Houston, Texas – The tenth edition of the PanIIT Global Conference over the weekend of December 5 -8 witnessed networking, walks down memory lane, excellent lectures by luminaries including a noble laureate and a former president, in addition to top executives from distinguished companies.
The inclement weather outside did not dampen the warm and energetic spirits inside the Hotel Hilton Americas in downtown Houston, Texas as nearly 1700 participants, mostly alumni of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology, immersed in the conference program titled, “Inspiring Innovation for Tomorrow.”
The conference kicked off on December 5 with the chairman’s reception at the Asia Society Texas Center in the Museum District where a select audience of invited guests was treated to a dance, beautifully choreographed by talented local artist Ratna Kumar’s Anjali School of Performing Arts. The guests were given a taste of things to come over the weekend by the conference committee chaired by Witty Bindra with Pratish Kanani as vice chair.
On December 6, the technology geeks took over the registration and welcoming role with smooth precision and the organizers were lauded throughout for the programs’ punctuality and adherence of speakers to the time limits.
Umang Gupta, the chairman of PanIIT Global, said, “I have been coming for more than 10 years to these PanIIT conferences and I can tell you this is one of the best organized conferences that I have come to know. I congratulate the entire volunteer team organizers, all of them out together.”
Friday’s plenary session was addressed by soft spoken Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, where he laced with humor and wit the subject, “Rebuilding India for a More Assured Future.” Comparing India’s progress in different fields with neighboring countries, Professor Sen lambasted the Indian government for not doing enough and he cited facts and figures to argue that Gujarat is not up to the mark, while praising the states of Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Later the octogenarian answered questions in a brilliantly conducted session by HCL founder Arjun Malhotra.
During the day, the grand ballroom also saw local Houston Mayor Anise Parker speak along with the Indian Consul General P. Harish, University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator and British Gas CEO Andrew Gould. They praised the achievements of the IITians and urged them to do more for their communities.
During the three day conference, there were many prominent speakers, like Rice University President David LeBron, former Mexican President Vicente Fox who invited IITians to visit his country, University of California San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Blake Irving, the CEO of GoDaddy who spoke about “Mashing up the future of Technology” and Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director for the disaster ridden Apollo 13 mission, who delivered a touching speech on “Failure is not an Option.”
Saturday night fever gripped the audience, especially IITians who had danced to the beats during their student days, when Usha Uthup took the stage and belted out favorite oldies, urging the audience to participate. The stage was overrun by not so old girls and not so young boys as the evening progressed.
With the Sunday dawn came the news that the unexpected weather had impacted the proceedings, as travel blues refused to let Miss America Nina Davuluri reach Houston. The announcement brought audible disappointment from the audience, but she compensated with a conference call moderated by Sundy Srinivasan, where she answered participants’ questions.
The concluding highlight was a speech by distinguished alumnus Desh Deshpande on the value of social entrepreneurship and how to measure its relevance and impact. The grand finale was the ceremonial passing of the baton by Chairman Witty Bindra to the 2014 Convention Chair for the event to be hosted in Delhi, India.
PanIIT is the umbrella organization bringing together the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) from across India. The PanIIT Conference has been held every year since 2003 with the venue alternating between the US and India. Next year’s conference is scheduled to take place in Delhi, India and the 2015 conference will be held in Santa Clara, CA. There are also regional events conducted in Delhi, London, Paris, Tokyo, Toronto and Washington, DC in between these annual conferences.
Sid Chowdhary, the outgoing president of PanIIT USA said, “To match the success of the first decade and to prepare for the next, PanIIT USA is positioned as an inclusive organization that is focused on providing services that benefit our alumni as well as the IITs; and to undertake initiatives that would allow our alumni to come together to solve the problems that we face in our communities, both here in the US as well as in India.”
Commenting on the vision for 2014 and onwards, Arjun Sen, the president of PanIIT USA, told India America Today, “PanIIT USA just celebrated the first 10 years and we are excited to jump into the second decade with energy and enthusiasm. Today we have the infrastructure, we have passionate volunteers, visionary distinguished alumni and amazing leadership from each campus president. Together we are confident we will take PanIIT USA to the next level and position our organization as one of the best alumni organizations in the world.”
IIT alumni entrepreneurs who have built notable companies include: Vinod Khosla of Sun Micro Systems, Vinod Gupta of EVEREST group, Shailesh Mehta of Providisn, Kanwal Rekhi of Excellan Systems, Anand Jagganathan of Banyan Networks, Nandan Nilekani of Infosys and Arjun Malhotra of HCL.