Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Old boy shells out Rs. 320 million for Mumbai University

The University of Mumbai has received its largest private donation from an old boy in the city. A commerce graduate from Podar College, Asit Koticha (52), Chairman and founder-promoter of the ASK Group, a financial services and investment company, gifted his alma mater a purse of Rs. 32 crore (Rs. 320 million), to set up an international convention centre and a school of philosophy. But the plans drawn up for the project require roughly Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) for execution, and Koticha says he is talking to some of his friends to chip in too.

Probably the largest gift a conventional Indian university has received in recent times has enthused its heads, who have drawn up mega plans for its utilization. "There is need for a convention centre. I plan to set up a self-sufficient facility that holds conventions, conferences, as well as hosts visiting scholars. Apart from a large conference hall, it will have accommodation facilities and many halls to hold parallel sessions", says MU Vice-Chancellor Rajan Welukar.

I am what I studied during graduation, says alumni Asit Koticha
If one were to draw up a balance sheet, Asit Koticha has made a windfall. A commerce graduate from Matungas Podar College who paid Rs. 1,000 for his course,rose up the financial order: market analysts put Kotichas net worth today at Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion). A media-shy Koticha and his brother Sameer Koticha have been gifting money since the time day they started earning. The CSR (corporate social responsibility) arm of their 25-year-old company ASK Group works in areas of health, education and housing. Apart from constructing 51 schools in Rajkot and setting up blood bank centres in Gujarat through the Life Foundation, Koticha has handed keys to hundreds of tribal families in Karjat through the Habitat for Humanity organisation, which builds low-cost housing for the underprivileged.

The financial wizard spends his time at home reading on investments, and when he is not doing that, he is poring over philosophical texts. That, says Koticha, is how he has always been. Three generations of the Kotichas have studied at the university. And they decided not to miss an opportunity of giving back, which came their way through a former employer. A colleague from ASK joined the university's philosophy department as faculty member. "When he told me that the university was setting up a philosophy school, I got interested and wanted to contribute Rs. 2 crore (Rs. 20 million) for it. Later, when I met the Vice-Chancellor, he spoke about a convention centre.I was more than happy to help".

Speaking to TOI about his days as a young student, Koticha said: "A lot of factors have been responsible for pushing him to open his heart to the university. As a student of Podar College, I not only benefited from the education, but also participated in a lot of activities. I learnt valuable lessons. I paid Rs. 1,000 at Podar and made all this. I am what I studied during my years of graduation".

Source: The Times of India, August 25, 2010
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