India's Tech Elite Focus on Rural Villages

This year, alumni of the country's premier tech schools will take their annual celebration to small towns to honor rural accomplishments

For most people, tough times mean tough choices. But here's a really offbeat one—the high profile alumni of India's premier tech schools have decided to lend a hand to grassroots development, as the corporate world is getting buffeted by the worst recession in decades. The old boys of the IITs have opted to focus on the India that lives in villages at their annual jamboree which is being held at IIT-Madras later this week.

The most prominent 'made in India' global network has decided that this is the best time to highlight the contribution of people from rural areas in the development of India. This is a big change from earlier high-profile PanIIT meetings which have either been about providing mentorship and business tips for budding entrepreneurs from the alma mater or schmoozing with politicos in Delhi or Capitol Hill and networking with global business biggies.

From 2003, when the annual IIT alumni event first started, it's been held alternately in the US and India and has been a gathering of industry honchos, government and thought leaders and, of course, corporate bigwigs. But this year, there will be a bit of a difference. The galaxy of big names such as economist Rahguram Rajan, marketing guru C K Prahalad, former McKinsey chief Rajat Gupta, steel king L N Mittal and TCS chief S Ramadorai will rub shoulders with IIT Madras alumni R Madhavan, notably of the Padapai Farms, and village sarpanch Popatrao Pawar from Hiware Bazarin Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

What could be a better time than now—when financial behemoths and MNCs around the world are staving off bankruptcies—to get back to the basics? And in keeping with the new spirit, rural transformation is set to take centre stage. The IITs' old boys will engage in the development of India's 6 lakh-plus villages where over 70% of the population lives. For all you know, our IIT men may be able to address village-level problems before the truant politician does. And in the bargain, some of them may hopefully take to politics! And why not?

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