[Book Review] BITS of Success: Inspiring stories of BITS Pilani alumni


What does it take to be successful? Grit, guts and gumption, some would say. Dream, passion and perseverance, the others would vouch for. Educational Institution? That's what the fifty alumni of BITS Pilani include as an important factor which helped then achieve success.

BITS of success is a book which compiles the stories of fifty successful alumni of BITS Pilani from various fields; as diverse as scientists and artists, politicians and teachers, technologists and skiers. A few names are very familiar household names like Sabeer Bhatia (founder of Hotmail), Prithviraj Chavan (Chief Minister of Maharashtra), Mani Shankar (Film maker) and Vivek Paul (Wipro Technologies). The others instill a desire to know more about them.

D Balasubramanian, Director-Research at L V Prasad Eye Institute, recipient of the Padma Shri, one of the oldest alumnus of BITS Pilani profiled in the book, talks about the contribution of his teachers at BITS in inculcating the love for Chemistry and Music in him. The importance of good teachers cannot be demonstrated better than in his case. The early interest in the subject subsequently led to sustained learning and eventually path breaking innovations.

In an era where the public at large are in general disgusted by the politicians in India, Prithviraj Chavan is an outlier. The current Chief Minister of Maharashtra has a pleasing personality and is an efficient administrator. In the words of Babasaheb Neelkanth Kalyani, the Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Forge, which might be true for most of the alumni of BITS Pilani, "I think the years that I spent at Pilani prepared me to face the challenges of life".

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down." The importance of friendship and the contribution of educational institutions in forging those ties also comes out in the book. B C Jain, Chairman of Ankur Scientific, and recipient of the Bio-Energy Man of the Year 2011–2012, apart from many other accolades, says, “This [BITS] gave me a large number of great friends and also led to development of excellent analytical and interpersonal skills".

A common trait which is observable through the profiles of all the alumni is the desire to make the world a better place to live in. Whether it is the socially relevant movies made by Mani Shankar or the work being done by B C Jain in the bio-energy segment or the Janaagraha movement of Ramesh Ramanathan.

Innovation is another common thread which weaves the lives of these luminaries. Sabeer Bhatia founded the first free web-based email service in the world, hotmail. Sarathbabu Elumalai founded Foodking which serves good food at nominal prices and offers employment to illiterate and semi-illiterate people.

The selection of people profiled is commendable. While each of the story is fascinating, the book just touches upon the lives of a few of them and leaves the readers with the urge to read more about the person. This could very well be a strategy that the editors wanted to adopt.

The book must be read by the younger lot, who are disenchanted by the education system and the value that it adds. At times, the value is not tangible and not in marks received!

BITS of Success is edited by Harsh Bhargava, Kinnera Murthy and Anu Khendry.


Book review by:

Dr. Nupur Pavan Bang is the Head- Analytics at Insurance Information Bureau of India. She writes on finance and economics, occasionally on books, poetry, travel, and life.