For the people of Chennai, the institute is a symbol of heritage, a structure that reminds them of the city's rich legacy in the field of engineering, but today, the alumni of College of Engineering Guindy with a Facebook page that has over 4,000 members and a frequently updated website, has set unique standards in the area of mentoring and engaging with their college juniors. It is not just the nostalgia but a host of other things too, that prompts these former students to change the way alumni relations usually work.
Through virtual tools, many of these alumni are seeking ideas from their juniors so that they can invest in them and some are even employing them in their companies. The oldest member of CEGAM, a web page for CEG students and alumni to interact is from the 1937 batch of the college. Vish Viswanathan, a 1985 alumnus (mechanical engineering) of the CEG who mooted the idea says: “I belong to the batch that came out a year after engineering was made a four year degree and not a five year one. There were fewer jobs then, and going abroad was the immediate choice for many, but now there is more money. The challenge is to keep the spirit of entrepreneurship alive in the youngsters by encouraging their ideas,” he says.
This year, as part of its tech fest Kurukshetra 2012, CEG launched its social initiative ‘Invest Back in India' that urges professionals of Indian origin settled abroad to do something for the country, particularly for their alma-mater.
The CEG start-up corner was also launched recently which will serve as a forum for regular interactions between alumni and students presently studying in the college.
Having batch wise alumni meets is a good thing, but they stand to gain more when there are people from different generations. “The older ones are back and ready to invest, the ones in between are looking for serious mentorship and the younger ones have the brightest of ideas,” says Mr. Viswanathan.
Business networking with their college mates is something that alumni of other prestigious institutions have initiated.
Pradeep Balasubramnium, an IIT-Madras alumnus from 1978 batch, after having spent over 20 years in the retail sector, is looking for the fresh ideas to put his money on. The back end operations and the front end designing of his company are also being managed by students from IIT-M.
“After spending all these years abroad, when we come here, we also want to know what students are up to. We need their assistance, professional help and it is easier to trust your alma-mater,” he says. Sources at colleges, including a few in Anna University and IIT-M say that while nearly 50 per cent of the graduates used to go abroad to pursue higher studies, the number has come down to 20-25 per cent now. The alumni of IIT-M, besides investing in interactive forums and the Centre for Innovation also takes a crucial interest in revamping facilities in hostels and canteens, including providing the students with geysers and water tanks.
“There are many who opt for jobs here, then go on business visas abroad and settle there. Even they are coming back now,” says C. Chellappan, professor, Computer Science, CEG.
“Those keen on starting new companies often, discuss their ideas with senior professors and often take in students to intern with them,” he adds. Many Anna University alumni have created jobs on the internet for their juniors here. One can also learn a lot from alumni. “For every one success story of a start up, there are at least three failures. This interaction and sharing of one's experiences is what we look forward to,” says Mr. Viswanathan.
As regards self-financing engineering colleges, the role of the alumni can never be stressed enough for it is they who carry the brand of the college outside and also influence the accreditation of their alma mater in a way.
“We also need them to know what technology is being used in companies, the salary packets, the hikes and the general scenario. But, in many colleges, the focus is so much on ensuring that every student is placed, that the ones who do not get recruited in campus, stop approaching the college for help, says B.T. Maran, director (student affairs), Meenakshi group of Institutions.