When I established the Shiv Nadar Foundation back in 1994, philanthropy in India was largely charity-driven at an individual level and corrective at an organizational level. Philanthropy was perceived as merely the act of donating money to correct short-term problems with time-bound solutions. I wanted to take a road less travelled. I looked to the west and was inspired by the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundation. I chose the route of Creative Philanthropy, which entailed deep commitment to cull out long-term sustainable solutions that would go on to impact future generations long after the lifetime of its Founders.
This commitment was strengthened when my daughter, Roshni, joined hands with me. The year 2009 saw the birth of VidyaGyan, crystalizing the ideas of creative philanthropy and translating them into action with the potential for high-impact transformation. We started with one campus in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh. The choice of UP was significant because this state has seen very little development and is the most populated Indian state. With a population comparable to that of the entire country of Brazil, UP presents significant developmental challenges. It was my belief that if VidyaGyan could be a success in UP it would become a model for other Indian states and emerging nations as well. Incidentally UP also happened to be the birthplace of HCL, my first entrepreneurial venture.
With VidyaGyan I have felt the power of the ripple effect. The students of VidyaGyan have carried the message of change to their communities, addressing and affecting problems like caste inequality, girl child illiteracy, lack of potable water, adult illiteracy, women health issues etc. The change that could not be leveraged, in spite of numerous efforts, by the Government and other NGOs were ushered in with surprising ease by these children, who effortlessly transformed their communities from within.
The VidyaGyan students straddle two extremities of this world. On the one hand they receive world-class education and exposure at par with their urban counterparts and on the other they witness the extreme deprivation of their families at multiple levels. Our efforts to keep these students connected to their roots might yield the desired result of change. I believe that these students will not just become leaders in their own field but one of them might just go on to become a future Prime Minister of our country.