On December 8th, 2018, several highly accomplished University of Michigan alumni, professors, the Dean of the College of Literature, Science and Arts (LSA), the Dean of Ross School of Business, and officials from the University’s development office gathered around a rectangular table under the yellow light of a conference room at a Marriott hotel. Most of them wore suits and ties, and all of them had a U-M pin on the lapels of their jackets. Against one wall of the room was a table covered with University of Michigan paraphernalia –newsletters, bookmarks, pins, and pens. The atmosphere in the room was very Maize and Blue, except for the fact that this wasn’t in Ann Arbor. Instead, the meeting took place seven thousand miles away – in Mumbai, India.
Most of the people present in the room had flown into the financial capital of India from other cities in India, but several had made the trip from Michigan, halfway around the globe. This was the annual meeting of the India Advisory Board (IAB), an organization that formed only two years ago. However, the University of Michigan’s relationship with India is more than a century old. It goes back to 1917 when the Barbour Scholarship Fund was founded to support women who came to study at the University of Michigan from India and other countries in Asia. Academic offerings at the University date from 1897, when the first courses in Sanskrit were introduced.
The India Advisory Board grew out of conversations that began in the University of Michigan India Alumni Association (UMIAA), a group of more than 2500 U-M alums living and working in India. U-M has academic partnerships with institutions across India in the areas of liberal arts, law, public health, engineering, and medicine, among others, and the India Advisory Board is dedicated to expanding and enriching these partnerships.
The board is comprised of accomplished leaders who are poised to support the university in achieving its strategic plan/vision by providing input and advice for building partnerships, by providing scholarships to students, and broadening students’ horizons by giving them a chance to experience global learning. In addition, IAB board members host U-M events and leaders in their region, attend and support related events, network with other U-M alums, and provide financial support to University of Michigan. The board meets twice a year – once in India in the Fall, and once again in Spring via phone or skype. There are ten founding members in the board, who each serve a three-year term.
Gopal Srinivasan, co-chairman of the IAB, says the board wants to see more people from U-M study, conduct research and do business in India. He describes it this way: “Suppose someone from the University of Michigan wants to study the Kumbh Mela. I want there to be a person who can raise their hand and say, I can put you in touch with the right person to do that.” The board’s goals are already being realized in many different ways. “For example,” Gopal continued, “one group of MAP students from the Ross School of Business came to India and took a number of auto-rickshaw drivers to dinner. What a fabulous experience for the students to learn about the auto drivers’ life!”
Other plans by the IAB are just getting underway. For example, raising funding for Indian students to study in Ann Arbor is also in the works: “[the IAB] wants folks in India who haven’t had the experience of studying in a school like U-M to be able to have that kind of experience. We want to build scholarships for people who have the merit, but not enough means.”
Srinivasan, a graduate of the Ross School of Business (class of ’83), is the founder, chairman, and managing director of TVS Capital Funds Ltd., a company that supports and nurtures India’s mid-cap businesses into world-class companies. He currently serves on the governing council of the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Chennai, and on the advisory board of U-M’s Ross School of Business. He formerly served on the University of Michigan Provost’s Advisory Committee.
Other members of the board hold undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Michigan in engineering, business, and a range of other disciplines. All have distinguished themselves in their fields in India, whether running financial companies, founding IT companies, or winning the Padma Shree. During the IAB meeting in Mumbai last November, the people in maize and blue seemed to own the hotel lobby. They talked, laughed and strategized about how to strengthen the long and durable connections between U-M and India. Even if the hotel didn’t quite turn into the Michigan Union, the Go Blue spirit was alive and well at the India Advisory Board meeting.
Members of the Indian Advisor Board
Gopal Srinivasan, Chairman, MBA 1983
Founder, Chairman, Managing Director, TVS Capital Funds Ltd.
Chirag C. Doshi, AB 1996
Managing Director, Walchandnagar Industries Ltd.
Chetan Maini, BSME
Vice Chairman, Sun Mobility
Ananth Narayanan, MSE 1999
Ramachandran Narayan, MBA 1987
Fund Advisor, Unitus Seed Fund
P.R. Venketrama Raja, MBA 1983
Founder, Chairman, Ramco Systems
BVR Mohan Reddy, MSE 1977
Founder, Executive Chairman, Cyient
Sanjay Reddy, MBA 1989
Vice Chairman, GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd.
Ranjit Shah, MBA 1981
Co-Founder, Managing Partner, Gaja Capital
Jai Varadaraj, PhD 1987
CEO, Managing Director, ELGi Equipments Ltd.