Jall’s Film Needs Your Support

Hi everyone!jall

In a few days, my immensely talented brother Jall will be directing a short film that he is deeply passionate about. It’s called “Man of The House”, and it tells the story of a young father warring against his insubordinate child, of their striking similarities, damaged egos, and unspoken love. It unveils the drama, comedy, and ultimate tragedy of a family that cannot co-exist without compromise. Though a work of fiction, the film feels incredibly real to us because it lives in the world of our youth, taking Jall (and an entire cast and crew) back to the home where he first picked up a camera. This feels very emotional, like coming full circle.

Unfortunately, it’s just one of those facts of life that filmmaking is an expensive art form. Thus, Jall is here to ask for your support in raising funds for the film and in spreading the campaign. Please take a moment to watch the campaign video:

If you wish to make a contribution, visit the campaign page: igg.me/at/jall and hit “Back It”, after which you may enter an amount and your payment details. It’s all very secure. Plus, there’s a series of wonderful perks for contributors, including special credits and original DVDs. https://vimeo.com/jall

Thank you so much for taking the time to go through all of this.

Take care,



We write this note to introduce our son Hoshmand Elavia who has secured the 2nd winner-cupPlace in the JK Tyres Indikarting National Series powered by Tata Motors, which is a National level Karting Championship.
Hoshmand is 8 years old and has a lot of promise coupled with an avid interest in topping the sport at National and International level. After starting his training in February 2016 he has already secured 4 victories and 12 podium finishes in the total of 15 races.
In view of his performance and potential his guide and mentors feel it fit that he participates and excels at JK Tyres National Rotex Championship which is Indias highest level of Karting.
Karting, being an expensive sport, an amount of Rs 25,00,000(Twenty five lakhs) is needed to make this dream see reality. Rayo Racing, JK Tyres, Tata Motors and Indikarting has kindly consented to bear an amount of Rs 8,65,500/- towards the above.
We being middle class parents cannot afford to fund the balance cost from our budget and request your financial support which will enable Hoshmand to participate and give his best.
Hoshmand will be pleased to display details of his sponsors as desired.
Thanking you in anticipation of a positive response.
Yours sincerely













CAP TURNS 30 – 7TH NOVEMBER 1986 TO 2016

Today, the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy (CAP) and I celebrate the Pearl Anniversary of our journey in the philanthropic space. Three decades is roughly a third of the average human life span. Back then, I was in my mid-twenties. Today I am in my mid-fifties.
CAP & I have melted and eroded together into the same stream of time, and there is no undoing the weathering that has occurred. It has taken up a lot of space in my heart and mind over the last 30 years. CAP doesn’t just live with me … it lives in me.

 I have seen the sector change, for better and for worse.

Today it is far more professional and suave, but, on the downside somewhere it has also lost much of its once tender and caring heart. The laws are far from enabling and the funders have become way too demanding. It’s an era of strategy, scale and impact where the traditional ‘Good Samaritan’ feels lost and alienated. Smart businesses have started to wear the cloak of ‘social enterprise’ and what excites and sells is flow charts, pie charts and jingo that even its creators don’t understand. But, it has been a great journey and I am grateful for this wonderful experience.

I thank Russi Lala for pulling me out of a cushy job and giving me the opportunity to seek new horizons. There has never been a dull moment in three decades, because the sector has been constantly evolving. He was so right and his words while taking a walk at Kemps corner 30 years ago still ring vividly: “Don’t be a frog in a little pond. You are destined to swim the oceans”. And, oceans I surely did swim, both figuratively and literally!

I thank Darius Forbes, who when interviewing me at Bombay House commented: “But, you are still a Baccha”. Thank you Sir, for the faith you reposed in me!

I am grateful to Chari Sir, my mentor, my guide and ‘cheer leader’!

I was privileged to have worked closely with Late H T Parekh, especially when CAP created and incubated the Bombay Community Trust.

Grateful also to Forbes Marshall for housing us for 12 years at Mistry Mansion. It was just 80 square feet and two tables, but it had great atmosphere, natural lighting and cross ventilation.

Most grateful to Deanna Jejeebhoy who as Trustee of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust recognized CAP’s work and worth by moving us to Mulla House in 1999. A generous grant of Rs. 50 Lakhs helped us acquire this asset whose value today has grown manifold.

Grateful thanks to Mark Sidel and the Ford Foundation for their support at the turn of the millennium. Mark had put the soul back into Ford’s philanthropy program. Mark, India and CAP will always know you as a ‘friend’ and not a funder.

