Vandana Gopikumar, PhD
Co-Founder, Managing Trustee
Vandana Gopikumar, co-founder of The Banyan, is a visionary advocate for homeless individuals with mental health issues. Since 1993, she has pioneered an inclusive approach to institutional care and created innovative models for those in need. Vandana mentors a second line that leads both The Banyan and BALM, offering strategic direction and clinical expertise. Recognized internationally, she has received prestigious awards, including the Renfield Foundation Award for Women’s Health and the WHO Public Health Champion Award. As a former professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Vandana has conducted groundbreaking research on community-based mental healthcare. Through the Other Identity Foundation, she amplifies marginalized voices and fosters dialogue on mental health and human rights. In her spare time, Vandana finds inspiration in her dogs, movies, writing, and reflecting. Her dedication as a trustee of BALM continues to shape the organization’s transformative impact in mental health and social empowerment.
Co-Founder, Disability Rights Activist
Vaishnavi Jayakumar dropped out of her MBA course to co-found The Banyan in 1993. During this period, Vaishnavi shouldered the responsibilities of Administration and Finance while constantly engaging the team with her innovative ideas, activities and training as part of The Banyan’s human resource management approach. Vaishnavi stepped down from her role as managing trustee in 2008, as part of a long-term plan to entrust the future of the organisation with its second-line. Though frequently terming herself “retired”, she has since gone on to work in the disability sector, facilitating and participating in a cross-disability discourse. In her spare time, Vaishnavi indulges in a wide range of interests which include western classical music, history, anthropology, literature, criminal justice ethics. Though she would most prefer to hide in bed with her two dogs.