‘It’s about helping communities you do
not know, people you do not know, even
communities you do not trust’
There are very few Indians — whether in India, the United States, or elsewhere in the world — who have donated as much of their wealth for good causes as Romesh Wadhwani has.
It is an area of his life that he considers deeply personal.
Romesh Wadhwani explains
his philosophy of
philanthropy to Aziz Haniffa.
educational, objectives rather than political ones.
First of all, let me say that each philanthropist is free to
do whatever they want to do.
My personal philosophy is about helping people.
You can help people in different ways.
You can help people in relief after there
is an earthquake; you can help people
whose kids are going through primary
education; you can help people who are
in the last stages of their life in hospitals;
and you can help people get prepared to
get jobs that are high quality and sustainable.
I’ve chosen that particular mission.
While we absolutely give contributions
to relief efforts, it is not a focus of our
Our foundation is focused single mind-
edly on accelerating economic develop-
ment and creating millions of jobs.
We have been at it for 10 years; we have
made a lot of progress, but we have at
least another 10 years to go before I feel
we will have created or impacted enough
— hundreds of thousands or millions of
jobs — that I can really feel good about
How can you ignore politics, some may
argue, while working for the good of
You have to separate them.
I am not saying you have to ignore politics. But my personal belief is that our
foundation will have absolutely no role in politics.
Now, beyond the foundation, you are entitled to vote for
whoever you wanted to vote for, you are entitled to support
any particular political party or a political group in the US
or in India.
It turns out that my wife and I are both centrists. We’ve
voted for Republicans and we voted for Democrats.
In the end, we vote for an individual and the individual
who we believe will be the best for the United States at that
particular point in time.
So we are not sort of ideological — you know, left wing,
right wing, moderately left wing, moderately right wing —
we are pretty much centrists, and in the end it all comes
down to the individual.
Should philanthropy be a vehicle of foreign policy?
I don’t think so.
Philanthropy is a very personal subject.
Each person needs to look within
themselves and talk to their conscience
All philanthropy is good.
My definition of philanthropy is not
about helping your family or helping
your immediate community, it’s about
helping communities you do not know,
people you do not know, perhaps even
communities you do not trust because of
history or ethnicity or whatever the
background might have been.
If you can get over those barriers and
help people like that, then I would say
you are a true philanthropist.
I feel that everyone and anyone can be
a philanthropist, but those of us who
have been particularly privileged — partly because of our education in India at
IIT-Bombay or any other IIT, partly
because of our education in the US, partly because we live
in Silicon Valley, partly because of other factors — if we
have had the opportunity to be more successful than average, then we have an obligation to give more to philanthropy than average.
That has always been a personal philosophy and a philosophy that I hope other successful entrepreneurs, businessmen, will follow.
But I don’t believe that this is a government-mandated
thing or a policy-mandated thing.
I think it’s a very individual thing, I think it is important
for there to be role models.
Bill Gates is a great role model; Warren Buffet is a great
role model; they are giving away virtually all their wealth to
All of us can learn from great philanthropists like them,
but having said that, each of us needs to have a conversation with our conscience as to how far we should go.
COUR TES Y: WADHWANI FOUNDATION
Students make the most of a Wadhwani Foundation initiative. The foundation is
focused on accelerating economic development and creating millions of jobs.
So, you don’t subscribe to the likes of George Soros and
the Open Society Foundation?
I do not.
Because I feel that is mandating philanthropy, and I
think there are two negatives in that.
I don’t believe people who want to be great philanthropists should have to be told — and I think they will resent
being told — and the second is when you have foundations
like that depending on how they choose to allocate their
funds, there can be room for controversy.
The last thing you want when you are being a philanthropist is to be in a controversial position; after all, you are
helping other people, and you want to feel good about what
you are doing.
You don’t want to feel attacked about what you are doing.
So, it’s much better to do the kind of philanthropy that is
You believe philanthropy should stress on humanitarian,
SPONSORED B Y