“Getting a number of beautiful things from this World is ordinary; Giving something beautiful, back to this World is eXtraOrdinary.” – Naveen Lakkur
There are a lot of good things people get during their time on Earth. Love, care, personal successes, professional advancements, material possessions, etc. A little bit of hard work will get them access to more of them, which is known to everyone by now. Few people go a Little Extra, use their fortune to give something back to this world, or help someone. Let us look at some examples.
Story 1 – Startup Funding, Philanthropy, and Activism
While Nandan Nilekani was busy with Infosys, Rohini Nilekani looked after her children. Being a stay-at-home mom did not stop her from venturing out and helping people. She grew as a journalist, a columnist, a freelance documentary screenwriter, and an author and made a mark. In 1998 she published ‘Stillborn,’ a medical thriller. She wrote children’s stories under the pen name Noni by Pratham Books.
Most notably, her philanthropic journey started more than two decades ago, especially post-2004, when the Nilekanis became wealthy following Infosys’s success. Rohini began her philanthropic career and funding of innovative organizations long before Nandan forayed into funding innovative startups and causes.
She established Arghyam, a foundation that supports sustainable water and sanitation initiatives in India. She funded Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher that seeks to democratize the joy of reading for children, and became the co-founder and Director of EkStep, an education platform to reimagine learning opportunities for children.
She also sits on the board of ATREE, an environmental think tank to address environmental challenges and to work on conservation for sustainable livelihoods. Akshara Foundation that makes education accessible in government-run primary schools is also one receiving grants from her foundation. She has funded innovative initiatives in governance, independent media, and the arts through the Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies.
Did you know? By pledging to give half of their wealth to strategic philanthropy through the Giving Pledge, the Nilekanis are working to address extreme economic inequality through philanthropy and activism. With Nandan’s involvement in investing in innovative startups and Rohini being involved in innovative causes, they have been using their fund to give back and support others who are working on something beautiful to give to this world.
Story 2 – Enabling Innovation and Building Startup Culture
Romesh Wadhwani’s life story and the journey is unique. He was affected by Polio when he was two years old. Yet he proved that his physical disability was no obstacle. He studied Electrical Engineering in IIT Bombay and followed it up with a Master’s degree and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
After his education, he stayed back in the US to start a company. Despite not having a degree or experience in business, and no technology companies would start-up in Pittsburgh left him on a back foot. He convinced a venture capitalist to invest in his company. With $150,000, he started Aspect in 1991, which was acquired in 1999 by i2 Technologies.
In 2002, he started the Symphony Technology Group in 2002 as an investment firm based in Palo Alto, California. With strategic mergers and acquisitions, Wadhwani invested in creating better software solutions and services. He is still on-board Symphony with more than 20 companies in its portfolio.
He conceptualized the Wadhwani Foundation in 2000 after he entered the billionaire list post Aspect’s acquisition. The foundation focuses on helping small enterprises in developing economies, especially India, where he saw a lot of potential, unlike in the late 1980s, when starting up businesses was not a culture. He also co-founded the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) in 2003.
While on the one hand, Romesh plans to create a framework for entrepreneurship in India and a resource network for young entrepreneurs to dip into. On the other hand, he wants to go a Little Extra and work with government agencies to remove bottlenecks and make starting up an easy and improved innovation grant environment in the country. The foundation is drawing attention because of their passion for skill development, innovation enablement, and mainstreaming the differently-abled.
The Wadhwanis signed the Giving Pledge, and have pledged to give away more than 80% of their wealth on the contrary to the required commitment to give away 50% of the wealth. His life story is filled with giving back by funding initiatives, proving that giving back something beautiful is indeed eXtraOrdinary.
They recently announced the Sahaya initiative to help distressed SMEs affected by the economic crisis due to COVID-19 and improve public health workers’ knowledge about the COVID-19 virus. What a noble initiative.