BITSAA rings the NASDAQ Opening Bell

On Monday, 23 December 2013, BITS Alumni Association (BITSAA) proudly rang the NASDAQ opening bell in Times Square, NY, USA. This was an incredibly rare honor for BITSians and also a critical opportunity for us to showcase BITSAA as a family of world class leaders. Only a handful of educational institutions, like MIT and CalTech have been invited for such an honor.

 

The Opening Bell Ceremony at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York’s Times Square serves as a platform to generate exposure for companies and nonprofits, make a news announcement or celebrate organizational milestones. Hosted by a NASDAQ OMX senior executive, the Opening Bell allows listed companies and invited non-profits to address a wide audience with specific messages. A common sight today is the highly publicized events in which a celebrity or executive from a corporation stands behind the NYSE podium and pushes the button that signals the bells to ring. Many consider the act of ringing the bells to be quite an honor and a symbol of a lifetime of achievement. This daily tradition wasn’t always this highly publicized either. In fact, it was only in 1995 that the NYSE began having special guests ring the bells on a regular basis. Prior to that, ringing the bells was usually the responsibility of the exchange’s floor managers.

2013-14 marked the 50th anniversary of BITS Pilani as a world class institute of technology and sciences. This ceremony was the curtain raiser for the celebrations and kick-off of second edition of the BITSAA Global Meet , held at the Hyderabad Campus from January 3-5 2014.

The great chance to ring the Opening Bell at NASDAQ was a proud moment for the entire BITSian community – The efforts of tireless BITSAA volunteers who have translated their passion for BITS into transformative projects over the years and the unflinching support of alumni like you, have made this event happen.

The event was broadcasted on several television networks like CNBC, Bloomberg, etc. reaching millions worldwide. This allowed BITSAA to showcase flagship initiatives thereby boosting awareness about BITSAA initiatives and uplifting the BITSAA brand to the ranks of world class universities who have participated before.

Raju Reddy, then chairman of BITSAA, rang the opening bell, as he was joined by several dignitaries from BITSAA, industry leaders, businessmen and academicians. Speaking on the occasion, Reddy , from the BITS class of 1981, thanked NASDAQ OMX for hosting the event. Recounting his journey from India to the U.S. to obtain a master’s degree and going on to found Sierra Atlantic, which was later acquired by Hitachi, Reddy said his “journey is typical of many of my fellow alums with whom I have the honor of sharing the stage today. Each of them is highly accomplished and a respected global leader in their field of work, thanks to the culture of openness and opportunity provided by America.”

“It is indeed a privilege to celebrate the 50th anniversary of BITS Pilani by ringing the bell on Nasdaq today,” he said. “BITS has a deep connection with the U.S. since its founding years. Mr. G.D. Birla, one of independent India’s iconic industrialists and also the university founder, consulted then chairman of the MIT Board of Trustees and also the Ford Foundation to design programs that would make collaboration with industry an integral feature of our education…Today, BITS is one of the most selective universities in the world with only 1 in every 68 applicants admitted.” Reddy said that many BITS alumni have been at the forefront of innovation and job creation in the U.S. as entrepreneurs and senior executives in some of America’s best known companies, including several listed on NASDAQ, such as Akamai, Cisco, Cypress, Intelligroup, Ixia and Sandisk. “Our alumni are highly regarded for their path breaking research and teaching at leading universities such as MIT, Stanford and Princeton. Closer to Wall Street, BITS alumni are known for their pioneering work in banking and finance. We even have an Emmy winner amongst us. And a Mars Rover scientist, too.”

Mr Reddy then pointed out the opportunity represented by a lot of alumni in both India and the US, lauding their innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. He mentioned the BITS Spark  program that aims to nurture such entrepreneurs. He expressed hope that BITS, as India’s #1 private University, is well positioned to become the next Stanford or MIT.

