Ashwin Mahalingam
Co-founder and Board Member

Dr. Ashwin Mahalingam is Associate Professor at the Building Technology and Construction Management division of the Civil Engineering Department at IIT-Madras. Dr. Mahalingam’s current research interests include Public Private Partnerships in Infrastructure, Megaproject governance and management, IT based Innovation in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, and ways in which organizations react to the globalization of engineering services. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and a B.Tech from IIT Madras. Ashwin is a Director on the boards of several infrastructure project companies and is also involved in setting up the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at IIT-Madras.

Parama Roy
Lead Researcher, Urban Transformation

Dr. Parama Roy is the Lead Researcher of the Urban Transformations portfolio at Okapi. Parama is interested in the multifaceted and complex nature of urbanization process and its social and environmental implications. She has over 10 years of research experience relating to contemporary urban planning processes and associated possibilities and challenges across varied socio-political contexts. Parama’s work is specifically motivated by principles of socio-environmental justice and sustainable development and guided by political-economic and political-ecological theories, and mixed research methodologies. Her most recent publications are based on her work on Danish urban renewal planning in Copenhagen. Parama completed her PhD from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has worked at Georgia State University and State University of New York-Binghamton in the US and University of Copenhagen in Denmark. (Contact:

Jessica Seddon
Founder and Board Member

Dr Jessica Seddon is the Founder of Okapi, an India-based strategy group focused on institutional design for social innovation. Okapi is incubated by IIT Madras and works with government, corporate, and philanthropic clients to understand and shape the ecosystems around complex social and environmental challenges. Dr. Seddon is also a Visiting Fellow at IDFC Institute and Adjunct Faculty at IIT Madras, where she works on institutional design for infrastructure governance, pollution mitigation, risk management and other aspects of a transition to a more sustainable relationship with the environment. She is on the advisory boards of the Wilderhill Global Clean Energy Index (NEX), Prakti Design Labs and Vidyartha. Prior to founding Okapi, Dr. Seddon served as Head of Research at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (Bangalore), Director of the Centre for Development Finance at IFMR, Chennai, and Assistant Professor, UC San Diego. She was also a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Seddon earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and her B.A. from Harvard University.

Akshaya Ayyangar
Senior Research Associate

Akshaya Ayyangar has Master’s degree in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Bristol, UK. She has around five years of experience in the urban development sector, specifically understanding governance, economic, socio-cultural, environmental and technology-related challenges in access to infrastructure (water, sanitation, housing and solid waste). Her research interests include, interaction between development, society and climate change, integrated water governance, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) norms and their impacts on access, urban resilience and multi-hazard adaptation in urban and peri-urban areas.Contact:

Ramachandran Arumugam
Research Associate

Ramachandran is an urban planner with four years of experience in conducting research and analysis in urban planning and development. He has a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from School of Architecture & Planning-Anna University, Chennai.  Ramachandran has worked on various projects that involve spatial planning and research and has done GIS mapping and analysis for both Chennai’s coastline—assessing the impact of sea-level rise on Chennai, as well as water bodies in the peri-urban region. He has also contributed extensively to understanding land-use changes and urbanization in Chennai’s peri-urban region of Sriperumbudur. He has also involved in an international project related to assessing water security in Stung Chinit Watershed province (Cambodia). His research interest includes integrated urban and regional planning, land-use & land-cover changes, urban resilience, governance, multi-hazard adaptation in urban and peri-urban areas, inclusive planning & housing and community participatory planning.

Urmika Venkateshwaran
Research Assistant

Urmika Venkateshwaran has a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from SRM Easwari Engineering College, Chennai. Alongside pursuing her degree, she has worked on her passion for the environment, procuring a Indian Green Building Council Accredited Professional credential, working with IIT Madras and co-authoring a paper on the treatment of urban wastewaters using electrochemical advanced oxidation processes. She is also associated with The Rain Centre, an NGO that aids in the construction and maintenance of Rainwater Harvesting units in Chennai.  Her research interests include water management, solid waste management, alternate construction materials, renewable energy and green buildings.