Scores of students dream of entering the hallowed grounds of an IIT and making a name for themselves and the country. The Indian Institutes of Technology have given the world many pioneers in their respective fields—CEOs, scientists, politicians, young entrepreneurs, authors, and unique entertainers.
Interestingly, many IITians wear the tag of game-changers and changemakers who take a different path to pursue their passion.
In this article, we look at six successful IITians who quit their high-profile job and carved a niche for themselves serving humanity.
1. Bipin Dhane
After graduating in 2013 from IIT-Kharagpur in Naval Architecture, Bipin landed a job at a multinational company in Singapore. However, not one to tread the corporate path, Bipin soon found himself looking for something more. In an interview with The Better India, he said, “I never wanted the corporate life. There was no fulfillment in working there. For nearly a year and a half, I had thought about quitting. One day, on social media, I connected with a friend who was working in the remote river island of Majuli on the Brahmaputra River in Assam as a teacher for underprivileged children. I aspired to work in the education sector, and she told me there were opportunities to teach there. I finally mustered the courage to quit in October 2015 and made my way to Majuli.”
While it was naturally a tough decision, which almost no one understood, Bipin stood firm. In November 2017, he founded a trust called Ayang Trust, which runs a community library serving children from five nearby villages and is also working to improve livelihood opportunities for the locals by promoting a producers’ collective and working closely with rural women weavers of Majuli.
2. Shashanka Ala
An ex IIT-Madras, Shashanka is an IAS officer today. Looking back at her years as an IIT-student, she recalls, “My biggest take away from the Institute was the confidence that I will make it no matter what. Even though I didn’t have the best academic record in IIT, I learned critical skills like logical thinking and the ability to make quick decisions. Cracking JEE in my first attempt and studying at a premier institution through five years without major hiccups gave me both the ambition and confidence to eventually crack the Civil Services.”
This Deputy Commissioner, posted in Mizoram, is credited with helping fight malnutrition in her district. Shashanka and her team designed a unique solution—’Kan Sikul, Kan Huan’ (English translation: ‘My School, My Farm’), wherein “Every school and anganwadi will have a small kitchen and nutrition garden in their own premises. Since there is no plain land available, all the gardens are made on terraces. These schools and anganwadis source their fruit/vegetable seeds and compost from the district administration. They can now cook their mid-day meals using the food they have grown themselves instead of waiting for a truck from Silchar or Aizawl.”
3. Arvind Saraf
An IIT-Kanpur graduate, Arvind started off on the conventional and moved to the US in search of better opportunities. During the time he was at MIT, researching computer architecture, he says, “There, I got involved in a lot of development organisations related to India. I wanted to come back and do something, which would directly impact people. I didn’t want to be coming up with ideas from so far off.”
On a trip to India, Arvind decided to stay back and continue working here. It was this move that triggered the birth of Swasth India in Mumbai, an NGO that provides sustainable health systems customised for specific communities. Having topped the JEE examinations in 1997, Arvind decision to work in India in the social sector, left many shocked. But this IITian feels finally at home with a career where he gets to make a real difference.
4. Dr H Harish Hande
An IIT-Kharagpur alumnus and the winner of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, Dr Hande is a social entrepreneur who co-founded SELCO. This social venture works towards eradicating poverty by promoting sustainable technologies in rural India. In an interview, he speaks about how it is important to have a passion for the cause you are working on.
He feels that if people have a passion for making a difference rather a romantic idea of making a difference, they will succeed. “Romance can die quickly but passion survives. The best space to pick is the one you are passionate about. For me it was solar energy. In the beginning, I would recommend not seeking too much funding. You first need to learn what the business is all about. Working with little or no funding will help people think in innovative ways and that innovative thinking is critical for social entrepreneurs. Be prepared for a lot of challenges,” he said.
5. Devendra Purbiya
It was at IIT-Kharagpur, where Devendra was pursuing a Computer Science degree when he discovered his talent for photography. Subsequently, he won a contest in 2010 that got him a chance to shoot a top model and Bollywood actress—Deepika Padukone.
For almost six years after he graduated from IIT, Devendra worked at a regular desk job, all the while pursuing photography as a hobby whenever time permitted. In this interview, he says, “The toughest part about leaving a job is the fear that money will stop flowing . . . the biggest task is to convince yourself that you can earn money out of what you are going to do.”
He gave himself a year to make it on his own and had confessed that he would have looked for another job if he didn’t succeed. It’s been nine years since he stepped out into the unknown, and hasn’t had to look back.
6. Biswapati Sarkar
Parodying TV news anchor Arnab Goswami is what made Biswapati an online sensation. The Viral Fever (TVF), a web series that shot Biswapati into the limelight has nearly 10 million views on YouTube. The show has featured celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh, and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. While all his other classmates from IIT-Kharagpur chose conventional career paths, Biswajit decided to tread the path not taken.
In this interview, he says, “I was in Class V or VI and one of my maternal uncles was from IIT-Kharagpur, we went for a (family) wedding and my mother said to me ‘he is from IIT, touch his feet; if you become 1 per cent like him, then that’s a big thing.”
As I conclude this article, the words of Confucius come to me, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” These people have proved that the work satisfaction that you get when you turn your passion into work is incomparable.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)