Special Thanks to the Weekend Witchcraft team for creating the video that was played at the event, Vikrant, Kris, Raghav and the local NY team for taking care of the on-ground logistics; Kalyan Krishnamani (CMO, BITSAA) and her team for apt marketing; Aditya Garg for driving social media and Aditya Sharma who seems to be perennially available for us.

Any report on the event would not be complete, without thanking Venu Palaparthi (Co-founder BITSAA Intl, OMX Exec & Dreamcricket fame) who made this happen; Atul Bhatnagar (CEO, Cambiam Networks) for getting on multiple calls & generously putting his PR machinery behind us and Sandeep Arora (Co-founder BITSAA & COO Knack Systems) for sponsoring the pre-event reception on the 22nd. The motley group of folks who assembled at NASDAQ have pledged USD 1 Million for BITS, to be raised in coming decade.

Here is what some prominent BITSians had to say about the ceremony:

“The NASDAQ opening bell ceremony marks a milestone event for BITSAA. It symbolizes the recognition of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of BITS and BITS alumni around the globe making a difference in people’s lives” – S.P. Kothari, deputy dean and Gordon Y. Ballard Professor of Management at Sloan School of Management, MIT.

“This is a very proud moment and is telling of the times where years of hard work and the resulting contributions of BITSians to the world community are beginning to be recognized. We have a very proud legacy that is great to see others share and admire”- Anurag Jain, Entrepreneur.

“This proud moment is ultimately a result of the joint effort go thousands of volunteers who have translated their passion for BITS into transformative projects over the years. Some of the recent projects like BITSConnect  2.0 are impacting the lives of thousands of BITSians every day, and our helping put BITS on the international map” – Shashikant Khandelwal, CTO, The Find

The coverage of the event can be found below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8bcnilmHio

 

Oasis 2014 in Boston!!!

Reunions are always nostalgic and short but leave a profound and everlasting memories. The year 2014 witnessed another glorious Bitsian reunion in US – Oasis 2014 in Boston.. Yes you heard it right!!

Oasis was recreated this time, not in Pilani but in Boston on 9th Nov 2014.This was the first oasis organized outside Pilani with more than 160 people attending the event. There were representations across all the four campuses from different batches. The idea was to cast the magic spell of Oasis in Boston as it used to be celebrated in Pilani and provide a platform for socializing and bonding among bitsians of all batches. “We were not sure how the event would turn out nor did we know many people would come as it is the first time in history that Oasis is conducted outside Bits. However the support and attendance which we got was overwhelming” says Ajay Koul, BITSAA NE Chapter Head.(Batch ‘98)

This Gala event kick started with a warm reception and the Bitsian Junta who came with their family were served their favorite dishes like bread pakoda, banana rabri and paneer maggi with “shikanji” grabbing maximum attention. This was followed by powerfully nostalgic music and dance performances and some entertaining musical games all steered by hilarious emceeing. For more coverage of the event, Do checkout this You tube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62wFKrjhn4I

Bitsians across various batches and campuses bonded very well and together put up an extraordinary stellar performance and made the event a very memorable one. The amount of fun and excitement this Boston Oasis has created gives us the staunch hope that this tradition will continue.

 

BITS 80s Reunion!!!

It was a chilly November in the San Francisco Bay Area, There was palpable excitement in the air. It was Nov 28, less than 12hrs removed from saying thanks in proper tradition. Less than 8 hrs removed from the last sip of wine.  Less than 4 hrs removed from arguments over the football game. For many, the festivities had ended. But, for some, it was just the beginning. And, they were thankful about one thing, hitting that button on bits80.org and saying “YES”!  The 3 day forecast on the BITSometer was loud and clear “ Nov 28- 100% chance of fist pumps, back slaps and hugs. Nov 29- 120% chance of heart thumping, feet tapping and body gyrating thunderstorms. Nov 30 – 150% chance of psenti-feelings”. A storm was indeed brewing..

