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Life in an IIT | 'IIT-Madras made me self-confident, disciplined and patient'

Life in an IIT | 'IIT-Madras made me self-confident, disciplined and patient'

  • 17th Aug 2023
  • The Indian Express

Hyderabad girl Panuganti Sai Bhargavi lived her IIT dream and explored the various opportunities offered by the institute, be it technical fests or being a part of the IIT Madras' pre-incubator Nirmaan.

I was interested in both Biology and Mathematics, however as I reached Class 9, my interest in Mathematics grew. Solving a Math problem was not only interesting, but also motivating for me. In Class 11, I decided that I would pursue engineering. I already knew that Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were the best colleges in the country and I started preparing for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), and fortunately I got through. I pursued mechanical engineering from IIT Madras and graduated in July 2023.

My four years at IIT Madras were eventful and enriching. There were so many opportunities to learn and grow that it was beyond my imagination. The first year was about transitioning into a different world, living in a hostel for the first time, being by yourself and more. During my first year, I explored a lot, different clubs, activities, and places around me to find what interests me. I was impressed with the campus and lush greenery.

Transitions and exploration

During my first year, I was a part of the department fest club- Mechanical Engineering Association. Our fest, Mechanica, is one of the biggest department fests. I was a coordinator in the social wing and student relations vertical. I also joined the E cell (entrepreneurship cell) and it was the first time I heard words like start-up and entrepreneurship and I was curious to explore more. As a part of the cell, I was in the start-up services team as an associate manager. I got an opportunity to interact with a lot of people who were part of it. A senior and I were facilitating a zonal event called 'Elevate' in Hyderabad where more than 30 start-ups registered and made their pitch to the panel of judges.

I was also actively involved in sports and played volleyball. We played in the inter-departmental league, where our department emerged as the winner. In volleyball, whatever I learned, I learned it from my seniors. They used to teach us in their hostel Godavari. I also volunteered for the alumni reunion and Centre for Computational Brain Research (CCBR) workshop and Shaastra, the annual technical fest of IIT Madras. For Shaastra, I was a part of shows and exhibitions.

The Covid era and the new normal

Before the first year got over, Covid pandemic had hit the world and there was a lockdown imposed and everything came to a standstill. During that time, I tried my hand at things I didn't attempted before. It was the first time I made an Instagram account and got introduced to memes. I really liked them and wanted to make memes myself. I also created a page where people could get personalised memes for their friends on their birthdays and send it to them. Two of my friends, Alankritha and Aaditya helped me to do that and soon it became popular in the college.

Since it was the Covid era and we were still under lockdown, things were different from the first year. I became quite lonely at that time and in order to feel positive, I started reading a lot of material related to mental health and self love. During the same time, I realised many people would have been feeling the same way. I wanted to reach out to those people and let them know that they are not alone in this. I used to share this via my social media and let people know that I am there and they can reach out to me if they want. I would also ask them to seek counselling as they are professionals and would know better. Plus, our college also had mental health professionals to help out people who were finding it difficult to deal with things.

Meanwhile, I also worked with some non-profit organisations that used to spread awareness about mental health and worked towards educating the underprivileged, especially things such as socio-emotional learning, sustainable living and menstrual hygiene for girls living in shelter homes.

I also became a part of an institute start-up called ImpactHut, where I looked after community engagement and events. The start-up partnered with some schools and would equip students with certain skill sets and develop a mindset to tackle real world problems. This year, too, I was a part of Shaastra as coordinator of the finance team.

Nirmaan, the pre-incubator of IIT Madras
In third year, I joined the pre-incubator of IIT Madras, Nirmaan. The idea behind Nirmaan was to equip students of the institute who have entrepreneurial pursuits or have new and innovative ideas. Nirmaan would provide them with infrastructure, networking funding and guidance for their idea. In order to get approval, they would have to pitch their idea and explain it, the idea would then be reviewed by Nirmaan's faculty advisory board.

Two years ago, not many students knew about Nirmaan and the opportunities it provided. So, in order to make students aware about Nirmaan and what student start-ups were, we started 'Start-up Sundays' and 'Nirmaan Icons' (both were online). In start-up Sundays, we would feature start-ups which Nirmaan was supporting at that time and showcase their journeys. In Nirmaan Icons, we would feature alumni start-ups which were previously a part of Nirmaan and are now successfully running their start-ups.

In the third year, I was also a part of team Saathi. After having first-hand experience in second year, this issue became close to my heart and I wanted to help as many students as I could. The team made collective efforts to resolve issues. Finally in the sixth semester, the college reopened and we came back to campus and it was all brand new again. We returned after so long and I was meeting people whom I interacted with only via online modes. During the same time, I was elected as the student executive head for Nirmaan.

The fourth year was completely offline. It started in August and was probably the most hectic year of all. From preparing resumes for the placement season to being the student executive head for Nirmaan - all of it required my attention. This year, Nirmaan became bigger with more students joining it and participating in the activities carried by it. We also conducted offline events such Experts Talk where industry experts from various fields would come and talk about entrepreneurship opportunities in these fields. We even had the opportunity to showcase the start-up prototypes at Nirmaan to G20 delegates as well as the Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankar. He had come for the inauguration of Sudha and Shankar Innovation Hub, an alumni funded centre. I even got a chance to interact with the vice president.

We were very active in the co-curricular sphere as well and participated in the Institute Innovation Council (IIC) - a government initiative by the Ministry of Education. As a part of the IIC, we had to ensure that innovation and entrepreneurship related activities are carried out in the campus and we used to upload those activities as well.

Other than work and academics, I explored Chennai, the food and also went on a trip to Wayanad with my friends.

Lessons for life

Studying at IIT Madras has been one of the best experiences for me. The learnings boosted my confidence and made me a better person. Before Nirmaan, I used to be very aggressive, but my then student head taught me to be calmer and have patience. My growth has been tremendous, my parents, my friends and teachers have all been my pillars of strength and support. They were always by my side. The lessons such as, never give up, put in your 100 per cent in what you love and do what you enjoy doing are what will stay with me forever.

I am currently placed in Accenture Strategy as a Management Consulting Associate. I will be joining in October. I would like to explore various sectors through my job. As of now, I am interested in the FMCG sector.