Fast forward to the present and I owe my thanks to my colleague and CAP’s COO Meher for reinventing CAP and making it relevant to the changing times. She has single handedly put structure, systems and processes to everything that we do at CAP. She has transformed and taken all our programs to a new and higher level.

Rati, CAP owes you and your family very special thanks. Thank you for your leadership, for always being there when needed, for being so tuned into everything that we do and for always connecting us to those in your network.

There have been many others who have made this journey memorable, many of my old and current Board Members, staff, donors, members, affiliates. The list is too long. Thank you, one and all!

I am not sure what the future has in store for us, but thank you CAP for making my life so purposeful. Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.

Dearest CAP, together we shall celebrate compliance, together we shall try to remain relevant and together we shall continue to be useful and helpful.

Happy Birthday dearest CAP! – Noshir


Tata family donates $70 million to UCSD research
One of India’s biggest philanthropists gives UCSD $35M/$70M to find cures for infection diseases
By Gary Robbins and Bradley J. Fikes 

The San Diego Union Tribune
October 23, 2016, 6:00 AM

One of India’s top philanthropists is giving UC San Diego $70 million to explore ways to use a radically new way of editing genes to fight insect-borne diseases, make crops more resistant to drought and create better antibiotics.

The Tata Trusts of Mumbai announced Sunday that it’s investing in the field of active genetics, also called gene drive, which enables scientists to rapidly and accurately introduce genetic changes in organisms instead of relying on the slow, less precise process of traditional Mendelian genetics.

Inline image 1
UC San Diego chancellor Pradeep Khosla and genetics professor Ethan Bier.

UC San Diego researchers said they can use this technique to breed mosquitoes that don’t spread malaria. The disease sickens millions of people and kills more than 500,000 around the globe each year, including about 30,000 in India, the world’s second-most populous country.

The university and UC Irvine have demonstrated in lab experiments that they can tweak mosquitoes this way, making them pioneers in the fast-growing branch of active genetics.

It’s also possible that the technology could be used to improve agriculture and medicine, helping many nations deal with poverty and disease.

The $70 million gift will create the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society, which will be headquartered at UC San Diego. About half the money will be used locally for research and to train Indian scientists in active genetics.

Those scholars will return to India, where they’ll aim to exploit the technology and explore the potential implications of releasing genetically altered animals, plants and microbes into the wild. They will receive the other $35 million of the new donation.

In a statement, Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata said: “UC San Diego’s mission to advance society and drive economic impact aligns with our goals, as a country, to build a skilled scientific workforce and to grow the impact and scope of our research enterprise.

“Together, we will promote bioscience research, discoveries and education that will benefit populations around the globe.”

The $70 million is the largest foreign investment ever made in UC San Diego. The deal was brokered by Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, a prominent engineer who was born and raised in India.

“(Tata) realizes that India does not have the capacity to absorb this (technology at the moment),” Khosla said. “And this is going to be transformational. He wants us to help train the scientists, postdocs, Ph.D. students who will then push the frontiers in India.

“India has a lot of smart people — engineers, scientists, physicists. But it does not have people who are at the cutting edge of science in the same numbers that we have here. India doesn’t have three Ethan Biers. It might have one.”

Experimental success

Khosla was referring to UC San Diego biologist Ethan Bier, who has been pioneering active genetics with colleague Valentino Gantz.

They’re developing techniques to edit genes in faster, easier and more directed and reliable ways.The editing is meant to accomplish specific goals, such as making a mosquito immune to malaria parasites. The process contrasts with more conventional genetics, in which changes are passively spread to offspring, often by chance.

For example, many animals inherit two sets of genes — one from each parent. If a parent has two varieties of a gene, the odds are about 50 percent whether one or the other variety will be passed to any offspring. But with the active genetics technology formulated by Bier and Gantz, an engineered gene variant will be inherited by nearly all offspring. That enables the variant to spread at an exponential rate.

Bier and Gantz first demonstrated the technology in fruit flies, in a paper published in spring 2015. They described how fruit flies that had inherited one recessive gene for the color yellow from one parent, but not from the other parent, grew up with two of the recessive genes, making them yellow. The experiment was done under very strict laboratory controls to stop any of the modified fruit flies from escaping.

The recessive gene had been constructed so the recessive trait would jump on its own to the same gene inherited from the other parent in a kind of automatic copy-and-paste process. This happened in the embryo, before the fruit fly pupated.

