I mentioned earlier was the connections that they have established. Another thing that I feel is that our alumni are our brand ambassadors. If they feel good about KGP, they talk about KGP to their friends, their colleagues and point out what KGP has been doing. The KGP brand is very important for every students career and life.
Q: Recently, Mani Bhaumik pledged a stupendous amount of money to the institute. Is that a part of the ID Programme ?
A: Absolutely! In fact it is an outcome of the ID Programme. We worked on that project for quite some time. The pledging of a convention centre by Vinod Gupta, that is also the outcome of the ID Programme. But in the face of big donations like these, one should not forget the grassroots. Big deals like these need a lot of working by many key people including our director and BoG. over multiple years of work. However, in doing so, if we ignore the grassroots then we are defeating our basic purpose.
Q: In KGP, the alumni network has been pretty strong as compared to other places or colleges. So why create a whole new setup under the ID Programme and work on a new front instead of enhancing what already exists?
A: Let me give you another example. Before the ID Programme, the number of people we communicated via emails was close to 5000, which has now grown to 14000 and increasing, that too within a span of one and half years. Now let me address this question in two ways. One, the ID Programme is much more than exclusive alumni connectivity. The second thing is that there might be a few people who are still connected to the institute in some way but the majority are not. We need to bring in more people and that is why ID Programme was instituted.
There might have been a connectivity earlier but it was not manifested. It was compartmentalized and not wide enough. What we have done is brought all of this under one umbrella. If you have seen our first ever Annual Report that we brought out, you will observe that we have listed every single contribution made to any part of the institute. This gives a common platform to the alumni regardless of the department they are from or the batch they passed out in.
Q: In your introductory speech, on the first day of the alum meet, you talked about achieving 100 donations of Rs 50 lacks each (neither more nor less) and urged people and batches to come forward and become a ‘Founding Donor’ or ‘Founding Batch Donors’ for this cause. Could you please elaborate on this?
A: If you look at the top ten universities of the world and top ten endowments, you’ll find 85% correlation, especially among the premier universities of the world like Harvard. Strong endowments help the university take unusual risks and as of now IIT Kharagpur can’t even think of taking such leaps. So we are initiating the setting up of an endowment-fund to a tune of 3000 cr. which will enable this institute to move up in the ranks of the list of top universities of the world. For any endowment-fund of this kind, the challenge is to come up with the first 50 cr. and in order to address this hurdle we have decided to recognize the first 100 donors as ‘founding-donors’. This title will not be restricted to individuals but will also be conferred upon halls, batches and departments that want to contribute significantly as a group. It is often seen that people are reluctant to donate because they do not know exactly where their money is going. We are handling this problem by introducing greater accountability and transparency. Donating to our endowment gives them the feeling and confidence that their contribution is working for generations to come. As regards the time frame, if we are able to attain this target within the next 10 years, I would say that’s a job well done.