IIT alumni are opening their wallets wide to give back despite Covid-19

While the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur may have attracted among the highest donations by an individual (former student and IndiGo Airlines co-founder Rakesh Gangwal) at Rs 100 crore last week, IITs have largely seen such contributions rise over recent years, despite the Covid pandemic.

According to Mahesh Panchagnula, dean, Alumni and Corporate Relations, IIT Madras, in the last five years, the premier institute has raised more than Rs 135 crore under the endowment category of education alone.

Despite the pandemic, there has been an increasing trend in endowment funding received at IIT Madras, with an average increase of about 20 per cent year-on-year across the last five years.

Annual donations and endowments at IIT Madras have risen from Rs 55 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 101.49 crore in 2020-21, one of the highest among IITs, based on its annual reports.

IIT Bombay, meanwhile, has seen these increase from Rs 17.12 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 77 crore in 2020-21.

And, IIT Kanpur has recorded a quantum leap from Rs 7.62 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 84.39 crore in 2020-21.

For IIT Kanpur, the jump will now be higher with Gangwal donating Rs 100 crore for the School of Medical Sciences and Technology, which the institute is developing on its campus.

According to IIT Kanpur director Abhay Karandikar, the contribution by Gangwal was one of the single largest donations by an individual to an educational institution.

Given their robust alumni network and potent research work, and a gradual increase in their representation in global rankings, the IITs have over the years attracted such large donations from individuals and corporate entities alike.

For instance, in 2014, IIT Bombay received the single biggest donation in its history: Rs 95 crore from the Tata Group to set up a centre for developing hi-tech products and solutions.

Panchagnula said that a significant portion of the total endowment funding received has been towards chair professorships, largely through the generous support of IIT Madras alumni.

“Through chair professorships, IIT Madras is able to bring in global experts in specialised areas of academia or research, as chair professors.

“This adds tremendous value in the classroom, enriching the learning of the students.

“If we were to pin down the theme that draw in endowment funding the most, it would be that of education — support through scholarships and improving infrastructure and provision of chair professorships.”

Besides IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay has been one of the leading beneficiaries, both in annual quantum and long-term contributions.

For instance, the IIT Bombay Heritage Foundation (IIT-BHF), a US-based alumni support group, has donated roughly Rs 380 crore ($50 million) over the last 25 years to the institute.

The IITs have also continued to attract single large donations.

In 2020-21, some of the highest donations received by IIT Madras included Rs 7.27 crore and Rs 7.01 crore from high net worth individuals and alumni like investment banker Arun Swaminathan and techpreneur Subramonian Shankar, respectively.

Similarly, at IIT Bombay, Ashank Desai, founder, vice-chairman and managing director of Mastek, a technology services company, made one of the highest individual contributions of Rs 15 crore in that year towards the centre for policy studies.

Even younger IITs like Gandhinagar have seen decent growth in contributions on the back of their alumni network and well-wishers based outside of India.

“As a young institution whose alumni are still in their early or mid-career stage, IIT Gandhinagar has made remarkable progress in its fundraising efforts.

“This has been possible through extraordinary support we get from a large number of well-wishers of the institute spread across the globe,” said a spokesperson of the institute.

“Over the past three years, the average annual endowment has exceeded Rs 13 crore,” the spokesperson added.

While its principal endowment support comes from well-wishers who have no previous association with the institute, IIT Gandhinagar’s young alumni are also deeply engaged with their alma mater.

Case in point: 50.1 per cent of alumni in FY20, 55 per cent in FY21 and 50 per cent in FY22 participated in the institute’s “Annual Alumni Giving” activity, with almost equal participation by the undergraduate and postgraduate alumni, the spokesperson said.

B-schools step up

Besides the IITs, top business schools, too, have been clocking a healthy growth in fund-raising through endowments.

Ajit Motwani, senior director-Advancement, Indian School of Business (ISB), said the B-school has received its largest donation of Rs 57 crore, with five donors making contributions of Rs 50 crore or more in the past two decades.

Over the last 20 years, the school has received the highest funding either as unencumbered donations or to support research, which directly relates to the ISB being the top research-based business school in the country, he added.

Going forward, he expects the volume of endowments to increase significantly each year.

“The endowments,” Motwani said, “played a critical role during the establishment/early years of ISB as a state-of-the-art campus with internationally known faculty participation two decades back; and again, during the establishment of the second campus at Mohali a decade back.”

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