A new graduate scholarship at Somerville College, focusing on sanitation and health in India, has been named in honour of Rakesh Kapoor, former chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser (RB), and his wife Ritu.

The first Rakesh and Ritu Kapoor scholar is Gauri Chandra, a DPhil candidate at the Blavatnik School of Government. Gauri’s research focuses on applying insights from behavioural economics to sanitation, health and hygiene in rural India, with a particular emphasis on the problem of open defecation.

The Rakesh and Ritu Kapoor Scholar in Health and Hygiene joins a growing community of graduate scholars associated with the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, based at Somerville.

These scholars pursue a range of sustainable development studies from water management to financial inclusion. On completion of their studies, the scholars return to India to lead change in their chosen fields.

Ms Chandra said: “I am honoured to be selected as the first Rakesh and Ritu Kapoor Scholar. I hope that my research, drawing on the latest insights from economic and psychological theory, will make a significant difference to the lives of a large number of people in rural India, enabling them to lead healthier lives and make more sustainable choices.”

Mr Kapoor is the former chief executive of RB, having stepped down as CEO this year after more than eight years leading the company. RB is a leading global health, hygiene and home company inspired by a vision of the world where people are healthier and live better. It has operations in over 60 countries and its products include Durex, Nurofen, Dettol, Strepsils, Gaviscon, Scholl, Finish and Vanish.

“Ritu and I are delighted to launch this scholarship in partnership with Somerville College,” said Mr Kapoor.

“Sanitation and health in India are issues that are close to our hearts and we are thrilled that such a worthy candidate is the inaugural scholar. Gauri Chandra’s impressive work on tackling the problem of open defecation will enable more people in rural India to lead healthier lives in the future.”

Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College, said: “I am pleased that the first Rakesh and Ritu Kapoor scholar will focus on the challenge of open defecation.

“In richer countries, having access to a clean and safe toilet is something that we often taken for granted, forgetting that this is one of the world’s biggest development challenges. This is especially important for women.”

Pepper Culpepper, Blavatnik Professor of Government and Public Policy and DPhil Coordinator at the Blavatnik School of Government, said: “Our ideal in the Blavatnik School DPhil programme is for our students to bring cutting-edge analytical and empirical analysis to bear in helping to solve the difficult problems that face governments around the world.

“Gauri exemplifies this ideal, and we are delighted that she has been selected as the first Rakesh and Ritu Kapoor Scholar.”

Rakesh and Ritu Kapoor Scholar Gauri Chandra

Mr Rakesh Kapoor

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