‘It’s about helping communities you do
Some people might do that kind of philanthropy because
you can get a lot of tax shelters.
There is absolutely the risk of that.
We have two fundamental principles in the way in which
we execute the initiatives of our foundation.
The first is every initiative in which we work with a government agency — whether it’s a central government or a
state government in India — has to be non political.
So, we work with chief ministers who are members of the
BJP (the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main Opposition
party at the federal level), we work with chief ministers
who are members of the Congress (the party that heads the
ruling alliance at the federal level).
We work with the central government — it has been
Congress for the last few years, it could be something else;
we would still want to be able to work with them.
So, we have to be completely agnostic in the nature of
who, which party that particular government represents.
The second key principle is we never ask the government
to fund our foundation because the thing I absolutely want
to avoid under any circumstance is that there could be any-
one who is able to say, ‘ You know what, this guy took advan-
tage of his foundation to either get money from the gov-
ernment into the foundation or to help one of his business-
es or to get tax credit.’
We have never asked any government — the US govern-
ment or the Indian government — for any benefits whatso-
ever; we don’t ask for any tax credits; we don’t ask them for
If you take the ‘Skills Development Network’ we just
completed a very successful pilot with the Haryana government.
It was very simple. We did not ask the Haryana government or the central government for any money.
They invested their money into hiring teachers for their
high schools in which this skills development initiative
would be implemented.
We funded the development of curriculum, we funded
teacher training, we funded the software platform, and we
provided it to the Haryana government at zero cost.
We provided a program manager to the Haryana government at zero cost.
I am very, very, sensitive to the fact that I never want any-
one ever to be able to say ‘This guy benefited personally
from the foundation.’
I wanted it to be known that there is only a one-way flow
of benefits, which is from me to the beneficiaries, not from
anybody else to me.
The likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation connect local and global forces and focus their work in terms of
bypassing government bureaucracies.
When they sought to fight the HIV AIDS scourge in India,
the Gates got involved in promoting and funding scientific
research, the distribution of condoms and turning a lot of
sex workers on the ground into public health workers.
Is that a perfect example of how you work and connect
with local groups and local involvement of a philanthropic
We do work with governments and I’ll give you two
In the skills development initiative, it’s all about helping
not know, people you do not know, even
communities you do not trust’
Romesh Wadhwani at a community event. ‘I feel when you build a
temple, nothing is wrong with that — it is an important thing to do for
our culture — but if that’s all we do, we are essentially transplanting
India into Queens, or India into Monroeville in Pittsburgh,’ he says.
to create millions of jobs and to place skilled workers in
those millions of jobs that are being created.
We feel the best way is for people who are in the last two
years of high school or in the first two years of college to go
through a next generation community college system in
I don’t believe it is possible to achieve scale for a next generation community college system without working with
the government, so effectively we have to create a public-private partnership.
We are the private partner, our approach to working with
the government is very simple — we’ve said there is a hard
infrastructure and a soft infrastructure.
The hard infrastructure is building the community colleges, hiring the teachers, providing the equipment.
The soft infrastructure is about building the curriculum,
about training the teachers, and about building a software
platform through which massive open online career education can be provided.
It’s a perfect partnership.
We are not trying to do what the government should be
The government is not trying to do what we are probably
better able to do than they are, and everything we do, we
provide at no cost.
So, no one can argue about it; it is not a question about
someone saying you are charging too much.
Zero is what we charge, so we can’t be charging too much.
In that context, what may be different between from what
you said and what we do, is that we do work with the gov-
ernment, but we have a very clear set of rules on engage-
ment with the government.
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