Moreover, this process of spreading the gene repeated itself when the modified fruit flies mated with unmodified ones. Its efficiency was greater than 95 percent, and no further intervention by the scientists was needed.

The technology was a novel feat, but didn’t show anything of practical use.

Bier and Gantz then illustrated the potential of active genetics when they teamed up with insect-disease researcher Anthony James of UC Irvine. James had worked for decades on how to genetically modify mosquitoes to resist malaria, dengue fever and other diseases. If the mosquitoes could be made resistant, they wouldn’t transmit those often crippling illnesses.

The three researchers collaborated to alter the genes of Anopheles stephensi, a mosquito species that’s a main carrier of malaria in India.

They gave these mosquitoes DNA designed to attack the malaria parasite, propelled by active genetics. The lab experiment worked: The mosquitoes’ offspring did not pass the parasite on when they mated with mosquitoes that had not been genetically modified.

Scientists want to use the trailblazing technique broadly for things such as boosting the ability of crops to withstand drought and making antibiotic-resistant bacteria vulnerable again.

“This is like Lewis and Clark crossing America; we’ve opened up to so many possibilities,” Bier said during an interview in his lab. “It will have applications across biology.”

Seed of philanthropy

The $70 million contribution arose from a chain reaction that began last November when Khosla invited Ratan Tata to tour UC San Diego.

In philanthropic terms, Khosla was going after a whale. Tata is chairman of Tata Trusts, a charity that has donated billions of dollars, especially in the areas of science, health and education. The charity is part of Tata Group, a multinational conglomerate that’s involved in everything from steel and energy to wireless communications, chemicals and real estate.

“They’ve had the sort of impact on India that the Rockefellers and Carnegies have had on the U.S.,” Khosla said.

Tata accepted Khosla’s invitation. About a week before he arrived, the chancellor read a story that highlighted the progress Bier was making in active genetics. Khosla quickly added Bier to the list of people he wanted Tata to meet.

There wasn’t any guarantee that much would result from Tata’s trip.

In 2010, he gave $50 million to Harvard University, where he had studied management. The donation triggered a lot of criticism from people who felt he should stay focused on India.

But Tata turned out to be fascinated with Bier’s work, and discussions about a major gift were soon underway. The talks culminated in the past week with Tata’s figure of $70 million.

“We showed him the things we were doing in areas like climate change,” Khosla said. “But you could tell right away that it was the opportunity to do something about things like malaria that really interested him.”

Bier was beaming last week when Khosla visited his lab — a smile that vanished when the chancellor mentioned that Tata might come again to UC San Diego in mid-November.

“I’m going to be out of town on that date,” Bier said, looking stressed. “And I’d really like to thank him.”

A Ray of light for those in dark

Padma Shree awardee, Capt. Desai who celebrates his 100th birthday on October 20,  has founded seven institutes for the blind community.

In the bylanes of Colaba, sitting in the living room of an old Parsi house, with his wife Perin sitting to his right, and about twenty-odd visually impaired, along with a few peers, he looked extremely content with his life. Fondly called Captain Saib by all, Capt. Hormazdiar Jamshedji Muncherji Desai is famed for his unconditional support and contribution towards the welfare of the visually impaired.

Among the many accolades he has won, Capt. Desai was honoured with a Padma Shree in 1987, NAB (India) the coveted Rustom Merwanji Alpaiwalla Memorial Award, Takeo Iwahashi Award of Japan along with 20 other awards.

Although wePeople in the room were barely visible, audible and partly recognized by him, however, at the age of 100, he wore his best smile to greet everyone as he sat on that wooden chair.

The Jovial Journey

Born on October 20, 1916 at Khadki, near Pune Capt. Desai, has played a pivotal role in founding seven institutions for the visually challenged in Mumbai and India. However, he would gracefully say, “I didn’t do it alone, it was team work.”

Penrin, (82) and told dna about his journey. “He has narrated this story to me several times, hence, I remember it very well,” Perin vouched, as she added, “He was inspired by his father who worked at Victoria Memorial School for the Blind, Tardeo. He would often accompany his father to the School as he was quite moved looking at the people he wanted to understand their plight make terms with their hopes, aspirations and wanted to figure out means to improve and expand services in this field. At the age of 32, he entered the field of work for welfare of the visually impaired despite being so occupied. After completing his M.A. LLB, he worked at the court and then moved to a fulltime Government job. He had joined the Civil Pioneer Force during the war as a captain.” Capt. Desai authored a number of publications on rehabilitation and employment of the visually challenged, which were supported by organizations like WBU, UNICEF, CARE and so on.

