Ashish Dhawan: A Journey from Wall Street to Philanthropy

28 Nov 2020  Read 3032 Views

If you have been investing for quite a long time or are a social activist in the field of education in India, then you must have heard the name "Ashish Dhawan" on the news related to finance or education.

Ashish Dhawan is the founder of CSF (Central Square Foundation) and Ashoka University. He worked for 20 years in the investment business and also ran India's leading private equity fund ChrysCapital. He is considered as a smart investor and passionate when it comes to serving his nation.

In addition, Dhawan has also been recognized by Forbes India as the NextGen Leader in Philanthropy for his great initiative towards education.

Let's take a look into his life and understand how he became one of the most successful investors of the country.

Ashish Dhawan: Background

Ashish Dhawan was born on March 10, 1969, and raised in New Delhi, India. He was a bright child and had always dreamt of doing something for his nation. He finished school with top marks from St. Xavier's Collegiate School.

Ashish went on to graduate magna cum laude from Yale University with a dual bachelor's degree (BS/BA). In 1997, Asish completed his MBA from Harvard Business School with distinction and decided to become an entrepreneur at the age of 30 and began contributing to the nation as a social activist at the age of 45.

Ashish Dhawan: Early Days of Investing

Ashish Dhawan started his career in 1992 as the only Indian analyst who was working for Mergers Group at Wasserstein Perella & Co., a boutique investment bank on Wall Street. 

From 1993-1995, Ashish worked at a small private equity firm, McCown DeLeeuw & Co., in California as a junior associate. This is where Ashish met McCown, who encouraged Ashish to pursue the leadership MBA at Harvard Business School.

After finishing his MBA, Ashish worked in proprietary capital in Risk Arbitrage Group at New York's blue-chip investment bank Goldman Sachs. Later, Ashish left the job and returned to India at the age of 28.

After returning to India in 1999, Ashish co-founded a private equity business named ChrysCapital, with his Harvard classmate Raj Kondur. After facing some challenges and market pressure in the initial days as private equity businesses were new in the market, ChrysCapital still managed to perform well.

After 5-6 years of the company, ChrysCapital started to manage funds of $1 billion, and under the guidance of Dhawan, ChrysCapital became one of India's biggest funds.

In 2010, Dhawan co-founded the Young India Fellowship, a one-year residential multidisciplinary postgraduate program with a focus on experiential learning and an aim to develop the next generation of India's leaders.

Currently, ChrysCapital is India's leading equity fund. After working for 20 years in the field of investment management, Dhawan decided to leave his full-time role at ChrysCapital to become a philanthropist.

In 2012, Ashish Dhawan founded the Central Square Foundation. CSF is a grant-making organization, and policy think tank focused on improving the quality of the education system and learning outcomes of the children from the backward sections of India.

In 2014, Ashish Dhawan took another revolutionary step and founded India's first liberal arts university, Ashoka University, with other 40 philanthropists.

Investment Strategies which made his Investments a Success

Ashish Dhawan attributes his success towards his well-thought and researched approach towards investing.

Following are some key strategies he strongly vouches for, which made his investment successful:

Smart and Diversified Investment for Good Returns

When the Dot Com crash was going on in his late 20s, Ashish Dhawan had lost his investments in many telecom companies, but due to his diversified investments, he earned 6 times more returns on SpectraMind Company and survived the dot com crash.

ChrysCapital invested $10 million in SpectraMind and earned $60 million in a few years. It also earned huge profits by investing in Axis Bank, Yes Bank, Shriram Transport Finance, Global Vantedge, TechTeam, Gammon, and IVRCL.

Analysis of the Market

Before investing, investors should analyze the market profits and potential risks, to feel satisfied with their investment in a business. The analyses of various risks involved and recognizing the functions following you might help to make ventures successful.

Ashish Dhawan had also faced huge losses in Allsec Technologies, Orient Green Power, and Mastek because of his ignorance towards the risks involved in these investments.

