Global Alumni Meet – Speech by Mr. Monte Ahuja (1967; Mechanical)

It is truly an honour to be speaking to you today as we gather here from all over the world to celebrate our fifty-year reunion from PEC. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifty-years! In many ways, each of us deserves an award for just making it through all this time – being alive and here today.

In walking around the campus the last two days, I was reflecting on what our lives were like 50 years ago. Our social life was very limited to say the least! It revolved around a few cricket matches and visits to sector 17 for coffee or to catch the latest movie.

I’m sure many of you remember this – we only had two female students in the entire college! And they were’nt even engineering students, I believe they were studying Architecture! Today, this college has a diverse population of male and female students as well as a wealth of entertainment options, too numerous to mention!

The college also has several notable Alumni including NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla; comedian and King of Satire Jaspal Bhatti. And even the former Miss India World 2012, Vanya Mishra! It’s truly amazing how much this University has changed.

Like PEC, the world has also changed in so many profound ways over the five decades. In 1969, when we graduated from this esteemed University – the world population at 3.5 million, was only half the size as it is today. The biggest automated teller machine (ATM); and in healthcare, the first human heart transplant was performed.

Innovations such as these were mind blowing in their day. But they pale in comparison to the advancements that have taken place over the past fifty years.

The birth and evolution of personal computing, the internet, cell phones, social media and many other technology achievements has exponentially increased our productivity and allowed us all to become more connected. Mankind has since walked on the moon, landed a robot on Mars and has launched over 8000 satellites in space!

And in healthcare- certainly given our ages a topic ‘near and dear’ to our hearts, the innovations have been that of science fiction: The entire DNA of the human being has been sequenced allowing for a new era of treatment approaches.

Surgeries like heart by-pass, knee replacements and cataract correction that use to take weeks to recover from; now take days and some merely hours and are even performed with the assistance of robotics.

Yes, the progress and innovations of the past fifty years have been amazing! I don’t think any of us back in 1967 could have ever predicted nor for that matter even dreamed of the things that exist today.

With that said, the phenomenal progress of the past 50 years has not been uniform across the World. In 1967, the GDP of India and China was almost the same, roughly $60 billion dollars. Today, the GDP of China is five times that of India, at $10 trillion vs. India at $2 trillion dollars.

Further, while much of the developed world has experienced a net reduction in crime, poverty, corruption and social strife; the same cannot be said of India. Lack of infrastructure, environmental pollution, high levels of illiteracy, and excessive levels of drug use plague India today.

In the province of Punjab, there are four times more drug addicts vs. the global average of states and provinces around the World. These societal challenges will need to be dealt with swiftly and comprehensively for the benefit of current and future generations of Indians.

In looking back over the past 50 years, it is difficult to have envisioned how much change has transpired within the world. While it’s nearly impossible to predict future technologies, I believe there are three common ingredients that enable the recipes of innovation to prosper.

First and foremost: Education. Without great teachers and institutions like PEC there would be no prolific students. I’m certain as each of us reflect on our education here, we can still recall to this day professors that made life long impressions on us – whether through their encouragement, challenges or discipline that they instilled; they helped us shape who we are today. I can tell you from my own experience, this is very much true.

As I reflect on my life journey, the foundational education that I received from PEC prepared me well for my advance degrees in engineering and business in the United States. In addition, the critical thinking skills I learnt here at PEC were instrumental to my business success.

The second common ingredient to foster innovation is Entrepreneurship. While education provides the spark for ideas to be generated, it’s entrepreneurship that turns ideas into realities. Being bold, taking calculated ricks, solving problems, leading through diversity – these are the hallmarks of an entrepreneur. These are the shared traits of innovators. And now more than ever, these are the characteristics that leading institutions like PEC must instill in their students.

We live in times where the rate of change of everything appears to be accelerating at a ferocious pace. Top educational institutions must not only teach their students academic subjects and theories but also prepare them for the practical realities of the ever-changing work environment.

Simply put, an idea does no good if it’s left forever in the brain without acting on it and turning it into a product, technology or therapeutic. That is what entrepreneurship allows.

For me, entrepreneurship wasn’t just a concept but a way of life. When I arrived in the US to pursue my studies 50 years ago, I had scarce resources but tremendous ambition. I truly struggled financially but never gave up on my goals and aspirations.

Through a combination of entrepreneurial thinking, diligent business planning and yes certainly some luck – I was able to persevere and turned a small, two-person start-up business into a national industry leader.

In looking back, I give a lot of credit to the policies and systems within the United States that nurture the entrepreneurial spirit. I believe it is critical for India and its leading educational institutions like PEC to embrace and promote entrepreneurial ideologies.

The third and last common ingredient of innovation is Support. Innovation is not an individual sport. It requires a team! Whether that team includes a spouse that encourages you, a montor that inspires you or employees that share your passion and vision of the innovator – it requires a group support network.

I can tell you for me, without the loving support of my wife, Usha and my family, I would not have achieved what I have in my career. And certainly, the encouragement of professors here at PEC as well as at Ohio State and Cleveland State Universities were all pivotal to my success.

