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Vijay Shekhar Sharma

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute is delighted to announce a new gift from India’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, which will support the activities and research performed by the Mittal Institute.

By enabling scholars from South Asia to work in a cross-disciplinary fashion with faculty, researchers, and students across Harvard on critical questions and issues related to the region, Sharma’s gift will significantly enhance the goals of the Institute to deepen the teaching and research on cultural and global issues related to South Asia.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the chairman and CEO of One97 Communications and its consumer brand, Paytm. He has played a critical role in developing the mobile payments and commerce ecosystem in India. A strong believer in the power of technology to uplift the underserved, Sharma founded Paytm in August 2010 and continues to oversee the company’s key strategic efforts, including engineering, design, and marketing. Paytm counts Alibaba, Ant Group, Softbank and Berkshire Hathaway as its shareholders. Sharma has a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications from the Delhi College of Engineering. 

“I believe that good education can change an individual’s life in the most profound ways. My father, who was a teacher, believed that the world can be positively changed through education. His teachings are my inspiration to make this contribution to Harvard University. Harvard’s integrity, diversity, and commitment to excellence are exemplary. I hope this gift will help future leaders attain the global vision that would help in transforming the lives of millions for the better in India and beyond,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

Sharma has seen firsthand the transformational powers of education. Inspired by the work of his father, he has helped students in their pursuit of a promising future through his support for several foundations that assist the educational pursuits of thousands of students. Additionally, Sharma has been named the UN Environment’s “Patron for Clean Air,” where he helps to drive greater environmental action and awareness, and advocates for the goals of UN Environment’s global “BreatheLife” campaign.

Tarun Khanna, Director of the Mittal Institute and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School, highlighted the importance of creating a robust platform for knowledge-sharing, connecting those who may not otherwise have the chance to interact. “We continue to increase the number of interdisciplinary programs and fellowships offered at the Mittal Institute, welcoming scholars of South Asia to share their research and partner with Harvard’s faculty and students. Thanks to Vijay’s generosity, we move closer to a critical mass of scholars who bring diverse perspectives and ideas to the Institute that deepen the world’s understanding of South Asia, from all disciplines and angles,” he said.

Each year, the Mittal Institute supports the research endeavors of numerous scholars from South Asia, providing them with opportunities to interact with Harvard’s faculty, students, and larger community for knowledge-sharing and the potential formation of new research partnerships. “This gift from Vijay will make it possible for young scholars of South Asia — who may have limited access to resources, but are highly talented — to have the opportunity to engage with the intellectual community at Harvard in ways that would make a lasting impact on their personal and professional development,” said Meena Hewett, Executive Director of the Mittal Institute.

“Investing in new research and scholarship at the Mittal Institute is likely to pay extraordinary dividends, and we are grateful for the gift from Mr. Sharma,” said Mittal Institute Steering Committee member Venkatesh Murthy, the Raymond Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. “I have seen first-hand, through my involvement in student and fellowship programs at the Mittal Institute, how much research and fellowships bring to the Harvard community at large. It enriches our intellectual environment in a way that narrower, department-based fellowships cannot,” he continued.

More than ever, it remains important to build bridges between nations and regions across the world, and the gift from Mr. Sharma will continue to connect scholars and researchers at Harvard University through the Mittal Institute with brilliant minds throughout South Asia.

“Recent months have confirmed that the most pressing societal challenges are global in nature,” said University Provost Alan Garber. “We are deeply grateful to Vijay Shekhar Sharma. Through his generosity, he has affirmed our shared commitment to advancing cross-disciplinary research and learning in our interconnected world. His vision for a more collaborative future has never been timelier. We are proud to partner with him.”

“Further expanding Harvard’s work and partnerships in South Asia is a major priority for the University,” said Vice Provost for International Affairs Mark Elliott. “This fund, which will provide leading South Asian scholars in all fields with new opportunities to pursue their research at Harvard, will bring benefits to them and their home institutions as well as to the Harvard community. In this way, this gift will do much to strengthen and broaden the kinds of academic connections we depend upon to help expand our engagement with South Asian partners and to advance our academic mission globally,” he continued.

With this generous gift, the Mittal Institute will continue to build its hub of scholars across all disciplines to further enrich the understanding of South Asia both in Cambridge and abroad.