Peer speak

Speaking about his achievements, his daughter Dinci, (49) recalls, “He is like a library of knowledge for me. For all the good work he had done, we were the ones who were blessed. I learnt more about culture and life than I ever learnt in any book. I honestly do not have the kind of courage to continue the kind of work he has done in his life. For all the cash prizes he had received, I have never seen a dime of it come to my house. Each dime was accounted for. He is an outstanding administrator and most of all a great humanitarian,” Her brother, Jamshed echoed to her as well.

While his wife, Perin, who fell in love with him for his philanthropic nature and have been married to him for 58 years said, “We had an age difference of 18 years, but as I grew older, I was sure, I wanted to be his life partner. I knew it would always be his work first, I was happy about it. He is a content man and living with him, I too have learnt to be content in life.” She remembers, “One day a Muslim man came to our house and showed him a bundle of fixed deposit certificates he had collected. Apparently, after being trained at one of the institutes, he had retired at Mahindra and Mahindra after 20 years of service. He told us that he was going to open a school for the blind with all this money. I can proudly say, my husband has in some way made a difference to the lives of over 500 visually impaired.”

S.V. Divan, (79) who has worked with Capt. Desai for over 40 years said, “I have seen him spent days and nights with his head into the account books of these institutes and never complain at all. In fact, he has been an inspiration for many like me, who joined him in his journey.”

Unconditional Philanthropy

After retiring as the Joint Secretary, Finance Department, State of Maharashtra in the year 1974, Capt. Desai dedicatedly continued welfare, with the help of people from all walks of life, donations from the people and grants from the government. He was first Honorary Secretary General of the NAB (India), Workshop for the Blind and NAB’s first Industrial Training Centre – the M.N. Banaji Industrial Home for the Blind, Jogeshwari, The TATA Agricultural and Rural Training Centre for the Blind, Pheroze and Noshir Merwanji Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind at Mt. Abu in Rajasthan, Lions Home for the Aging Blind, Khandala.


Help a young Zoroastrian to get into a space program!

Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America

We hope you will disseminate the following to your colleagues, friends and family,and urge them to contribute to this worthy project.
Garshasb (Gary) Soroosh, studies Physiology and Neurobiology as a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has been conducting biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health for 5 years, leading projects that ranged in focus from molecular neuroscience to microbial pathogenesis. In addition to research, Gary dedicates much of his time as a leading member of RAD-AID International, a global health nonprofit committed to improving access to radiology in developing regions of the world. On campus, he is president of the American Society for Microbiology Student Chapter, Quality of Care Representative to the University Health Center, and a member of the Student Health Advisory Committee, in addition to volunteering at free clinics in the College Park area. In his free time Gary enjoys writing, playing golf, and performing classical Persian drums.  Gary has represented FEZANA at the United Nations at the World Summit of the Information Society, (WSIS +10) at the UN Headquarters in New York in December 2015 . Details of this participation are reported in the Fezana Journal –summer 2016 issue (which is themed on “Mehrgan”).

The Project
Not knowing exactly how and why bacteria behave differently in space poses a serious risk for astronaut safety.  The projectgoal is to understand, on the molecular level, how bacteria change the expression of their genes in space, focusing on why they move more easily in microgravity.  After having been selected finalists in the UMD Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Mission 10, in February of 2017 these young scientists will send an experimental capsule containing dormant bacteria to the International Space Station.  The bacteria will grow in space, where they will adapt to this microgravity environment, and then will be returned to Earth for analysis.  A powerful technique called RNAseq will be used to analyze bacterial gene expression patterns; by running the same experiment in parallel on Earth, scientists will essentially be able to observe any and every difference in bacterial gene expression caused by microgravity.  This work can contribute to astronaut safety on long-term voyages.

A guaranteed spot on a rocket to take the experiment to the International Space Station is availabe, and this campaign is key to obtaining funds for analysis after receiving the bacteria from space.  Your generous contribution will help fund experimental procedures, costs associated with data analysis and publication of findings, and allow the team to be in Launch Control to supervise experimental deployment from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Behram Pastakia, MD, FACR
Co-Chair, FEZANA UN-NGO committee

Click here to donate to this project now

Mumbai Parsi first to donate for Pakistani Teen

Mumbai donates up to Rs 4.5 lakh for treatment of Pakistani teen

Following sunday mid-day’s report on May 17, Jaslok Hospital receives monetary help from donors across the city who wanted to help the Wilson’s Disease patient

Two weeks after Sunday Mid Day published the report — Large-hearted Mumbai rises for Pak teen on May 17 — about how Nazia Tarikh Ahmed came to Mumbai from Karachi with only R80,000 to treat her 15-year-old daughter, Saba, who is suffering from Wilson’s Disease, Mumbaikars have stepped forward to show their affection.

