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.

Clarification of membership at (BITSAA International)

Recently, BITSAA International received an e-mail from a student asking for clarification regarding the Alumina registration fees that he had paid on campus. While the matter was not strictly within BITSAA International’s ambit, we thought it was a good opportunity to help alumni to understand the difference between BITSAA International and BITSAAD which is the department concerned with Alumni Affairs on campus.

Alumni registration fees are raised by the Alumni Division on campus. The utilization of funds goes towards the Director’s Tea Party, Batch snaps, yearbook and so on. The exact details on fund collections and split up of expenditure should be available with the local BITSAAD incharges at Pilani, Goa, Hyderabad and Dubai.

BITSAA International is a non-profit organization. We have never charged registration/membership or membership fees, nor do we foresee any necessity to do so in  the future for now. All registrations on the BITSAA International website are free and will continue to remain so.

BITSAA International

Many people would be interested to know that BITS Alumni Association International , BITSAA International, was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Three bitsians, Anupendra Sharma (Eco Instru ’87), Venu Palaparthi (Eco CS ’87) and Sandeep Arora (MMS 87), were working towards a scholarship dedicated to one of their batchmates, SS Seshadri (Eco Civil), who had passed away a few years ago. They met each other in the process of hosting a Music Night in October, 2011 to that effect. But one month before that, on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centre was attacked. A BITSian, Vamsi Pendyala (’88), was a passenger on the flight from Boston which crashed into the World Trade Center.

In light of recent events, 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.

Vamsi’s tragedy brought a lot of attention to the Fundraiser at New Jersey. “We owe our entire organization to Vamsi,” Venu says, “In dying, he created an organization.” BITSAA was recognized by BITS in 2003 when the then Director Prof. Venkateshwaran had visited the United States.

BTISAA then grew taking stride after stride. BITSconnect, BITS Connect 2.0, Sandpaper, BITS to MS/PHD, BITS to Bschool, BITSAA Global 30 under 30 just some of the initiatives and good work done by bitsian alumni. You can read more about alumni coming together to help out others on the BITSAA International website.


Each campus has its own BITS Alumni Affairs Division, BITSAAD is functioning at Pilani, Goa, Hyderabad and Dubai campuses. BITSAAD maintains liaisons with the alumni and involves them in the development of the university. The division functions as an arm of the campus administration.

The BITS Alumni Affairs Division, established in 2010 connects and engages students, alumni friends and well-wishers to a lifelong relationship with BITS Pilani. The division is working to extend further, the Alumni support to the continuing development of the Institute’s academics, research and off campus programs, expansion and renewal of its facilities, and in providing scholarship and financial aid to students through annual fundraising campaigns. The division generates opportunities for alumni and friends of the institute to extend their time, talent and treasure to enhance the vitality and reputation of BITS Pilani.

The activities conducted by the division during the academic year 2011-12 include

·        Director’s Tea Party

·        Batch Snaps (B.E and M.E)

·        Support for Convocation 2011

·        Registration of graduating students as BITS Alumni

·        Design, procurement, distribution and sale of Institute approved souvenirs

·        Coordinating Scholarship Applications, Travel grants, requests from students for alumni mentoring, etc.

·        Coordinating Alumni Visits

·        Coordinating Lets Promote BITS Pilani (LPBP)

On Campus Talks

On campus talks are an excellent forum for invited speakers from the alumni community to share their experiences with the students’ on-campus

Project Embryo Lectures

Alumni from different field and expertise interact with the students through video lecture. Efforts are made to telecast lectures to all the campuses simultaneously.

The Road Ahead

BITSAA International and BITSAAD are working together to  give back to the University as Alumni, what we received as students. Whether you are a current student, graduating class, alumni or faculty, Please do register on the global BITSian Directory at


BITSAA Intl is working in sync with the office of alumni affairs to create a cohesive and tightly integrated workflow & infrastructure . Whether you are a current student, graduating class, alumni or faculty, Please do register on the global BITSian Directory –

Sources & Links :

BITSAA Initiatives -

BITS Connect 2.0 & How it will change things on campus -

BITSAA Global Meet 2014 -


Aditya Bhuvaneshwaran, Team Leader – Membership Team, BITSAA International.

