For Indian Billionaire Shiv Nadar, Philanthropy = Education

Shiv Nadar’s philanthropy budget is $1 billion.

The tech czar, who cofounded India’s fourth largest software firm, HCL Technologies , has already spent $565 million setting up schools, museums and universities.

Nadar, who was ranked the 14th richest tech billionaire and the fourth richest in Asia earlier this month, has a net worth of $13.7 billion. He makes all his contributions through the Shiv Nadar Foundation set up in 1994 with the express purpose of “creating iconic institutions of excellence in learning across the education spectrum.” As he points out in his message about the foundation: “Education is, and will be the most powerful tool for individual and social change and we must do all that it takes to facilitate it.”

Take the VidyaGyan initiative set up in 2009. It identifies the brightest students from 100,000 rural government primary schools across 75 districts in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It offers free education to 1,700 students through two residential schools in Bulandshahar and Sitapur. The schools are spread across 67 acres and feature computer, math and science labs as well as football fields and basketball courts. The VidyaGyan schools are aimed at creating future leaders from rural India.

The results are already there to see. The first batch of 384 VidyaGyan students sat for the tenth grade board exams this year. About 80% of those students secured a CGPA of more than 8, with 64 students scoring a perfect 10 CGPA. Students from VidyaGyan were also selected for leadership and talent programs in leading U.S. universities, like Duke University, Brown University and Lehigh University over the past year. Six students from VidyaGyanwere selected for the Duke Talent Identification Program in 2014 and two were chosen for an exchange program with Brown University. And one girl from a small village in U.P. is due to take one year of formal education at Edison High School in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile the museums run by Nadar’s wife Kiran Nadar under the banner of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art are aimed at fostering an appreciation for modern Indian art. In the past year, art works from these museums have been invited for exhibitions at the Guggenheim, Gwangju in South Korea and the Rockbund Art Museum in China. The foundation has committed some $144 million over the years toward various museum initiatives.

Nadar’s biggest capital outlay, however, has been for the Shiv Nadar University. Set up in 2011, the foundation has invested $214 million to create a multi-disciplinary, research-oriented university, spanning 286 acres near India’s capital city. It has a residential campus with schools in engineering, management, humanities and natural sciences.

Nadar believes that setting up educational institutions will have an impact beyond his lifetime and the benefits will be felt over several generations.

As he declared in a 2011 interview to Forbes Asia: “These are acts of faith. I may not see anything in my lifetime.”

Date: 
Monday, August 31, 2015