Nazia and Saba Tarikh Ahmed. (File pic)

The fund’s coffers boast R4.5 lakh, thanks to which Nazia can afford to continue the treatment at Jaslok Hopsital.
Dr Abbha Nagral, Liver Specialist and Senior Gastroenterologist at Jaslok Hospital, who is treating Saba, said, “Soon after the article was published, total strangers approached the hospital with donations. We managed to raise R4.5 lakh, which enabled us sustain the medical expense of her treatment,” said Nagral, who added that Saba is responding well to medication.

“For the first time in 40 days, she was taken to Haji Ali on a wheelchair on Friday. Though she has her frequent ups and downs, there is an overall positive improvement in her health. However, she still has a long way to go and will require lifelong medication,” says Nazia, who is a single parent after her husband remarried and left her and their three children. The doctors in Karachi initially misdiagnosed her daughter’s condition and even started an incorrect treatment. “The donors in Mumbai are angels who extended help in our hour of need. Saba was in total depression when we came here, but has become a happier person, in spite of being bedridden. She was very happy to seek blessings at Haji Ali Dargah,” said Nazia.

According to Shabia Walia, a social worker from the Bluebells Community, a group of social workers, actor Juhi Chawla has donated R25,000. Another donor, Kersi Dubash, was first among the first to deposit R 1 lakh with the hospital. “I have a textile business in Pakistan and visit the country often. I am just returning the love and affection that I get there,” he said.

Also read…

Large-hearted Mumbai embraces Pakistani teen with rare illness
Saba Tarikh Ahmed from Karachi is being treated at Jaslok Hospital for a rare condition called Wilson’s Disease. Doctors and perfect strangers in Mumbai have provided her financial and emotional support. (Click here to read the full story)

By Shailesh Bhatia | Posted 31-May-2015



The Agas on the dynamics of giving

Thermax’s Anu Aga and her daughter Meher Pudumjee see philanthropy as much more than writing out cheques for charity


Anu Aga (right) and her daughter Meher Pudumjee. Photo: Dasra

Anu Aga and her daughter Meher Pudumjee, of energy and environment engineering business house Thermax Ltd, are among India’s 100 richest people as per Forbes magazine rankings. The mother and daughter duo sees philanthropy as much more than writing out cheques for charity and personal involvement takes priority for both. In an interview, Aga and Pudumjee talk about how they complement each other—one is the heart and the other the head—when it comes to giving. Edited excerpts:

What does philanthropy mean to you?

Pudumjee: Philanthropy to me is the joy of giving, both in terms of my time and my resources to a cause that I passionately believe in.

Aga: And it’s different from CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), which is now mandatory for corporates to give. So if my company gives hundreds of crores, it’s still not philanthropy, it’s CSR. I would like to make that difference.

If I were to take you back a little in your journey, when and why did you first decide to give?

Aga: When I was in college, I didn’t have money to give but I gave a lot of my time for the social service league at St Xavier’s College. And then later in life, I lost my son in a car accident at the age of 25. He had spent eight years abroad and felt that we were very insensitive to the poverty around us. And he said, unless as a family we give 90% to social causes, he will go away to England. I hate taking a decision at gunpoint, so I told him “Go! I don’t want you to tell me what I should do”. Then, of course, my daughter and son-in-law got involved and he said, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be aggressive and say what percentage, but what I mean is start giving substantially.” And we started in a small way. (It was) only after the company went public 20 years ago that we had money in hand. It was only in the last five-six years that we decided that 30% of our personal wealth dividend income will go towards philanthropy.

What have been the lessons learnt, big surprises, big disappointments, highs or lows?

Pudumjee: In the last five years, I am amazed to see how many youngsters are involved with this whole sense of idealism, giving of their time—just look at Teach For India!

Aga: And though by definition, philanthropy is giving your money, I think if you give your life and your time, I would call that also a form of philanthropy. Earlier, I used to give impulsively, not go into too much asking what the cause was, how they were going to do the work, but ever since my daughter partnered with me, she asks the hard questions and we’ve never gone wrong. So it’s a good combination.

