We study the performance of public-private partnership (PPP) recognizing that it is associated with causal complexity, equi-finality, and vagueness of both the outcome and predictor conditions. fs/QCA, a set-theoretic configurational approach, is deployed to carry out within-case analysis and a formalized cross-case comparison of 29 large highway PPP projects. Surveys, interviews and archival data collected over seven years were employed to develop a deep contextual understanding, enabling a qualitative comparison. The projects that we study cost over $ 4 billion. They are located in India which is one of the largest PPP markets in the world, with the maximum number of highway PPPs. In contrast to prior studies that look at performance as unidirectional, we identify asymmetrical conditions and recipes for PPP success and failure. Further, guided by detailed contextual knowledge, the study conditions founded in different disciplines, and make an effort to integrate the diverse literature. A projects timely completion / failing in timely completion is found to be asymmetrically caused by project preparation, resource availability, and contractual maturity (key attributes identified in policy and economics literature); construction experience of private sector (key aspects identified in construction and project management literature); and emphasis on social relationships (located in management and trust literature). © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.