Of Entrepreneurs and PAN IIT

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Akshay Saxena, New Delhi, November 6, 2010

The PanIIT Conclave 2010 was a great experience for us at Avanti. As a PanIIT initiative, we got to present our views to over 4000 attendees, be part of special panels and find several potential collaborators for the future. It was heartening to learn of the impact programs such as Reach for India have achieved, through the efforts of young IIT entrepreneurs and by leveraging the IIT brand, name and networks – something we aspire to replicate in the future.

There are two contrasting worlds at such conferences – one occupied by stalwarts of industry and business, notable alumni and another filled by recent grads just about starting to find their passions and define their careers. The first in my opinion has remained largely the same. The second has changed rather dramatically since the last conclave I attended.

Entrepreneurship is on the rise. I ran in to batchmates and juniors starting companies in everything from sports ed to travel to green energy. I spent a large part of last year reading cases at HBS about India’s growth, energy and promise – wondering why I hadn’t seen as much of this drive at IIT. It’s hard to believe when you were one among a graduating class chock-a-block full of consultants, bankers and analysts of all accord. That things have changed is exhilarating and incredibly encouraging.

These interactions made me think a fair bit about a point of view mentioned repeatedly at the conference. Given all the resources India invests in IIT grads – is there a greater responsibility on our shoulders to create companies, jobs and opportunities?

I am not sure that IITians have any innate responsibility to anyone. That said when IITians go down the entrepreneurial path, it is significantly easier for us to knock on doors, get taken seriously and find our first customers. Avanti’s journey from a vaguely worded email to a small, yet growing social enterprise in seven months bears testament to this. The letters “IIT” feature in the first sentence we speak on the phone and believe me, this helps.

We don’t all have to be entrepreneurs, but we owe to ourselves to give it some serious thought.

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