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She gave up her illustrious career to help Ladakh. What makes all this more touching is that she is offering her services selflessly and pro-bono,” says Sonam Wangchuk about Gitanjali, who is also a serial entrepreneur, Russian Bolshoi ballet dancer and a certified karate black belt


Responding to these local concerns, Sonam Wangchuk, the legendary social activist and entrepreneur, has set up a university in Phyang village of Ladakh called the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL).

Partnering him in this endeavour as HIAL’s Co-founder-CEO is the remarkable Ms Gitanjali JB, a serial entrepreneur, educationist, Odissi and Russian Bolshoi ballet dancer and a certified karate black belt.

“Two years ago, upon hearing about the HIAL alternative education initiative in Ladakh and the prospect of its transformational impact on higher education in India, she gave up her corporate career and moved to Ladakh to help expedite the setting up of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives (HIAL). What makes all this more touching is that she is offering her services pro-bono,” says Sonam Wangchuk, speaking to The Better India.

Born into a Punjabi Jain business family in Balasore, Odisha, 46-year-old Gitanjali’s grandfather had migrated from Lahore during Partition. It was her mother, a progressive homemaker, who sowed the seeds of learning and independence.

“My parents gave me the two best gifts a child can get—trust and freedom”, she begins.

A physics graduate, she completed her MBA from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar. What followed was a six-year corporate career working in a consulting company and leading the marketing division for a Copenhagen-based Indian multinational.

Following her stint in Denmark, she went on a 15-year long entrepreneurial spree, during which she established an engineering firm (Pushan Projects), a publishing house (Chennai-based Helios Books) and acquired a hospital (Puducherry-based AUM Hospitals).


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