Giving back to society should be an obligation
Rakesh Mittal and his family pursue philanthropy through the education-focused Bharti Foundation
Rakesh Mittal is the vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises. His family and he pursue philanthropy through the education-focused Bharti Foundation. The Bharti Mittal family recently pledged ₹7,000 crore in philanthropic capital to create the Satya Bharti University. The university will have a strong focus on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and artificial and virtual reality, and will offer subsidized education to children from underprivileged backgrounds. Edited excerpts from an interview:
The motivation to start: This is the DNA of my family. And if I talk about the motivation, the inspiration and the values, I did pick this up from my parents. That was one thing which really shaped us and impacted us in our early childhood. When we started out our businesses, even when we were small, we were doing a few small things or initiating or institutionalizing scholarships and higher education for engineering and management students. I personally believe that giving back to society is an obligation.
Focus areas: We focused on education. The idea was, how can we hand-hold those children who are not in a position to go and attend a school because their parents can’t pay the fees of private schools?
Evolution in your work: In the initial stages, we were just writing cheques for non-profits. Eventually, as a family, we huddled together and decided to pick up a focus area where we can go and make a difference. We set up our foundation in 2000 and concluded that education is one big area which needs a lot of support in this country, and if we can do that, then we are preparing youngsters for a brighter tomorrow.
Lessons for philanthropy in education: Constructing schools is a waste of resources. Today, in India, thanks to the government investment in education, every village has one or two government schools, every village may have one or two private schools depending on the population, why go and build another building? Talk to the government about support programmes. We showed them learnings from our Satya Bharti school programmes and also told them about our best practices, quality manual, curriculum, etc. We told them we will get into quality support programmes where we will come and engage in government schools.
Advice for new givers: In this country, there is no dearth of money for a cause. There are individuals and companies that are willing to provide support and help. You have to give them the confidence that whatever you’ll give us will be spent in a transparent manner, and for the purpose for which the money has come. The more the NGO becomes transparent, the more funding it will get. You should be seen as a change-maker and bring a change in the ecosystem.
Future of giving: I think future generations must be taught values. That is one big thing which I believe the education system must go back to. Earlier, it used to be education with a huge value system. Parents would talk about values. Unfortunately, today, neither schools or educational institutions, nor parents or society, talk about value systems and things are getting worse every day. I think that is one investment which must be made and that is not the responsibility of the government or companies or an NGO or some private institution, this is the responsibility of every Indian, to change the mindset.
This interview is part of the India Remarkable Givers video series conducted by The Bridgespan Group, a philanthropy and NGO advisory.