04 May 2015 20:02 IST

Ashoka University raises ₹350 cr;  to raise ₹550 cr by 2016

Philanthropists, corporates and HNIs to contribute

Ashoka University, India’s first liberal arts varsity, plans to raise funding of ₹550 crore from philanthropists, corporates and HNIs by the middle of next year. It has already raised around ₹350 crore, which will be disbursed to the institution in phases by 2018-19.

Ashish Dhawan, one of the university’s founders and former Senior MD of Chrys Capital Investment Advisors, is leading the fund-raising efforts.

“The CSR Bill has helped a lot; about 15 corporates have committed funds under the CSR provision,” says Dhawan. The new CSR guidelines (2014), mandate that companies must spend 2 per cent of their net profit on socially responsible activities.

Bigger companies are particularly keen on funding Ashoka. These firms would rather fund fewer large projects than many small programmes or NGOs. “I think companies like the idea of an institution,” Dhawan says. “They want to invest in a project that will last for generations to come rather than a programme that will last for 3-5 years.”

Premium universities can also offer intellectual centres that help in capacity building, creating knowledge through research. For instance, Genpact has recently pledged ₹20 crore for a Centre for Women’s Leadership at Ashoka University. The amount will be disbursed over the next few years.

Some of the big financial firms that have pledged funding to the university include Citibank, IndiaInfoline, Motilal Oswal, Ratnakar Bank Ltd, Deutsche Bank, and JM Financial.

The university will spend a total of ₹550 crore in three phases. It has spent about ₹170 crore so far on the land and infrastructure in Sonepat. “During Phase 1 we spent a total of ₹150 crore, phase 2 has just started and we will be spending almost ₹200 crore for the same. The remaining amount is for phase 3,” Dhawan informs.

The amount ₹550 crore covers three expenses – land, building, and operating losses for the first five years before the university hits breakeven; after this, the institution will run on its own.

The funding started coming from HNIs initially but has slowed now. “The HNI group has expanded a bit but funding is slower than we had thought,” says Vineet Gupta, member of the university’s founding team.

The number of admission applications have increased multi-fold this year and the University plans to increase its batch size too. “We have already received as many applications in phase 1 as we received in four phases last year,” says Gupta. “So, this year we will be taking in a much larger batch. Last year it was 133, this year we might take 260-270 students.”

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