As I have recently entered a new phase of my life, it’s the spirit of support that has driven me to give back to institutions that will nurture our future innovators. I feel very blessed to be in such a position. The ability to influence today’s students to imagine and create tomorrow’s technologies is very rewarding.

Specific to this University, the support required to truly make PEC a global centre of excellence is significant and of the utmost importance. It’s important to note that for leading OLLEGES AND Universities like Havard or IIT, traditional sources of revenue like tuition or government subsidies barely cover the operating costs of the school. That is why they establish formal endowments that raise millions to billions of dollars, to fund initiatives that transform their respective campuses and curriculums and enable them to be global leaders.

In my two days of experience of meeting Director Arora, great faculty, deans. It has been very inspiring to me to see a new passion, a new drive that they all have and their vision that they share with me about the future of this university. I can be honest with you 2 or 3 or 4 years ago when I came here to visit I did not find the same level of enthusiasm or same level of passion that I did find this time. I commend, Dr. Arora for putting together a team of faculty, staff that is truly inspired and is motivated to make this institution a truly, a national excellence of institutions.

However, while we have that most positive step that the last time I visit, it was disheartening for me to see how badly our institution is crumbling from its infrastructure, from the investment that is required to make it a national institute. As I mentioned earlier that most institutions in the world depend on the government support and depend on just institution fees do not achieve that excellence. The largest amount of that excellence comes from a private support and chiefly from its alumni.

I commend the work of many organisations that have spurred up PECOSAs, PECOBAs and so many more who have tried to organise a large group of alumni to be interested in PEC and remain connected with our university. However, I must say, that somehow the key mission of alumni as to I’m used to seeing in the west, it is still far from achieving in this institution. In my recommendation I would suggest that all of these groups be it PECOBA, be it PECOSA I do not consider myself old and I don’t consider an old boy , I consider myself as an alumni and I hope that all organisations begin to see alumni group as the largest resource of support for this institution and their main missions will have to be to seek the support both individual, time as well as financial to make this institution what we all want to make. That should be the key mission of the alumni associations’ world wide.

We have thousands of graduates both in India and overseas and I have no doubt that if we can governise this large group of alumni under the leadership of this newly set department under Dr. Gogna. I understand the institution has taken a clean step of developing and setting up a new alumni leadership and as we can develop a great contact and great support for all the alumni that exist worldwide into providing not just the social contact with the institution but a true financial and time resolved we can turn this institution into all we dreamed about. Many of us have met in the last two years, some from our batch in USA and we dream about we think about is what this institution used to be like 50 years ago. It was shiny , beautiful campus, the envy of the whole country. We need to make it back to that level, let us all commit to do that. And it takes the commitment of not just one individual; it starts with the leadership, which i’m totally convinced that I see in our new leadership in Dr. Arora and his team.

The great passion of students that I saw after meeting them`, the intermingling of the academics and the students and not just the barrier of respect but I think cross-sectional ideas and thoughts in building relationships and passions. If we can do all of that I believe we can transform this institution and that is my goal and that is my commitment that I made to Dr. Arora that  I want to be involved with in doing that. In that respect, again we can talk what we want but the financial support needed for this institution is rather critical. In some ways, I feel like we’re on life support and we cannot just continue to keep this on life support, we should not be just satisfied that patient is still alive. We have to make a long term commitment. 

As I said earlier, it has to come from the alumni, so in that respect before I thank everyone I would like to invite my friend Manmohan Singh Kalsi because I would like to share with you our thoughts as he and I have been discussing and talking in States for long time. Dr. Manmohan Singh Kalsi one of my closest friend during our studies here we’re both same namesake, a lot of our common things we’re both entrepreneur, although I consider him a truly a genius entrepreneur because I did not do my Ph.D and he has got several Ph. Ds working for him. I went on a different track of business, he went on a different track of entrepreneurship in very high level of engineering. So, meet Dr. Manmohan Singh.

We have a discussion with Dr. Arora, I’m personally committing a $ 1 million donation to the University along with Dr. Manmohan Singh Kalsi’s quarter-million dollar commitment and few other friends that have not come to join us that are interested in joining us, we believe we are comfortable in making our initial commitments to lay the foundation of this new thought, new beginning of Rs. 10 crore towards this institution. My suggestion and recommendation to our new dean is to make a long term goal of raising Rs. 50 crore in the next five years for this institution and I believe that is a very do-able goal if all the alumni, if all the association can work together and adapt this new policy, adapt this new vision, goal and begin to work hard on it. This is what the purpose of alumni should be and this is what the goal and ambition that we have and I certainly feel great about coming back to this institution and see a whole different institution altogether. 

In closing, to the esteemed teachers and leaders of PEC here with us today, I would like to say Thank You!  Thank You!  For your tireless dedication to make this great institution even greater. I also would like to encourage you to continue to invest in the teachers of PEC that will inspire future generations of innovators. In addition, be sure to always foster an environment of entrepreneurship. This enables the students to not only come up with ideas and thought but allows them to turn ideas into realities.

I want to thank PECOSA to organise this great event which gives us an opportunity to meet some of our fellow students after 50 years most of which we could’nt recognise but it’s still veryu nostalgic to see all of them prospering and doing great and now , I think , with a new mission we hope we would be connecting together even more in raising our goal to help this institution to become the talk of the country if not the world.