What is your approach to and model of giving?

Aga: From our personal wealth, we would like to find credible NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and support them not just by writing out cheques, but getting involved with them in long-term planning in many areas.

Pudumjee: We like to fund NGOs rather than do it directly.

How do you think you complement each other and how are you different? 

Pudumjee: I think mum and I are very complementary in the sense that she does a lot from the heart, I do more from the head. So I think the combination is really very effective in looking at causes, looking at impact, looking at strategy, doing things differently but trying to bring it together towards a particular outcome.

Aga: For me, human rights is very important. Again in a small way, we help there. Meher is very good at finance. I hate finance. So if there’s anything related to figures, I say Meher, you look after it. I think I helped Meher to be a little more trusting.

What would your advice to aspiring philanthropists be?

Pudumjee: For people who have the funds but don’t know where to invest them, I would say don’t do it on your own. Try and find a good, credible NGO that you trust, that you know other people are working with, that is making an impact. There are so many NGOs doing really good work that are very professionally run, but it is very difficult for them to find funders. And I would really urge more and more people to come together, because there are some people who can give money, a cheque, some people who can give time but less of money, and I think all the combinations are required to take things off the ground. And if I can just give one example of a platform called Social Venture Partners which started in Pune a couple of years ago. You give a minimum of Rs2 lakh to join. In Pune, we are 45 partners that have come together. We pool in all the money and we have a grants committee who then chooses which NGOs to support. The NGOs make a presentation to all the partners. Initially I was very sceptical but I think it’s such a wonderful way to get more and more people to come together and give their time and a little bit of money, and then see the cause grow.

Aga: My advice to people who are seeking a cause is to check out different causes and see what they are drawn to. It’s no use giving to a credible NGO for a cause you don’t feel passionate about.

What according to you should philanthropy work towards in the next 10 years and what will get us there?

Pudumjee: I think there is no dearth of causes in India that require funds. My only fear is that it shouldn’t be a little bit here, a little bit there. We really need to look at scale, in whichever way. It doesn’t have to be scale in terms of huge amounts, but it has to be scale in terms of impact and sustainable impact.

Aga: I would be a little more specific and say I am ashamed that after 70 years of independence and with our GDP (gross domestic product) growing in the last few years, we haven’t solved the malnourishment problem. Second is education. Look at the quality of our education. We love to be ostriches and not face the problem that the quality of education is bad. If we educate people but they can’t get jobs, there will be chaos. We all have to realize that business cannot survive in a society that fails.

This interview is a part of the India Philanthropy Series, a joint initiative between Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This series which will be launched in 2017 will showcase through videos and a report, the philanthropic journeys of some of the most generous, strategic and innovative philanthropists in India.

DaanUtsav or The Joy of Giving Week started on 2 October. In a four-part series, Mint examines the changes and developments in the sector, speaks to philanthropists and discusses how and why they give. We also look at how donations, even small ones, have the potential to change lives.



You really want to be doing things that make a difference: Ratan Tata

Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata on why poverty alleviation is key to his philanthropy and why access to natural resources is important to improve lives


Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata. Photo: Reuters

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd, served as chairman of the Tata group from 1991 till 2012. He continues to head the group’s charitable trusts. The group’s philanthropic initiatives are wide ranging and have evolved with the changing economic conditions of the country. Starting with building institutions of repute to hospitals, to research facilities for the socioeconomic integration of the marginalized communities, the group’s social engagement has been moulded and influenced by the family values of the Tatas. He talks about why poverty alleviation is key to his philanthropy, how his grandmother influenced him about how to stimulate the wealthy to give more, why access to natural resources is important to improve lives and the India Philanthropy Initiative. Edited excerpts from an interview conducted by Bridgespan in partnership with Mint:

How did you start your philanthropic journey?

I grew up in a family that was driven by philanthropy. My grandmother with whom we spent a great deal of time—she brought us up because my parents were separated—influenced me. We were steeped into philanthropy, whether it would be for the household staff or the person on the street. She was in fact for a period of time, the chairperson of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. We grew up in that aura of giving back to the people or alleviating misery if we could. Formally I became involved with philanthropy when I became a trustee of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust.

Were there people or incidents or experiences that you used to inform your approach to philanthropy, the formal version of it?

As a young man growing up, it was the environment that I spoke of, which set the pace and the tone of my journey of how one makes contributions to make a difference.