 Storms are not created overnight. They are a culmination of forces of natural elements building momentum with positive re-enforcement to sustain it along the way. There is a perpetrator for every storm and the BITS80 Reunion was no different. Suvashish Ghosh (83) batch – the master mind sowed the seeds which bloomed to this beautiful reunion. Suvashish along with a group of energetic bitsians – Vijay (83), Vikas (83) and Ratnesh (82) Nivi Padhy(85) Anu Murari (86) Rajiv (80) Venu (80) Sriram (87) and Sudha (86) – formed the core committee spanning the batches 80 to 89 , who championed this re union.

Having lived years not knowing one’s own batch mates, the notion of motivating and uniting BITSians several degrees apart was a tall order.  And if you thought biking to pahadi was hard  … this was a step harder…  but, the rewards and the descent after the accomplishment paralleled the same heights and sights that pahadi had injected into the BITSian lives.

The Reunion clocks started ticking fast and the core committee got into the full swing of preparations. Right from scouting for venues, figuring out events to crafting the agenda the engines for the reunion rolled out in great speed. Elaborate thoughts and endless lacha sessions resulting in getting the “where”, “when” and “who” questions of reunion answered. The team decided that the reunion had to be a long weekend and they all settled in on the thanks giving holidays. Thanksgiving would allow families to travel together and also meet the extended BITS family.

Once the “where” and “when” items were finalized, the committee realized the need of an agenda which would keep the incoming bitsians and their extended families on their toes. So they got together and whipped up music, drama and ELAS/HAS for starters. Creative one-off activities with local attractions were thrown in as optional choices. Armed with a decent “agenda” the committee were all ready to jump into action.

Initially the core team did face hiccups in getting more registrations as there were lot of skepticism with enthu meters very low.However it was the exact opposite with music gang, whose enthu caused needle-bending readings. The spotlight was on the music night which was to be the crown jewel of the reunion. With dates and venue locked in… The feverish pitch towards the music night began earnestly in the month of October. Virtual rehearsals, conference calls etc. indicated that music night is going to rock on Reunion. The enthusiasm infused video clips of music night practices acted as a catalyst in turning around the re union registration. It served as the perfect trailer to build momentum.  It was further bolstered by another music event, a karaoke night in Los Altos, Bay Area with an open invitation to the larger BITS crowd. This did turn the tide in the right direction.

Finally all the planning paved well and the celebrations kick started from Nov 28th to 30th 2014 in San Francisco.Celebrations and excitement were filled in air. Not to forget that all bitsians eyes were gleaming at those ever yummy panner Maggi, Kashmiri pulao, sweet curd and Jalebi which were served. Also reunions without RAF would be definitely a miss.So RAF night was organized and Amitabh Bachan’s Don was screened which added more excitement. It was extremely enjoyed by bitsians, their spouses and the kids too.

Series of events like fashion show, ELAS/HAS plays, antaskhari, and dumbchardes engaged all the bitsians thoroughly in immense fun and awakened the animated, adrenalin generating hyper tension that was the very hall mark for any event in BITS. This was followed by Photo-shoots which provided a nice break between ELAS/HAS events and the music night. Set in a beautiful location of Presidio in SFO, the customary group and batch photos turned up some interesting nuggets like the “bookends of the reunion: 80 + 89 batch photo” and “The lone guy and the women: 84 batch photo”

As the final evening of the reunion rolled out, the excitement and anticipation towards the Music night continued to climb higher every minute. the melodies started rolling out with “Deewana Hua Baadal” “neele neele ambar par”. Intertwined with the rocking tunes like “Jaane Jaan”, “Piya thu.” the audience got into the groove heading out to the dance floor. The music night went on for 4 plus hours with nonstop hits that kept coming like a juke box set on automatic. It was a nostalgic blast from the past with great song selection and brilliant performances. Challenged by geographies and very little practice time, the music night team simply rocked putting on a stellar show.

