Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ashoka University to raise Rs. 4 billion for expansion

Ashoka University, India’s first liberal arts university, is looking to raise around Rs. 4 billion from businessmen, non-resident Indians and other high net worth individuals. The university, whose co-founders have thus far invested  Rs. 1 billion, has asked one of them, Ashish Dhawan, the senior managing director of venture capital fund ChrysCapital Investment Advisors, to oversee the fund-raising effort.

Dhawan, also the chief executive of Central Square Foundation, a philanthropic fund that invests in non-profits in education, said Ashoka, which is aiming to establish a different model of education, needs more funds — around Rs. 4 billion — over a period of time.

For starters, Dhawan is reaching out to his own executives at private equity (PE) and venture capital funds looking for a cause to support. Two batches of such funders have already visited the university’s campus in Sonepat, Dhawan said. Ashoka has been running a fellowship programme, the Young India Fellowship, for the last three years, and will start its undergraduate programme in August.

Pramath Raj Sinha, another co-founder of the university and the founding dean of Indian School of Business (ISB), is in charge of academics; Vineet Gupta, another co-founder, the physical infrastructure; and Dhawan, funding.

Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Founder and Executive Vice-Chairman of Info Edge (India) Ltd; Puneet Dalmia, Managing Director of Dalmia Cements Ltd; Jerry Rao, Chairman of Value and Budget Housing and former promoter of Mphasis Ltd, and Atul Nishar, former promoter of Hexaware Technologies Ltd, are some of the university’s other co-founders.

Dhawan said he is also looking to raise money from individuals in countries such as the US, UK and Singapore. He added that Ashoka is recruiting two people to help with these efforts in the US and that an executive at a hedge fund in that country has already pledged $500,000. Between 25% and 30% of the money required will be raised from individuals outside India. It’s a smart way to raise money, said a consultant.

“This approach has three benefits: influential people become part of a venture, thus bringing in multiple skill-sets; it builds credibility that a single owner private institute will not have; and, of course, it helps bring in money,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head, education practice, KPMG.

Source: Mint, April 9, 2014

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