How is the Sir Ratan Tata Trust changing from its old avatar?

We look at our trusts collectively. The bigger ones undertook projects of philanthropy which were very far reaching in those days, be it a cancer hospital or a hotel that would be open to Indians or donations in the interest of tuberculosis. My grandmother gave away all the homes she and her husband had all over India so that sanatoriums for consumptive people, who needed to be isolated, could be made or old people’s homes could be set up. And then a fair amount of philanthropy was in the form of alleviating individual hardships, such as funds for treatment or surgery. We give much more than we did in those days but we are trying to be relevant. We are trying to participate in research for cancer, for diabetes, getting institutes in place to make the treatments affordable and reachable to the common man, looking at agricultural inputs that alleviate poverty in a rural community.

What has led to this shift broadly?

I can’t say that there was a motivator that was defined. For example, one of the big changes has been combating malnutrition today among infants. Just the fact that we are losing so many children in India at infancy. It took only a few weeks of research to realize that we couldn’t do that without involving the mother, who is also malnutritioned. We also found out very fast that we couldn’t really do much unless we focused on hygiene and sanitation. It become a holistic activity. We undertook pilot projects in eight districts across multiple states to work out the systems for this and it’s been a real eye-opener. We have received tremendous support from the state government whom we were working with.

Any advice for a philanthropist thinking about doing problem solving?

The only advice I would give is there is a lot of money that is probably less effectively used or employed because someone has not done enough research on what the problems are. One of the changes we made is that we are no longer a purely grant-giving philanthropic organization. We moved from there into being involved ourselves in some of the projects that we have, we manage them ourselves or jointly with an NGO (non-governmental organization) but not only through an NGO.

In the past, we would support an NGO for eight years or 10 years and then move those funds and allocate in another place. You would assume that this community by now would be self-sustaining. But when you withdrew your funds, the NGO collapsed, the community collapsed and you become the most hated person or hated organization there is. Sustainability in development has been a new call and we realize that communities don’t need handouts—they need prosperity and dignity. So our grants today, wherever we give them, put sustainability as one of the mileposts. I mean as far as possible, the idea is to make the community self-sustaining and have the dignity which I think everybody wants.

How do you measure your success ?

I think to a great extent it is about trying to establish and understanding what the real problems are. You have got to define your goals effectively.

What characterizes a professionalized NGO?

I can’t answer that particularly but sometimes it’s not scale. Very often an NGO tends to forget the traditional outlooks of a community and ignore it, so that what they try to do—however well intentioned—doesn’t work.

What is your assessment of the current state of CSR (corporate social responsibility) in India? And what needs to be done to improve it?

I have a sort of philosophical view. The CSR funds have to come from somewhere. I think there would be a fair amount of abuse of these funds and the government will have to do some regulation to make sure that these are effectively used. It would not be a bad thing if the government had defined X number of causes to which you can officially give these funds, which would work for rural prosperity. I think even if large projects, a public works projects, were funded in this way, there is nothing wrong in that but the government may have to define what they are. CSR could become an avenue for innovative thinking on how you can improve the quality of life, and it could be a very powerful tool—or it could be wasted.

How do you see the state of philanthropy in India?

I think the new type of philanthropy that we talked about, that is looking at making donations or making funds available in far-reaching terms, is starting to happen. But a large amount of philanthropy is in the more traditional forms—maybe to build temples or hospitals, not so concerned about what it actually does, but that edifices are created because that establishes that you did A or B or C. I think India has to move like other countries into a more sophisticated form of philanthropy which makes a difference and is designed to make a difference rather than just creating edifices.

Do you have a philosophy of philanthropy?

If I put it into one sentence, I think you really want to be doing things that make a difference. If you cannot make a difference, if it’s just water trickling through a tap or leading through a drainage system, it’s wasteful.

Have you changed because of the philanthropy? How has it affected you?

Yes I think so. I was the chairman of the trust while I was chairman of Tata Sons. I may have chaired the trust but I didn’t spend as much time or have had much depth of involvement as I do today and that’s been an eye-opener. I have become more sensitive to the pain and the suffering that exists. I am more involved with where we should do more and where we should be bolder in terms of the amount of money that we allocate. And it also made me more sensitive to the likely abuse of funds.

The Bridgespan Group, an adviser and resource for mission-driven leaders and organizations, in partnership with Mintinterviewed several philanthropists across India to trace their journeys and share their learnings—Conversations with Remarkable Givers: India.