All good things come to an end and that applied to BITS80 reunion. This reunion perfectly resonated nostalgic memories, unlimited joys, boundless happiness of good old college days. The BITS80 Reunion is one such reunion which was a journey in itself and truly lived up to the tagline Reconnect, Relive and Renew the Bitsian Bug.

For more details on the event – Check out (https://www.facebook.com/BITS80s)

 

The beginnings of BITSAA

BITS Alumni Association (BITSAA) is one of the largest Alumni Associations in the world, and one of the most active and prolific in terms of its initiatives. And yet, it is easy to forget humble beginnings, and the contributions of several “generations” of leaders that have made into what it is today. Over the next few weeks, we aim to bring to you the beginnings of BITSAA – the events that shaped its growth, and give you a glimpse of what went into it, from the biggies like BITSConnect and the NASDAQ phenomenon; to the small victories and setbacks that are part and parcel of any large enterprise, and last but in no way the least, the actual faces and voices behind the name.

Though recent in origin, BITSAA has emerged as one of the strongest alumni networks of any university. It is interesting to know how 9/11 attacks played a role in the birth of BITSAA. In a candid conversation with three founders Anupendra Sharma (Eco Instru ’87), Venu Palaparthi (Eco CS ’87) and Sandeep Arora (MMS 87), we explore how four waves have created and transformed BITSAA into an enduring, relevant organization.

The story goes back to 2001 in New York City, when Anupendra sent an email to the Eco ’87 batch about raising a scholarship for Pilani students in the memory of his batchmate SS Seshadri (Eco Civil), who had passed away a few years ago.

The Eco ‘87 batch was instantly responsive. But to fully endow the scholarship, Venu Palaparthi, who lived across the river in New Jersey, suggested doing a fundraiser music night instead of simply collecting money. Venu risked a $10,000 deposit to book a place for the show. That’s when Sandeep Arora (MMS ’87) surfaced. “Sandeep was a popular guitarist and music club member at BITS”, says Venu. He agreed to pull the music night together.

Anupendra, Venu and Sandeep were working towards the big night, finding BITSians, and sending out invitations for the event. A date was set: October 13, 2001.

Then, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

A BITSian, Vamsi Pendyala (’88), was a passenger on the flight from Boston which crashed into the World Trade Center.

Venu says, “It gave us a massive jolt. I was in NYC and I received hundreds of emails. BITSians asking about other BITSians. The phones had gone silent. But people were on emails forwarding across batches – seeking info and reassurance that their mates were safe.”

Anupendra recollects, “When we finally got to the fundraiser, I found out that two BITSian classmates were in the towers when the planes hit.

“They remembered walking down 50 floors, watching people jump to their deaths. We didn’t talk about that day. In fact, it would be months before both of them were able to discuss that morning with each other.”

With Ground Zero burning, the three founders decided that it was only fitting to create a scholarship in memory of Vamsi Pendyala. Vamsi’s wife and classmates were instantly supportive, and the organizing team grew rapidly. Unfortunately, overcome by grief, Vamsi’s wife took her own life a week later. It was a sad day for the entire BITS family.

“9/11 forced us to rethink about the fragility of our relationships,” Venu told Rediff later. “In Vamsi, we saw ourselves. It could have been any of us.”

Vamsi’s death brought a lot of attention to the New Jersey fundraiser being planned. “We owe our entire organization to Vamsi,” Venu says, “In his death, he created an organization.”

In anticipation, Anupendra met Kevin Dyer, a New York lawyer at his Park Avenue office. Kevin, inspired by the fundraising efforts, and the story of Vamsi and Sesha, halved his fees and filed all the papers to create a not for profit organization.

Sandeep remembers the year that BITS started to recognize BITSAA. “In BITSAA’s 3rd year (2003), our dear Director, Prof. Venkateshwaran came to the United States as he had been doing for years. This visit turned out to be very different than the past, since BITSAA started to organize meetings everywhere.

The Diro was surprised and amazed by the large crowds of people he met everywhere he went. Inspired by the new network, in his final stop with the Silicon Valley Chapter, he left BITSAA with a mission he called BITSConnect – to wire the BITS Pilani campuses.”

