The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) was formed in Vadstena, Sweden in 1895 and J.R. Mott was its first General Secretary. Under the stewardship of JR Mott, the inter-collegiate YMCA of India and Ceylon was formed within the colleges and schools in 1896. It was in 1912 when the first All India Student Conference was held at Serampore and a new body called the Student Christian Association of India and Ceylon was made, thus converging from the YMCA. This is accepted as the year when SCMI came into existence.

SCMI is a dynamic and ever-evolving movement with changing concerns. Initially focused on patriotism, humanity, and faith (1935 – 47), after Independence shifted the focus shifted to nation-building, addressing issues of poverty and injustice (1948 – 50). In the 1960s, the focus moved to social action, while the 1980s and 90s saw a focus on marginalized communities and their struggles. In the first two decades of the 21st century, SCMI has broadened its scope to include environmental issues and globalization.