The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

#CandidateSpeak — On Their Manifestos and Promises

Mr. Karan Bhola, the outgoing President of the Ashoka Alumni Association, prepared one question for each candidate specific to their candidature and manifesto. Here are the questions, and the candidates’ answers to them.

Gaurav Mohta

With respect to the fundraising that you’ve spoken about, what is your plan towards generating the corpus amount that you indicated by 2020? What do you think would be the biggest challenges for you in reaching this goal?

Karan, you rightly mentioned that the fundraising metric that I mentioned is very ambitious. 1 crore by 2020, while other candidates have set that target for 8–10 years. I think this is very achievable, given my past experience with fundraising. In the first alumni fund that we created back in 2013, we collected over four lakh rupees within just the first two batches. So what I think needs to be done is two things: one is constant engagement with the alumni community. Right now it’s a one-off gifting program which happened during the course of the Alumni Weekender, so constant engagement like Karthik Gulati put up a video where he said that 50 students called up all the fellows to invite them to the weekender. So why not those engage with the alumni body even in terms of fundraising? Secondly, donor trust founders and trustees and other stakeholders. In fact, I want to announce it right now, I have a commitment to Rs. 10 lakh from one of the founders, a gift matching commitment. These things make me believe that we can achieve you know the one crore target within the next two and a half years itself.

Simran Rana

What would be an actionable plan in terms of engaging with communities outside of Ashoka, especially in the context of fundraising and events? External engagement is one of the key mission areas of the Association and I would be very interested in understanding how you plan to enable this.

From what I understand, the Alumni Association is mainly to raise funds for the university that it’s is associated with, and to help the alumni. Also, the Alumni should be able to give better opportunities for people who will graduate after them. So, I felt that if the local chapters have to become independent and the Alumni Association has to become financially independent, then can we in a small way start having events that fundraise already with the talent that the Ashoka community already has. Local chapters can start hosting events which are talent based, which would be musical shows or plays, and could invite people that are outside of ashoka community in the form of either tickets or food or something simple so that 1) there would be an audience to YIF and also 2) it would widen the kind of people that we meet. I see that YIF people and Ashoka people become too comfortable with each other and then find it very difficult to engage with people outside the community. In simple terms, if the events that YIF local chapters have where only YIF people are called, it could be a plus-one event where you get a friend or someone who is not a YIF just so that you meet people outside of the 10–15 people in a particular city.

Ashweetha Shetty

You’ve put out some great ideas about how to make of the alumni accounts transparent, talking about getting ten different alumni to be part of it. How you would go about implementing this? What would be some of the criteria you use for identifying diverse alumni?

What I mean by diversity in the first place is gender, social class, opinions and so many so many other ways I define diversity. We all know from our experience of the fellowship that diversity works. When diverse people come together then great ideas come and all voices are heard, so I think that’s my that’s my mission. There are very similar voices I hear all the time from many task forces or the meetings which we have. I believe if we could include that diverse voice, that will be great. The criteria for selecting that diverse voice will have to come from the alumni community, but I also feel that I have certain ideas about how this whole thing works — just inviting them to absorb conversation so that it is is it is because very conscious for us that there are diverse people sitting there so our intention is to hear all the voices and to take decisions after that. I think that’s that’s my intention of putting diverse voices and I personally believe in Drive diversity. It really has been my personal value, and I would love to see that reflect in the Association.


There’s this really cool idea that you’ve spoken about — Alumni Hour, where twice every month people will sign up to sit with key decision makers of the university to discuss the functioning, resources, concerns etc. How do you plan to implement it? How do you think this will feasibly work, on a consistent basis? If you are talking about senior administrators and faculty from the university, getting them every month twice would not be an easy task.

Sure Karan. I think you’re bringing a lot on board here with your experience about the challenges that come with such an initiative. I must admit that it’s an ambitious baby step that we’re talking about right now. Yes, the founders, the administration and the broader alumni community are all awfully busy. So just from a very functional perspective, it’s going to be setting up more of an engagement platform for later on. Every month twice is going to be for once let’s say the UGs, the other time CASH, and then next month’s will move on to another department like GCWL. So you’re engaging them and channel I think this is going to be a challenge except but I think the broader e thousands that this will bring people into a zone where they they can raise their individual views and not get bogged down by a broader conversation and making sure that they are on the right side.

Logistically, we have had town-halls during Ashoka times. The founders and senior management do take time out for a or for a mentorship session. I think it’s all about channelizing that energy into a more structured form where we can also let alumni engage on their own individual views. Also, it’s not always about the head of the admin being there. We can also get representatives as proxies. That is where the accountability part comes in, that those views are communicated to the relevant people and the Alumni Office. It is an ambitious step. The new council will require your support and also your experiences with you but it is going to be a functional thing.

Jasmine Luthra

You’ve spoken about mapping each alum to the nearest local or regional chapter by July 2019. Considering that you have been on the council and you’ve seen how difficult it is to maintain and update a database, how do you think you’re going to achieve this goal?

As we all know, we are moving towards numbers which are just unimaginable, so you can’t have things happening in Delhi or Sonepat. So we need to move towards decentralization, we need to have local chapters. Now I know it will be a challenge and somewhere I’m going to bring this to the community because we can create platforms but they have to engage. Eventually, the local chapter mapping and major communication has to move to the portal, so the portal should be the Facebook for all of us. Based on the information that we have, we will try to map everyone to an existing chapter. I plan to launch an lot of chapters during my tenure. The aim is to have a chapter in every city with five plus alums, or have regional chapters like the east coast or the west coast in the US, and map everyone at once based on a location they provided to us on the portal. Then it should be a rooster thing happening periodically. We should also really encourage alums to update the portal when you move cities the way you update your Facebook. (Cut off there for time constraints)

Lav Kanoi

Given that you work at Ashoka University and in the office of the Vice Chancellor, how do you plan to tackle situations that might arise, where there is a different viewpoint that you build consensus on (with the council and the alum body), while there might be a different administrative view?

To get to the heart of the matter, it’s a symbiotic relationship. The question presupposes that there will be conflict between the Association and the university or the administration. I’d like to point out how the debate today began. I said that this would be a symbiotic relationship. I think on most occasions there should be a degree of parallelism because really it’s the same interest. Our strength is the university’s strength. Occasionally when there are differences again, there are two different routes. I don’t see this being a problem at all. On the contrary, I see this position as being a strength to the alumni association because I have the university and its processes well understood. I’ll be in an influential position to actually build consensus with the administrative staff as well. Second point is that the role with Pratap is on for another nine months or so, that’s that’s the the visibility we have at this moment. Who knows what’s going to happen after that? This is the critical period of the next council, and I’m hoping that in these six to nine months, we’ll be able to set up those processes and systems that I spoke of earlier. It will actually help us become a thriving family which I so hope that we will be. In summation, it’s a strength.

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