BITSAA Registration Summary

The Alumni Membership Team has taken up an initiative to ensure transparency regarding registration numbers and statistics to allow alumni to understand how BITSAA International is growing.  In order to do this, the team has decided to publish monthly statistics, and come with some insights on these numbers. If you have ideas on how we can improve these numbers and bring in more registrations, we are all ears – Shoot out an email to and we will be happy to learn from you.

We will be releasing statistics regarding website usage every 4 months.  Here are the January and May Statistics!

January (May) Statistics

 The total number of users that logged in this month were 263 (224) out of a possible 12559 (12875) members out of which 72% (68%) were from Pilani, 16% (22%) from Goa, 11% (8%) from Hyderabad and 1% (2%) from Dubai.

I would also like to bring to notice that registration numbers this January have decreased compared to previous January.  Steps should be taken to see why this has happened.

With that, I would like to bring this month’s update to an end.  I hope the information here has brought some insight into the bigger picture of how things are moving in BITSAA

What is as Masters of Science Degree all about?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of BITSAA International or any of its teams. 

Masters of Science offers degrees in Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, etc in a particular or interdisciplinary field. It allows you to switch your area of specialization and explore areas not possible at the Bachelors level. Doing an MS gives you exposure to world class research facilities and professors at the same time opening up global job opportunities. I would state at the outset this is mostly directed at engineering MS aspirants.

Current Trends

BITS PIlani students have consistently secured admission into top ranked universities across the world. 110 students have secured admission in 2013.  53 students of these secured admission into Stanford, Michigan Ann Arbor, Carnegie Mellon, TAMU, National University of Singapore, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin Madison.

Several others secured admission into other world class universities such as ETH Zurich, UT Austin,  Purdue, Cornell, University of Urbana Campaign, TU Delft, Virginia Tech, Penn state university.

Areas of  interest ranged from traditional such as Machine Learning, VLSI to areas such as Petroleum, Pharmaceutics, Aerospace, Biomedical & Business Analytics.

Computer Science related fields were most popular selected by 41 students. Electrical and Mechanical were close at 14 and 11 admits respectively. Industrial Engineering and Biology had 7 and 8 admits respectively.

To do or not to Do an MS

If you steer clear of these problems, then your MS will be an enjoyable experience

  • While Masters is the right choice for some people, it will not be for others. The application process in itself involves considerable expense of time and money upwards of six months and up to 1 lakh. So it is very important that you are sure that this is a step you’d like to take.
  • It is not advisable to apply if you are unsure about your interests. Companies when they recruit graduates expect that the candidate is competent and is eager to work in the domain. If you do not like the job profiles or work culture, you will find yourself laden with student debt and forced to work in an area you do not like simply to pay off the loan.
  • There is also peer pressure to get a Masters as more and more students pursue qualifications after B.E. Choosing to do an MS for this reason is likely to backfire as one may not be in the right state of mind to plan his career.
  • Money matters. Money matters a lot. Pursuing a degree without liking a field is risky as bad work life balance, unable to get along with colleagues, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness will eventually creep into your life. This aspect will not be evident while you are in college but you will appreciate it much more once you finish your PS.
  • Doing a Master’s degree also runs the risk of being over qualified. Though this is minimal. People automatically assume you will demand a higher salary or move to a different job as soon as the market improves. So they will be more reluctant to hire you in the first place. This turns into a cycle, do not get a job as you do not have relevant experience, and you cannot get relevant experience as you do not have a job.
  • While it is still uncommon in engineering, it is not unheard of that graduates are unable to find jobs after graduating and are forced to come back to India due to visa regulations. Once they arrive here are unable to find jobs as either they are overqualified do not have relevant work experience or simply that the industry does not exist in India.

I want to do an MS what do I do now?