Long Term Investment

Ashish Dhawan always focused on the long term investments for better returns and has avoided market fluctuations in the short run.

In 2001, he invested in Mphasis and purchased shares at Rs 350 per share. Soon, the share prices of Mphasis fell to Rs. 50 but Dhawan held on to his shares with convention and later went on to earn 5 times returns.

Market instability can create chaos among investors. However, it is smart for investors to stay invested for a longer period to earn higher returns.


Portfolio through the years


In 2004, ChrysCapital invested Rs.100 cr. in Suzlon and exited in 2007 and earned Rs. 1300 cr return in these years.


The holding of 2017 in Ashish Dhawan's portfolio was around 15 stocks in the quarter of June. And the highest investment was in V Mart Retail Ltd., followed by IDFC limited.


In this year, stocks were well-diversified by Ashish Dhawan, and investment was made into various stocks to make investment less risky and more diversified.

Three stocks added by Ashish Dhawan into his portfolio were AllCargo Logistics Ltd., Dish TV India Ltd., and Karur Vysya Bank Ltd. The portfolio only had 6 stocks before these three new stocks were added to it, making it a total of 9.


In 2019, the number of stocks went up from 9 to 11. Ashish Dhawan invested mainly in Financial Companies, Technology Stocks, Logistics, and Retail Markets and that was a drastic change from the previous year's portfolio.

Ashish Dhawan's Current Portfolio

This is the current stock portfolio of Ashish Dhawan. Currently, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. is his biggest holding

Company Name

Quantity Held 

Holding Percent 

Holding Value 

Palred Technology Ltd. 



2.5 Cr

Max India Ltd. 



20.0 Cr

Greenlam Industries Ltd. 



108.0 Cr

Equitas Holding Ltd. 



112.5 Cr

Birlasoft Ltd. 



197.6 Cr

IDFC Ltd. 



234.1 Cr

Arvind Fashions Ltd.



41.3 Cr

CESC Ventures Ltd.



20.8 Cr

Karur Vysya Ltd.



73.5 Cr

Max Healthcare Institute Ltd. 



205.0 Cr

Allcargo Logistics Ltd.



49.3 Cr

Dish TV India Ltd. 



29.5 Cr

Zensar Technologies Ltd.



67.4 Cr

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.



165.0 Cr

Quess Corp Ltd. 



79.5 Cr

Max Financial Services Ltd. 



211.5 Cr

Smart Approach towards the Portfolio

Being in investment management for more than 20 years, Ashish Dhawan manages a well-researched portfolio. Owing to his past experiences, Dhawan knows how to gain from the market with a lesser number of shares in the portfolio.

His skills of stock-picking are widely considered impressive, and his current stock portfolio is perfect for the present market scenario.

Lessons that can be learned

Following are some of the most important things that can be learned from Ashish Dhawan's journey of successful investments.

  1. Do not invest if you do not have prior knowledge of the market; otherwise, you might end up losing your money.
  2. Be patient; If you wish to earn a higher return on investment, then it is best to stay invested in the market for a longer period.
  3. To be a successful investor, knowledge, tolerance, and patience are the essential qualities one must possess.
  4. Ashish Dhawan also mentioned that money is not everything in life; everyone should do something for their nation.

Final Thoughts

Ashish Dhawan always credits the USA founding father, Benjamin Franklin, as his inspiration. Dhawan's journey from achieving immense success in investment management to become a philanthropist for the nation is an inspiration for all investors.

Dhawan always urges to make well-informed decisions while making an investment. He also advises to stay invested for a longer period, and do thorough research prior to any investments. Be patient while the market fluctuates and do not let your fear make you make a bad investment decision.

Ashish Dhawan's story teaches the importance of learning from your past investment mistakes and making disciplined decisions in the future. The stock market tests investor's patience from time to time, and there is no denying that history rewards patience and conviction.

About the Author: Divyanshu kumar | 48 Post(s)

Divyanshu is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Financial economics. Growing up, he has always been interested in codes and numbers which he has gradually learnt to express in words too.

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