News & Events

Commencement Address by Ankur Jain at Illinois Tech,Chicago

Ankur Jain (CS ’03), founder of Bira 91, shared his experience translating his computer science education. At Chicago’s tech university to the world of international craft brewing

Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech),Chicago, hosted its 152nd Commencement Ceremony virtually on May 15, 2021. Ankur Jain, (CS ’03), founder of India’s craft brewery, Bira 91, discussed his experience translating the innovative problem-solving. And entrepreneurship skills he developed at Illinois Tech to the world of international brewing.

Drawing inspiration from his exposure to jazz, contemporary art, and craft beer during his time at Illinois Tech, Jain launched Bira 91 in 2008. Named in reference to India’s country code (91). Bira 91 launched its first original beers in 2015, and quickly became an international sensation. The company now has 500 employees, four brewing facilities and present in 14 countries.

Jain first came to Illinois Tech from New Delhi to study computer science and architecture, inspired by his father, who was an architect and an admirer of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed Illinois Tech’s Bronzeville campus.


Ankur Jain

“As a computer scientist, Illinois Tech taught me how to think outside the box, which has been instrumental in helping me to be creative within the brewing industry. Illinois Tech helped me learn to identify a problem and find a creative solution to address it. When I moved back to India in 2006, there was a clear opportunity to help develop and grow a craft brewing scene, and thankfully, I have been able to use the skills I learned at Illinois Tech to help play a part in what has now become a true revolution in the beverage industry here.”

Alan Cramb, President of Illinois Tech

“Ankur represents the spirit of entrepreneurial thinking and innovative problem solving that has come to define an Illinois Tech education.Through our emphasis on interdisciplinary problem solving and hands-on learning, Illinois Tech develops leaders who can go on to apply these critical skills to whatever path they choose.”

All degrees for the 2020–2021 academy year to 1,993 students were awarded on May 15 during the university’s virtual Commencement ceremony.

Excerpts from the Commencement Speech

“To President Cramb, IIT Faculty, Distinguished Alumni, and to you, the Class of 2021 of the Illinois Institute of Technology!. I am honored to be speaking to all of you at your commencement from one of the most amazing technical universities in the world. Thank you, President Cramb, for steering the university through the last decade. and especially through Covid19 – perhaps the worst crises in living memory. The university is so much stronger with a keen sense of purpose. And the resources to execute on its ambition because of your guidance and leadership.”

“Had it not been for Illinois Tech, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to be flexible. To color outside the box, to explore, to break a few rules, and to remain curious . And perhaps this computer science graduate may not have ever strolled into the world of beer.

As I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey, I stumbled through many obstacles. Challenges that seemed insurmountable and moments that felt unwinnable. I struggled to pay the bills, meet payroll, find customers and raise capital. Throughout those moments, I stared at constant failure, and understood. Sometimes people don’t make it despite trying their best. I learnt the importance of working hard, staying humble and remaining true to your purpose. Win or lose, give it your best, and remember to be considerate for those who don’t make it.”

To add

“As you go through the next phase of your lives, and in case you do get a surprise. In case life strays away from your plans, in case you stumble, just remember these three things:

One, Remain flexible and ever curious to learn new things. Travel. See the world. Work internationally at least once.

Two. Be empathetic. Remind yourself to do work for the betterment of the world around you – your community and our shared humanity. Have faith in your neighbor, especially in the toughest times.

Three. Never lose hope. Optimism is your superpower. Optimism in a better future and the belief in yourself to make it happen.”

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