New Delhi: “We don’t have an alumni base as strong as the older Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) but you cannot wait for 40 years to reap that benefit... so you must innovate and reach out to new constituents," said Sarit K. Das, director of IIT Ropar in Punjab.
“Indian diaspora can be (almost practically) your alumni base. What alumni do for older institutions, diaspora can do it for you," said Das.
Das along with some of his colleagues has already visited countries like the UK, Canada, the US, Singapore and Australia in the last six months to reach out to a significant pool of non-resident Indians there. In October, he will visit the UK and Canada again to reach out to the strong Punjabi diaspora there.
“We get three benefits. One, Indian Diaspora like your alumni base can help you connect with good candidates to recruit as faculties; two, they can help find good university collaborations and three, they can contribute to specific needs of the institutions," Das said.
Das represents the new breed of education administrators, who are finding out novel ways to build their brand equity and reach, and are looking to tap unconventional sources like government funds or sponsored projects. He said several new institutions like IIT Gandhinagar and IIT Hyderabad are doing the same.
Sudhir Jain, director of IIT Gandhinagar, agreed. “New institutions can think different and act different. If some of us are looking at NRIs or the larger diaspora, then it’s a very conscious decision. What he (Das) said is actually true and the benefits you reap or shall reap despite being new institutes is immense," said Jain.
Jain said IIT Gandhinagar got good support from the diaspora, especially in the US and Japan. Several of our tie-ups for students’ research, institutional tie-up, recruitment and some endowments happened because of non-resident Indians. “In the last few years, we have received endowments worth Rs30 crore, and a sizable portion of them are from the diaspora community. As we engage with them more, we believe more will follow," he said.
Jain said money is just one part of the outcome and fund flow happens only when you make a sustained effort. “Money does not flow immediately but it will once you build that trust and tell them specific purposes for which you need funds. I am certain that by the end of this year (2017-18), we will get our first set of financial support from NRIs," said Das of IIT Ropar.
Bhimaraye Metri, director of Indian Institute of Management Tiruchirappalli (IIM-Trichy) too shares the view. “Our mission is to be among five (top 5 IIMs) in five years. We shall innovate, reach out and do everything that is good for our students and institutions," said Metri.
Institutes like the new IITs and IIMs have the luxury of innovating their strategy as they don’t carry the baggage of history like the older ones, said an expert. “New Institutions know they have to build their brand equity faster for varied benefits and more so when the central government is now talking that institutes must generate sustainable revenue. In such a scenario Indian Diaspora is a good bet… I see no wrong in it," said Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president of Education Promotion Society of India, a federation of education providers.
Chaturvedi said India is a leading recipient of remittances from NRIs and if top institutes like IIMs and IITs target them for some contribution, it should be seen as a definite strategy.
Why only institutions, even states should tap these resources for social welfare initiatives, including health and education. As per World Bank data, India received some $62.7 billion worth of remittances in 2016. In 2015, it received some $68.9 billion.
In fact, in July, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh had an interaction with UK-based Indian-origin businessman, who has “shown keen interest in investing in various sectors, particularly in education and sports in Punjab". The CM office said that he has supported the idea and details will be thrashed out soon.