It was a second call to arms, and one that was to unite the entire BITSAA global community.

The BITSConnect movement was led by Silicon Valley BITSians Jayan Ramankutty, Prem Jain and Karthik Krishna in New York galvanized the globe into its first major joint action. Venu says “Sandeep Arora managed the new complexity of hundreds of donors, pledge cards and messages from around the world. Being Treasurer of BITSAA suddenly became a big job.”

Venu is proud of what we achieved. “BITSConnect succeeded, and over $1 million of equipment and services were installed on the campus.” Anupendra adds.

“The Sandpaper 2.0 team rejoiced in its success by creating a cover of hot air balloons taking off. BITSians on campuses were now free to connect with the rest of the world. It was an empowering moment”

After the success of BITSConnect, BITSAA’s energies waned. The big project was over, the initial bout of nostalgia done. BITSAA needed a new mission, a new purpose. It had to be more than just about the University. It had to be about the alumni. Anupendra expressed this view to Venu often. Yet neither had an idea of where to take the organization next.

As it happened, things worked out by themselves, and BITSAA got a new direction wherein to expand, as we shall see in our next post.

BITSAA celebrates International Volunteers Day

BITSAA International is a global, inclusive all-volunteer organization representing BITS Pilani Alumni. The association’s leadership team comprises of highly talented and dedicated BITSians who continually put enormous amount of effort and enthusiasm in working on its activities. There are over 40 chapters around the world under the aegis of BITSAA and over 20 initiatives that serve 30,000 BITSians. It takes the dedication of over 150 BITSAA volunteers to make the organization continue its work. Over time, we keep passing the baton to new volunteers and rejuvenating the association with new ideas and new vision.

December 5 is International Volunteer Day, established by the United Nations in 1985 to recognize the important role volunteers play in making a difference locally, nationally and globally.

On International Volunteer Day 2014, volunteerism is celebrated and recognized in all its facets. International Volunteer Day 2014 highlights the contribution of volunteers in engaging people from the grassroots in decision-making processes, ultimately creating space for participation that leads to: stronger governance, social cohesion, peace and sustainable development.

BITSAA International would like to mark the occasion of International Volunteer Day by extending a warm thank-you to its volunteers. A huge shout out for all the people who have been associated with BITSAA in the past or present!

Also, in honor of International Volunteer Day 2014, BITSAA International conjoins hundreds of organizations across the world in celebrating the contribution of volunteers by announcing the Volunteer of the Month Award for November 2014.

Join us in acknowledging volunteers’ participation, engagement and voice, in shaping the initiatives BITSAA undertakes. We are immensely glad to present the award to – Shashwat Nandan from the Fundraising team and Siddharth Mehta from the Career Center team. Let us hear it from the winners themselves:-

Shashwat Nandan

Shashwat Nandan, Fundraising Team

“I had joined BITSAA in September, 2013 in the fundraising team with the goal of contributing towards our alma mater. It has been an incredible journey beyond my expectations, interacting & working with most dynamic & intellectual people. I am currently working on two projects- eStore revamping & operations and India credit card alliance. BITSAA nurtures leadership & encourages innovative ideas. I would like to continue working with this esteemed & selfless group of individuals for the fun of facing challenges & ideate to solve them.  I hope to get involved in many more projects in future to help our alma mater & students of BITS.-Shashwat Nandan”

Siddharth Mehta

Siddharth Mehta, Career Center

“I would to like to thank BITSAA for the appreciation. I joined the Career Center team in order to be a part of a very useful project and for the learning experience associated with developing the product. In the past few months I have been working independently with plenty of responsibility and have learned a bunch of things in the process which I wouldn’t have otherwise. The team worked very efficiently and the results were really good. I am really looking forward to our future plans to take our work to the next level.- Siddharth Mehta”

Indeed, BITSAA International is fortunate to have such brilliant volunteers.