A Parsi boy affiliated to the XYZ hands a pair of slippers to a visitor. Photo: Special Arrangement

A Parsi boy affiliated to the XYZ hands a pair of slippers to a visitor. Photo: Special Arrangement

  • In three hours, 100 children tap 21 Parsi colonies, collect more than 12,000 running shoes for bunions for underprivileged kids

A few days ago, 100 Parsi children between the ages of 5 and 15 set out to make a difference to the lives of underprivileged people in the city, and in the process, set an example of giving.

The children, affiliated to Xtremely Young Zoroastrians (XYZ), a voluntary organisation, collected old and unused shoes from homes in 21 Parsi colonies across the city, from Colaba to Goregaon. Between 9.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m., they collected 12,199 pairs of shoes, which were given to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Hamara Footpath, Goonj, Angel Xpress Foundation, Oscar Foundation and others, to be distributed to those in need.

“We are a small community, but wanted to make a big impact on the city,” says Hoshaang Gotla, founder of XYZ Foundation.

The collection drive was termed ‘XYZ Stepping Forward’, under the organisation’s MAD (Make A Difference) initiative. Apart from the shoes, the drive also included collecting money from Parsi residents, which will go towards buying football stockings and studs for the Organisation for Social Change Awareness and Responsibility (OSCAR) Foundation. The NGO addresses community issues in the Ambedkar Nagar slum through football.

XYZ also plans to raise money for the Jaipur Foot. It aims to donate at least 10 to 20 prosthetic legs to those in need.

The rationale for the event was simple. “All it takes is one pair of shoes to make a difference. A lot of people suffer foot illnesses or have no footwear, whereas the middle and upper middle classes have at least one or two extra pairs at home,” says Mr. Gotla. The idea was for the Parsis to initially tap into their own homes for shoes, as this would be relatively easier to start with.

The drive involved running an advertising campaign in the community newspaper, Parsi Times, which gave XYZ the space for free. The campaign had three components. The first was ‘Donate’, which spelt out details such as where, when, and to whom the shoes could be given. Children from the community also made posters which they stuck in their respective housing societies. Messages were also sent on social media.

The second component was ‘Recycle’, which urged families to give away shoes they were not using, while the third was ‘Boot Aapo’, which translates from Gujarati to ‘give your shoes’.

Once the shoes were collected, they were sorted by volunteers into categories like, ‘male,’ ‘female’ and ‘child’, and packed into bags along with labels indicating the number of shoes in each category. These were then transported through tempos to various NGOs, and where the numbers were large, to the godown of NGO, Goonj, in Mira Road. The response was so overwhelming that storage became an issue. “We had to hire a second godown, and two more tempos,” says Mr. Gotla.Goonj, for instance, needed the shoes for distribution all over the city, and has told XYZ it can handle larger numbers for use across the country.

The drive also faced some obstacles. Children tire easily, plus this was exam season. The result was that only 100 children came out with their parents and friends to take the drive forward. But those who did, say it was transformative. The experience made 13-year-old Riyan Karbhari “very happy”. When he went out to collect shoes from seven buildings at the Salsette Parsi Colony in Andheri with his friends, there were the odd residents who slammed the door in their face or simply refused to part with shoes or money. “We did feel bad, but we didn’t let that spoil our mood,” says Riyan. His mother Nazneen, was happy about the leadership qualities the drive had instilled in her son and the other children. “During the conversation back at home, the children were saying things like, ‘Every time I want a new pair of shoes I’ll stop to think about whether I need to buy it’.”

The children also had to do a good bit of planning and execution in the stipulated three hours. “They had the opportunity to interact with various types of people and age groups, which gave them a different perspective.”

Pakzin Khodaiji, 13, who was also involved in the drive, said she had spread the word among her friends in school. “I feel very nice that I am helping someone lead a better life,” she said.

This may just be the beginning, though. Under phase-II of the drive, XYZ has set itself a target of nearly 60,000 shoes. On December 17 this year, XYZ will have children, parents and volunteers fan out to 60 schools across the city, and aim to collect at least 1,000 pairs from each school. And if it’s shoes this year, XYZ will look at extending the ‘giving’ to one new item in every successive year for people in need.

It’s not difficult, says Mr. Gotla.“This is not an XYZ initiative only. We want to be a catalyst for change. It just takes a little effort. People have not just shoes, but blankets, soaps and even umbrellas to spare. All they need to do is reach out.”