There has been a lot written about Ashoka University and its unique multi-lateral funding model. The most comprehensive and latest is this. However very little has been written about a similar fundraising initiative at Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS), a prospective national university coming up in Bangalore focussed on urban studies.

I dug around a bit on the internet on IIHS but came up with less half-a-dozen relevant articles. From them, I could put together the following. Sometime in end-2008 “a group of 16 business, banking and industry leaders including HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh; Air Freight chairman Cyrus Guzder; Jamshyd Godrej; Keshub Mahindra; and UID chief Nandan Nilekani among others, promoted IIHS as a not-for-profit company under Sec 25 of the Indian Companies Act, 1956, contributing Rs 15 crore to the institute’s initial corpus”. From what I can make out many of these promoter members were also part of what was called Bombay First, a thinktank that came together in the ’90s to explore how to keep Bombay Urbs Primus Indus.

In 2011, Nandan and Rohini Nilekani contributed Rs 50crs to fund the establishment of the School of Environment & Sustainability. In 2012, Uday Kotak and Hemendra Kothari contributed Rs 10crs each. Subsequently there hasn’t been much news on IIHS or its fundraising efforts. The website does mention that fundraising for a second school (Human Development) is through and that of a third (Governance and Policy) is at an advanced stage. ET reports that IIHS is looking at a total fundraise of around Rs 400crs to cover the cost of a 55-acre campus in South Bangalore. Clearly there is a long way to go.

IIHS is also trying to get a State Private University act passed allowing it to confer a degree on graduating students. Once it is conferred University status, IIHS plans to offer “an Academic Programme that will deliver three degrees i.e. Bachelors of Urban Practice (BUP), the Masters of Urban Practice (MUP) and a PhD programme”.

 The vision is clearly to position it more akin to a thinktank in the urban planning and policy space, and not so much as a player purely in the academic space. Else it could have looked at a broader architecture + planning curriculum akin to School of Planning & Architecture in Delhi or CEPT in Ahmedabad. 

Bereft of the broader undergrad focus, it clearly becomes a niche institution. I don’t see more than 500 undergrads enrolled. However the fundraising seems to be nearer to what Ashoka is planning for a 4,500 strong campus. I am also curious as to whether IIHS’ fundraising initative has been impacted by Ashoka’s relatively more successful efforts?

IIHS started much earlier than Ashoka but after the Kotak-Kothari announcement in 2012, there havent been any updates. With Ashoka, there is a continuous trickle of announcements and news. I also feel that the market for third-party philanthropy at these larger numbers is unlikely to be so large as to accomodate two institutions comfortably. Still this is just conjecture from my side. It will be interesting to see how IIHS progresses and shapes up. 

 I am enclosing three of the more detailed writeups on IIHS below.

Indian Institute for Human Settlements: New lifeline for India’s sinking cities

Aromar Revi | A new generation of entrepreneurs has to be built

How business leaders like Nilekani, Kotak are helping renew country’s cities