Vineet Gupta, Founder of Ashoka and Plaksha University has made a name for himself in the higher education ecosystem of the country over the last 25 years. A passionate educator and institution builder, Vineet has been advocating for high-quality education in India, building world-class institutions and helping train thousands of students for better careers.
Graduating as a mechanical engineer from IIT Delhi in 1991, Vineet realized quite early that his true calling was entrepreneurship and he set up and scaled a packaging firm which manufactured styrofoam. In 1996, he co-founded Jamboree Education with his wife Akrita Kalra. Jamboree started with one centre in Vasant Vihar to help students crack exams such as GMAT, SAT and GRE which are required to study abroad. Today, it has close to 36 centers across India and Nepal and has trained over 1.5 lakh students in the last 25 years.
The idea behind Ashoka University
At Jamboree, Vineet, while interacting with the students, would find that bright students with 90% plus marks would struggle to make it to a regular degree in Delhi University but would get admission to some outstanding universities abroad. Moreover, the choice of courses available abroad was vast. “Somewhere, it made me feel that our higher education system is letting our students down. We are in dire need of institutions that fulfill the requirement of these students so that they could continue their education closer to home instead of going abroad,” adds Vineet Gupta.
Forming Ashoka University
Joining hands with a few like-minded entrepreneurs and visionaries in 2006, Vineet Gupta started thinking about setting up a top-notch university in India. The group approached several state governments for land and then settled on Haryana due to its proximity to Delhi. In 2008, the economic crisis happened and the sentiment of the business community mellowed. The group decided to start a post graduate program called the Young India Fellowship in a rented campus in Delhi to try their model of multi-disciplinary education. The group also decided to focus their efforts on building a Liberal Arts university that focuses on social sciences, humanities and sciences. The idea was to establish an institution that could compete with Ivy League institutions. Gradually, the founding group grew to about 15 individuals and the university opened in 2014 in Sonepat with the first undergraduate class of 126 students and 200 Young India Fellows. Ashoka is a collective philanthropy institution and today, has over 150 donors. In a short span of time, it has also established itself as one of the finest institutions in the country. Vineet played a pivotal role in setting up Ashoka by also being the Founding Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University from 2014 to 2017.
The emergence of Brand Ashoka
The model of collective philanthropy is the first of its kind in India. Ashoka has also attracted some of the best faculty from India and abroad. Ashoka also offers liberal scholarships and has students from all states of India and from all socio-economic backgrounds. Ashoka has been hailed as “India’s answer to the Ivy League”, by the National media. In 2019, Education World ranked Ashoka 2nd amongst 100 private universities in India. In 2020, The Department of Economics, Ashoka University was ranked 1st in India out of 239 institutions by RePEc - the International Database of Economics Research which covers 8198 institutions and 60355 registered authors worldwide. As per QS World University Rankings 2022, Ashoka University is amongst the top 250 in Asia. Ashoka University has collaborations with some of the world’s best institutes such as Yale University, University of Cambridge, University of Michigan and the National University of Singapore amongst others. The University has also established several centers of research which encourage students to collaborate with their peers on issues that challenge the world.
With the emergence of Ashoka as a top name in higher education, Vineet Gupta has become a known face in India’s education ecosystem. After the success at Ashoka, Vineet Gupta went on to establish Plaksha University at Mohali, with the aim of re-imagining technology education in India. Plaksha is also built on a model of collective philanthropy and aims to make technology education inter-disciplinary and experiential. Plaksha opened in 2021 and is likely to emerge as a top engineering and technology university in the country. As the Founding Chair of the Board of Trustees at Plaksha, Vineet has played a pivotal role in setting up the institution. He is a distinguished member of the education committee at FICCI and also serves as the Co-Chair of the Education Sub Committee of ASSOCHAM. Vineet was also awarded the Edupreneur of the Year Award (2021-22) by APAC in their 2nd Education and Skill Conclave.