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.

The BITS2MSPhD Talk: 31st August, 2013

Thinking about a higher degree?  MS or PhD might be for you. Find out for yourself. BITS2MSPhD, along with Embryo, presents this opportunity to BITSians on and off-campus. Get to know about the graduate school experience. We will help you find answers for:

Why Graduate School?

How to select a university?

How to write your resume and Statement of Purpose?

How should be your letter of recommendation?

Now you can tweet your questions to us too!
Post your questions on twitter with the hashtag “#bits2msphd”. And we shall take it from there. You may tweet your questions before or during the talk.

Off campus participants can join too, via WebEx conference.  You may find the link to live webex conference here.

The talks are held on campus:

In Goa and Hyderabad – Date: 31st August 2013 Time: 6.30 PM IST 

About the speakers:

Srivarsha Rajshekar(2007B1TS563P) is currently doing her PhD at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Cornell University in New York.  She studied M.Sc. (Hons.) Biological Sciences at BITS-Pilani and graduated in 2011.  She pursued her Thesis work at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. She has also worked in research laboratories in the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune prior to beginning her PhD. She is passionate about science research and education.

Adwait Gandhe(2008A3TS199G) graduated with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the Goa campus in 2012. He interned at Cameo Digital Media Lab (PS1), where he implemented a computer vision algorithm on an embedded platform. He then developed an inventory management system and presented his work at an international IEEE conference in Fukuoka, Japan. He was selected for the StartingBloc Fellowship, and traveled to Boston, USA to attend the Institute for Social Innovation. He then pursued his Bachelor Thesis at Fraunhofer Institute for Visual Computing in Darmstadt, Germany. He also attended the International Conference on Computer Vision, Barcelona, Spain before joining the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University to pursue his Masters in Robotic Systems Development. He was the Vice-chairperson of the IEEE Student Branch and helped revive Celestia, the Astronomy club. Adwait’s focus at CMU was Robotics, Machine Learning and Data Mining. He also took coursework in Entrepreneurship and is currently a member of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club at the Tepper School of Business. He is currently pursuing an internship at FMC Schilling Robotics, a company that develops sub-sea robots, based in California, USA.

In Pilani – Date: 31st August, 2013 Time: 8:30 PM IST Venue: LTC 5103
About the Speaker:

Yashkumar Gandhi (2007A1PS432P) is currently pursuing M.S. in Industrial Engineering at Purdue University, West Lafayette,Indiana, USA.  He completed his B.E. (Hons) in Chemical Engineering at BITS-Pilani in 2011. Earlier this year, Yash interned at GE Global Research Centre, at John F Welch Technology Centre in Bangalore. He has also worked as  a research intern at National Aerospace Laboratories, (CSIR-NAL) Bangalore  and had  been a UGC summer fellow at Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT-Mumbai) in 2010.

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.

Announcing Winners – BITSAA Awards

BITS has had a tradition of recognizing and commemorating its faculty, alumni & students or their achievements in academics, extra-curricula’s  and  contribution towards business or a societal cause. BITSAA International continues that tradition with the BITSAA Awards.  It gives us immense pleasure to recognize and honour this year’s outstanding efforts of those volunteers who keep the 40000+ BITSians spread across the globe connected with each other as well as their alma mater.

The BITSAA Awards were instituted earlier this year in order to recognize and commend all those who went above and beyond their call of duty to take BITSAA one step further to its vision of creating a resourceful and well networked alumni community.

This is our humble attempt to reward the exceptional amount of time, efforts and interest these people have put in. The following are categories being awarded this year:

  • Most Successful Team - Given to the team(s) that has shown remarkable commitment, excellent execution beyond the listed goals, and credible collaboration across teams. All BITSAA teams are eligible to be nominated in this category.
  • Distinguished Service to Alumni Community - Given to the individual(s) that has served the Alumni Community not just to the best of his/her ability, but over and beyond that. He/She has exhibited consistent and sustainable efforts over time, and spent considerable efforts in developing relationships and individuals for the benefit of BITSAA. This category is open to all BITSAA leaders.
  • Exceptional Leadership - Given to the individual(s) who has proven to be an exceptional leader with proven integrity, interpersonal skills, goal setting for team, and carrying the team along with him/her. This category is intended for Managers and above, but exceptions will be made if there is sufficient justification.
  • Outstanding Volunteerism - Given to the individual(s) who put in efforts outside of his stated project tasks, has excellent communication skills, and is result driven. This category is open to all Volunteers and Team leaders
  • Promising Newcomer - Given to the individual(s) who joined BITSAA recently, but proved to be an invaluable resource to the team, and the organisation, through his/her dedication, leadership, and commitment. As the name suggests, this is open to any leader who is a newcomer.

The nominations under each category were rigorously reviewed by the leadership team to choose winners who have shown skyrocketing levels of enthu!. It was really tough to choose between such talent and dedication, and took us several rounds of discussions and debates!

Finally the time has come for us to open the envelopses and reveal the winners. We take great pleasure in announcing and congratulating the recipients of BITSAA Awards 2013:

  • Most Successful Team:
    • Shared by Scholarships team and BITS Spark team.
  • Distinguished Service to Alumni Community
    • Aalap Tripathi, Ex-CEO
    • Kaushik Subramanian, Ex-CFO
    • Vijay Sharma, Ex-COO
  • Exceptional Leadership
    • Soumyadeep Ghosh, BITS2MSPHD
    • Kaushik Balasubramanian,  Marketing & Communications
    • Rahul Parsani, Finance
    • Hari Kishore, Scholarships
    • Sherin Kurian, Scholarships
  • Outstanding Volunteerism
    • Hari Prasath, Alumni Membership
    • Deepan Kishore, Campus Relations
    • Pramod Vadlamani, People Strategy
    • Anurag Jaipuriar, Scholarships
    • Aakash Goel, Technology
    • Chetan Bansal, Technology
  • Promising Newcomer
    •  Sunalini Sinha, Operations

Congratulations to all the winners!! You have made BITSAA and BITS- Pilani proud.

Rest assured, such dedication and efforts will continue to take us forward by leaps and mark us on the map as one of the best alumni organizations in the world.