Founders

Dr. Vandana Gopikumar (Co-Founder and Managing Trustee)

Vandana is a mental health and social work practitioner who co-founded The Banyan in 1993, with Vaishnavi Jayakumar, after completing a Master's Programme in Psychiatric Social Work. Her Doctoral thesis, largely based on the work of The Banyan, inquired into the mental illness - poverty - homelessness nexus in India and explored strategic responses to address distress. Vandana's interactions with homeless and marginalised persons with mental health issues, have deeply impacted her life in many ways- they remain her most important teachers.

Vandana is developing a strong second line by mentoring senior teams in both The Banyan and BALM. She is passionate about developing innovative, practical and economical solutions that deliver results in recovering from mental illness. Importantly, she draws evidence from these niche experiments to apply them in other low resource settings across India and the Global South. She is in the forefront of advocacy for the rights of homeless women with mental ill health issues, to have a fulfilling life. She works with the State and National Governments to bring about policy changes in this area.

She is writing her first book on the role of structural violence and identity in perpetuating mental ill health and methods for enabling recovery.

Mr. Balraj Vasudevan (Co-Founder and Managing Trustee)

Mr. Balraj Vasudevan is an industrialist with over 25 years of experience in the auto component sector. He has been engaged with The Banyan since inception, and is the Managing Trustee of BALM. He has been engaged in mentoring the second line – the senior management team on internal services to ensure seamless operations and functioning across The Banyan and BALM's multiple initiatives. He supports the team in ensuring financial sustainability, and has helped develop a multi-pronged approach to being self-sufficient – by doggedly building a corpus, bidding for research grants, engaging with the Government, and creating micro-small-medium enterprises. He has a deep commitment for catalysing social change, and is actively engaged with various organisations working in areas of health, mental health, homelessness, education and community development.

Ms. Vaishnavi Jayakumar (Co-Founder)

Vaishnavi, along with Vandana, co-founded The Banyan in 1993. Vaishnavi had a knack for numbers and shouldered the responsibilities of Administration and Finance for several years while constantly challenging the team with innovative ideas, activities and games as the Trustee for Human Resource Management at The Banyan. She is also a talented designer who enjoys creating awareness material on mental health and disability. She is involved in national advocacy for evolving social policy especially in mental health and development. Her other interests include western classical music, history, anthropology, literature and crime science.

She likes to call herself an "Ethicist / Caregiver / Reluctant Activist / Non-Profit Professional / Free thinker / Horton Fan / Concerned Citizen / General Busybody & what-have-you ;-)"