“In philanthropy, you have to take the attitude of a mother. You have to be patient, and we have been very patient for a long time.” These are some wise words by Shiv Nadar, one of the most generous men of India.
Shiv Nadar was the top philanthropist as of 2019, in India. He was surpassed by Azim Premji in the year 2020, which still earned him second place in the ranking of Top Philanthropists in the country. Nadar is the third richest Indian as of Forbes list of India’s 10 Richest Billionaires 2021, with a net worth of $23.5 billion. His personal wealth, based only on his shareholding in listed companies, including HCL Technologies and HCL Infosystems, is pegged at about Rs 15,000 crore. Nadar has committed to putting aside well over 10% of his wealth for philanthropic ventures.
1. Commitment to Philanthropy
The 75-year-old Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at HCL Technologies and Founder & Chairman of Shiv Nadar Foundation is highly committed to philanthropy. In fact, at present, he spends about 40% of his time on social ventures.
“I want to focus on education and do it myself,” he has said in an interview. His daughter Roshni, he says, has also chosen social entrepreneurship and is not interested in running the group businesses.
Nadar has expressed his dissatisfaction towards the poor level of philanthropy that has been observed in the country from its richest men.
He has said, “What can I say… When it comes to giving, there aren’t many people who will happily give away even 1% (of their wealth).”
2. Unique Philanthropic Model
Shiv Nadar has been greatly influenced by the philanthropic commitment made by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the world’s richest people, both of whom have pledged their entire wealth for charity. Taking inspiration from them and adding his own touch, Nadar has decided to introduce his own unique philanthropic model.
He has said, “I think I can build an institution, which is very unlike the Gates’ foundation, which is totally project-driven,” he says. Explaining the difference, he has clarified that the Gates foundation will serve specific purposes and shut within 20 years of the death of either of them. Nadar has instead built the Shiv Nadar Foundation, which pursues the philosophy of ‘Creative Philanthropy.’ The Shiv Nadar Foundation webpage explains the model by saying, “It is a powerful model which envisages the creation of institutions that go beyond the lifetime of its founders and continue to impact future generations for many centuries to come. It is an approach that allows sustained institutionalized philanthropy for long-term, high impact, socio-economic transformation.”
3. Focus on Education
Shiv Nadar has focused its philanthropic efforts mainly on education. He has said, “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.”
However, Nadar believes that there is a gap between the education that is available and the skills required to work. This ultimately leads to rising in unemployability of youth. In order to bridge this gap, he believes that corporates and educational institutions must work hand in hand.
To work in line with his beliefs, Nadar started his first education venture over fifteen years ago via SSN College of Engineering, named after his father. This was followed by three more SSN institutions—SSN School of Management & Computer Applications, SSN School of Advanced Software engineering in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, US, and SSN research centre. The SSN institutions are known as one of the premier centres of higher education in the country. Additionally, the institutions run one of the largest scholarship programs in India, has offered scholarships worth USD 7 Mn benefitting over 5000 students.
In order to nurture leadership qualities among the economically underprivileged, meritorious students of rural India, the Shiv Nadar Foundation launched a leadership academy called VidyaGyan – spread over a 20-acre campus in Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh. The academy seeks to bridge the urban-rural divide by creating a leadership pool that can act as change agents for their families, communities, nation, and society at large.
The VidyaGyan Schools, from class six to 12, propose to pick up the best of students from rural and remote areas in Uttar Pradesh. The selection of students who come from families with an annual income of under Rs 1 lakh a year is done from the class 5 results shared by the UP government under an agreement with the Shiv Nadar Foundation.
4. Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
In addition to education, the Shiv Nadar Foundation has given great patronage to art by setting up the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi. The museum has emerged as India’s first private philanthropic museum, promoting contemporary and modern art from India and the subcontinent. The facility imbues a lasting sense of appreciation of art, and a museum-going culture among a broad spectrum of audience, from young artists, scholars, students and art connoisseurs to the general public at large.
By bringing art to the masses, since its inception, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art has become a leading hub in the art circuit. Over and above exhibiting seminal art by leading contemporary artists, KNMA encourages and provides a platform for generating and circulating dialogue, discussions and knowledge about contemporary and modern art. The museum consistently organizes art education and awareness programs, school and family programs, art workshops, and talks and symposia to foster an interest in art and inspire the youth.
Shiv Nadar believes that Philanthropy is not only about writing cheques for causes. He believes that ensuring that the resources are used well for the purposes that it was designated is what constitutes true philanthropy. His far fetched vision of ensuring that his philanthropic efforts continue to make a difference even beyond him is what shows his resolve for creating a better future for the country.