The IIT Alumni Ecosystem took birth in the early eighties when around a hundred batches of undergraduates had passed out from the initial five IITs at Delhi, Bombay, Kharagpur, Kanpur and Chennai. IIT Kanpur alumni in New Delhi under the leadership of Late RK Gupta and Gyanesh Choudhary led the initiative.
Over time, the number of IITs has increased to twenty three, including older highly reputed institutions such as University of Roorkee, IT BHU and the Indian School of Mines. The IIT alumni ecosystem thus grew to one hundred plus entities. These include multiple alumni entities in each IIT and a few Pan IIT Entities. Most of these entities started as informal associations of people.
Around 1999-2000, the IIT ecosystem got a major boost when the IIT Alumni founded or managed businesses rose to global prominence on account of the dot com boom and the y2k opportunity for IT services. The two main epicentres of the IIT Alumni movement have been the NCR area in India and the Silicon Valley neighbourhood in the US. These two areas account for close to one third of all IIT Alumni and an indicative 50% of the total alumni net worth. Both these groups starting hosting alumni get togethers in the form of PanIIT Conclaves. There was no legal entity as such and both groups operated as AOPs. The Indian group comprised of Pawan Kumar (founder Chair of PanIIT India), Pradeep Gupta (Delhi), Pradeep Kapse (Roorkee), VS Sharma (Madras), Satish Mehta (Bombay), Cdr VK Jaitly (Kharagpur), Gyanesh Choudhary (Kanpur) and Sumit Mudgal (Guwahati). The US Group consisted of Abhay Bhushan (Kanpur), Rajat Gupta (Delhi), Vinod Gupta (Kharagpur), Kunwal Reiki (Bombay) and Desh Deshpande (Chennai) among several others.
PanIIT Conclave was initially conceived of in 2003-04 as an association of people on the recommendation of the then President of India, His Excellency APJ Abdul Kalam. This group organised the first PanIIT Conclave in 2004 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. It was a large conclave with close to 3,000 attendees and saw several well known speakers and distinguished guests including the President of India. However, it was very difficult to extend the Conclave to other cities without a legal entity of some kind. As a result, PanIIT Alumni society in India was set up as a 80G eligible charitable organisation to organise bi annual conclaves in India. With around fifty general body members from eight IITs, the society held IIT Alumni events in Mumbai (2006), Chennai (2008), Noida (2010) and Kolkata (2012). On similar lines a PanIIT USA was set up. These entities were set up by a group of well meaning alumni - one in New Delhi, India and another in San Francisco, USA. Similar entities thereafter came up in Singapore and elsewhere. In 2008, two members of the general body, Ashank Desai and Hari Padmnabhan formed a private skilling initiative funded by the National Skills Development Corporation called Reach for India Foundation which helped train blue collar workers for employment in local companies around Chennai with good success. Whilst the society still exists, with an average general member age upward of 70 years, it is no longer very active and has not held a major alumni event since 2012.
Around 2015, the IIT Ecosystem was given a more formal structure in order to help bring the new IITs onto one platform with the older established IITs. The older PanIIT Alumni entities only represented eight IITs for example. Thus two nodal global entities were created. On the academic side, IIT Council was created by the government as the umbrella organisation of all IITs for any academics related issues - and the IIT Alumni Council was created as an autonomous nodal global body for alumni of all IITs. The IIT Council comprises of the Directors and Chairmen of all the IITs whereas the IIT Alumni Council comprises one alumni representative of each batch of each IIT. Whilst the IIT Council operates under the HRD Ministry without any legal entity, the IIT Alumni Council is an independent alumni managed Section 8 company. Both the IIT Council and the IIT Alumni Council are based in New Delhi.
In 2019, the IIT Alumni Council took on the task of evolving the roadmap for rebranding of the IIT Ecosystem. The objective is to unify the look and feel of all the IIT, their signboards, visiting card, websites and digital stationery as well as those of all the official IIT alumni entities. The National Branding Taskforce of the IIT Alumni Council has now finalised the overall branding plan which is currently under consultation with the various stakeholders. The broad plan is that only the campus entities and the two nodal entities would carry the “IIT” branding whereas the various alumni entities for all the IITs would be branded as “PanIIT”. The IIT branded alumni initiatives include the IIT Alumni Council and the IIT Endowment Fund. The PanIIT entities that are active include the PanIIT Fund (a social venture fund that acts as a fund of funds and incubator catalyst), the PanIIT Foundation (a CSR platform for social ventures), the Paniit Institute (a think tank for technopreneur mentorship), the PanIIT Angel Fund (early stage funding for IIT Alumni ventures) and the PanIIT Incubator initiative (based on similar models globally)
Areas being pursued by IIT Alumni Council with the Fund include initiatives aimed at improving the caliber of IIT Alumni, enhancing the global branding of IITs, catalysing growth of the business incubation ecosystem and strengthening the technopreneurship ecosystem in India. On the branding side, there are currently multiple domain names in use. For example, PanIIT USA uses www.iit.org and PanIIT Alumni, an event management charitable society in India uses paniit.org. These are now all being rationalised under iitcouncil.org, iitalumnicouncil.org and paniit.com. At the same time, in order to minimise hierarchy and ensure independence and autonomy for each of the entities - each entity has its own board and office bearers. In order to ensure uniformity of look and feel, an IIT font has been created by the Council.