May Edition: Alumni Stories

Dear Reader,

This month we bring to you another story directly from an IITKGP alumni. 

My journey beyond IIT Kharagpur

Facing a world of high unemployment, I stepped out of IIT KGP as a fresh graduate chemical engineer in June 1968. My indifference about pure engineering led me to seek employment in technical sales. I was lucky to find my first job just within a couple of months. The quick-thinking skills that I had acquired at IIT helped me to settle in with ease and soon I took off for the next step in my career. 

Being based in Singapore, I travelled in neighbouring countries, and had to adjust myself to alien business environments and interacting with people from different backgrounds. My experience at IIT was a tremendous asset. For five years we were exposed to a variety of students from different regions of India and learnt to appreciate their various cultures and languages. 

Living up to my adventurous nature, I took a bold decision, which some certainly considered foolhardy. I gave up my comfortable job in SE Asia and opted for an MBA program at the University of Rochester, NY. I had a real tough time getting back to a fast-paced graduate studies program after a gap of 12 long years. Those nights of burning the midnight oil within the walls of Azad Hall, completing assignments, had indeed prepared me to face the challenges and I completed the MBA program successfully. 

The next few years of my life were filled with misfortunes. A brief stint at an uninteresting job in Mumbai, followed by a return to Singapore, being laid off in two years, starting a trading venture, becoming a victim of fraud leading to financial losses. However, the rigorous training at IIT had prepared me to face these challenges! Twenty years after I graduated, I began my new life as an immigrant in Canada. 

This time, the challenges I encountered were far greater than my departure for Singapore on my first overseas assignment. In those days, Canadian employers demanded “Canadian work experience” to hire someone. Obviously, this was an absurd demand facing the newly arrived immigrant! 

One great lesson we had learnt at our Alma Mater was adaptability. With great perseverance I succeeded entering the job market in Canada and, in a couple of years, began a new venture in partnership with an old friend of mine. A key factor in my favour was the knowledge of chemical engineering (heat transfer) which I had gained within the walls of the historic old Hijli Detention Camp, so closely associated with India’s freedom movement. Our department was in this building at that time. I must confess that, during those days, I had hardly paid much attention to our professors’ diligent efforts in introducing us to the concepts of heat transfer, an important topic of the chemical engineering curriculum. What a stroke of serendipity! The principle of heat transfer became the basis of our new venture. We were selling agents for the largest manufacturer of heat transfer equipment in the world.

During the initial decade of this startup, the going was indeed tough. During the initial phase, we had to “break our backs” soliciting for sales. Again fortunately, IITians, some in crucial decision-making roles, were spread throughout our industry. Though I had not known these individuals at IIT, the moment I introduced my background, a magic bond was created. During my 30 year-stint as an entrepreneur, I have received immense support from all IITians whose paths have crossed mine. 

I bid farewell to this venture which I started over four years ago, handing over the reins to the next generation who have been well trained to carry the banner of success. It is now time to reflect on the tumultuous journey of my life and recall the pet slogan ingrained in my memory: 

Utpal Banerjee (1968/CHE/Azad)

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our Alumni Stories?

Share your cherished memories and experiences with fellow KGPIans. Alumni narratives serve as potent instruments for inspiring and fostering connections within the IITKGP community. They illuminate the varied and triumphant journeys undertaken by KGPians, showcasing how their IIT education has propelled them towards fulfilling their aspirations.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Ensure your story is limited to one page (~500 words) to maintain a concise and impactful story.
  • Give us 1-3 photos to include with the story.
  • Submissions should be in Word document (.doc or .docx) or Google Docs format.
  • Submissions should be in a format ready for publication, with minimal editing required.

Submit you story here.

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