Ashoka Univ Profs Exit: Who Are the Founding Members of Varsity?

Ashoka University was founded in 2014 in Sonipat, Haryana. 

4 min read
Ashoka University in Sonepat, Haryana is India’s first liberal arts university seeking to provide an Ivy League-level education in the country. (Photo Courtesy: Ashoka University) 

The resignation of political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta and former Chief Economic Advisor Arvindar Subramanian from their posts as professors at Ashoka University has plunged the young university into a spiralling controversy and an image crisis.

Academics and scholars have slammed the exit of two of the most high-profile members of the faculty as “spineless” and “intolerant” act on the part of the University’s trustees and management.

Political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who tendered his resignation as professor at Ashoka University on Tuesday, 16 March, said that he was doing so after it was made abundantly clear to him that his association with the institution “may be considered a political liability”.

Mehta, in his letter, said that his public writing is perceived to carry risks for the university.

Eonomist Arvind Subramanian also resigned from Ashoka University as a professor, two days after Mehta stepped down from his post.

Subramanian’s reason for leaving seems to be in protest of Mehta’s resignation, noting, “that even Ashoka – with its private status and backing by private capital – can no longer provide a space for academic expression and freedom is ominously disturbing”.

The Quint takes a look at the co-founders of Ashoka University, which was founded in 2014 in Sonipat, Haryana.

Vineet Gupta

Gupta is a co-founder and trustee of Ashoka University. According to the University’s website, he has been involved with the University since 2007, when he, along with a few other business leaders, came together with the idea of setting up a high-quality liberal arts university in India.

An alumni of IIT Delhi and founder of Jamboree Education, Gupta was also the founding pro-vice chancellor of the University from 2014 to 2017.

Rakesh Jaggi

Rakesh Jaggi is the vice president of sustaining at Schlumberger, a company he had joined in 1992. According to a BusinessLine report, the idea behind Ashoka University started as a lunchroom conversation between IIT Delhi pass-outs Vineet Gupta and Rakesh Jaggi.

He was the general manager of Schlumberger, India from 2003-2007, and the president of the well intervention services. Rakesh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Delhi.

Ashish Dhawan

Ashish Dhawan, one of the founders of the university, co-founded ChrysCapital, a leading private equity firm. An alumni of Yale University and Harvard University, where he earned an MBA degree, Dhawan also serves on the board of several education non-profits including Akanksha Foundation, 3.2.1 Education Foundation, Teach For India, Centre for Civil Society, Janaagraha, India School Leadership Institute, and Bharti Foundation

Pramath Raj Sinha

Pramath Raj Sinha is the founder and managing director of the 9.9 Group, a speciality media company, with interests in strategic advisory services and higher education. He has also served as a partner at McKinsey & Company. In 2018, Pramath founded Harappa Education, which strives to become India’s largest online institution, focused on teaching habits and skills critical to workplace success in the 21st century.

A co-founder of Ashoka University, Sinha is also the founding dean and a member of the executive board of the Indian School of Business (ISB). Pramath holds MSE and PhD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a B Tech from IIT, Kanpur.

Deep Kalra

Deep Kalra, founder and group CEO, MakeMyTrip, is among the co-founders of the Sonipat-based university. Kalra is on the board of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) Delhi chapter and served as president from 2013 to 2016. He is a founding member of IndiaTech.Org, an association representing interests of Indian companies in the country’s fast-growing internet sector.

Sanjeev Bikhchandani

Sanjeev Bikhchandani is the founder and executive vice chairman of Info Edge, the company that runs He is also an author and a visiting faculty member and guest lecturer at IIM Ahmedabad. He holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees from St Stephen’s College and IIM Ahmedabad.

Siddharth Yog

Siddharth Yog is the founding partner of Xander Group Inc, an emerging markets focused investment firm that currently manages assets in excess of $3 billion. An alumni of Shri Ram College of Commerce and Harvard Business School, Yog is a member of the President's Global Advisory Council, and of the committee on university resources at Harvard University.

He also serves on the governing body of the university.

Jerry Rao

Jerry Rao is the chairman of Value and Budget Housing Corporation (VBHC). Prior to VBHC, Jerry founded and operated Mphasis Corporation, a software company based in California and was also with Citibank for twenty years. An alumni of IIM Ahmedabad, Rao is also a visiting faculty at IIM Ahemdabad and IIT Bombay.

Puneet Dalmia

Puneet Dalmia is the managing director of Dalmia Bharat Group. He also co-founded JobsAhead in 1999. He has served as an advisory board member of NS Raghavan Center for Entrepreneurship, IIM Bangalore and the Young Presidents’ Organization, Delhi chapter.

An alumni of IIM Bangalore and IIT Delhi, Dalmia was on of the early backers of Ashoka University.

Nirmal Jain

Nirmal Jain is the founder and chairman of IIFL Holdings Limited. An alumni of IIM Ahemedabad, Jain started his career in 1989 at Hindustan Unilever Limited.

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