Know what you don’t want to do. It’s the best way to identify which area you want to specialise in. Just like those MCQ’s you solved in BITSAT. It needs some introspection, but mostly, figure out what you don’t want to do, write down what you like and choose something you want. Projects and PS stations might be ideal places to figure this out. Differentiate fields that a more academic oriented than industry. The latter is generally well-paying, the former tends to be more satisfying. Once your area is clear, then making choices for relevant electives, projects, companies to work in becomes much easier.

The most important factor in deciding your admittance would be a CGPA, more specifically the grades in your core subjects. A CG about 8 and at least 3, 4 A’s  helps to have a wide choice of universities to apply to. Having a low CG ( <7 ) isn’t  the end of the world, but it’s an uphill task.

Work on as many projects as possible would to gain expertise and develop a resume. While working on projects concentrate first on the task at hand.  Explore allied areas, network with other people in the field and develop specific skill sets such as programming languages, FEM software.

A simple way to prep for TOEFL and GRE is to read the newspaper or at least editorials regularly. It improves your clarity of thought and speaking. It improves your grammar and vocabulary. It helps you identify upcoming areas and emerging trends and industry. Relevant to MS it will help you construct a good SOP. If you have a good command over English, it helps you in all walks of life.

Understand the financial implications of taking up a MS. Evaluate how much money you have at hand and how much you will need to borrow. Having a good CG helps improve chances of landing a TA (Teaching Assistantship) or RA (Research Assistantship) and the accompanying fee waiver. So study if for nothing else, the money! Trade off your interest in the field versus the job prospects in it. Understand that hobbies are different from work. You may like to code occasionally, but the programmer’s job involves more debugging than actual coding. You need to be in front of a computer more than 12 hours a day. This mismatch between industry and academia is much clearer once you start working.

Should I get work experience before a Master’s Degree?

The only point against this would be that people tend to lose focus after they start working. This easy money in hand and continuing on the job seems a lot easier than taking the extra trouble to apply to grad school. But more often than not this happens to those who weren’t interested in the field in the first place anyways. The simplest way to avoid this issue is to plan beforehand the duration of your tenure in industry. Explore the job opportunities and profiles of seniors in your industry to assess future potential. It will be a tradeoff between the advantages, your own aspirations and disadvantages, financial constraints and family obligations.

A big plus of having job experience on a resume is that it is much easier to land a job abroad you have work ex in India. Even for summer internships at the end of first year, work experience plays a key role. The job market in US and Europe while not bad as the recession is still tepid at best. You will be competing against candidates who have work ex. So unless you have something exceptional to offer you may be passed over.

Working in a company helps you to understand how organizations work. You begin to draw parallels between the manager and a professor, how to present your work, punctuality, delivering on time under pressure. In college were told often to learn everything as we may not know what they might find useful later. After working in a company, you can better identify the subjects and courses that you actually need and concentrate only on those. And every credit in the US costs a lot of money.

Working allows you to taste and freedom and to be responsible. You earn you money and you can choose how to spend. You also tend to meet people from diverse backgrounds from different colleges some better of the new some worse off. You will realize that most people who do what they like, or made and make money don’t have a MS from XYZ University, though having a degree doesn’t hurt your chances. Things you learn from their experiences will give you different perspectives from what you’re used to hearing in the hostel. You learn to live with yourself or together with other people but this time have a lot more cash to blow. You may develop interests find that you’re good at something that you didn’t know before.

Do not underestimate the benefit of a financial cushion from work savings. Think of it as more money to spend during grad school.

Choosing the company to work after college carefully. It may boil down to money versus interest. I would say the best thing is to contact your seniors and family for advice. Choose money if you need it choose money if you can afford it. Most importantly fix your tenure of stay and don’t tell anyone.

Check out the BITS2MSPHD forum for threads, past admits and any other questions you might have. Most likely, you will find a BITSian in your position a few years ago. Email him, call him up, feel free to ask about anything in the forum. And if you secure an MS admit, celebrate, and let the world know about it, atleast in the forum, so that you help the other BITSians.

About the Author:  I’m a proud 7 pointer 2007 Mech pass out. I’m specializing MEMS at the University of Freiburg. I’ll be joining college this October.

Aditya Bhuvaneshwaran, Team Leader – Membership Team, BITSAA International.