For Tej Kohli, philanthropy involves investing in what you believe in. Philanthropy is not just about providing financial support to worthy causes; it is about helping to direct the programmes and projects that can help to make a difference to such initiatives.
Tej Kohli’s philosophy is that those who have the ability to create great wealth have a duty to help those who are less able to do so. However, successful philanthropy is, in many ways, similar to successful business: having the right processes and people to ensure that the philanthropic investment has the greatest impact.
"One of the aims of the Foundation, and something I hold very dear, is to nurture the age-old traditions of charity, and social help. I want every person with whom I come into contact, whether they are students at the Foundation or senior executives in my businesses, to understand the purpose and position of philanthropy and social responsibility in the 21st century. Success should not be achieved – or celebrated – in isolation – Tej Kohli"
It is for this reason that Tej, along with his wife Wendy, founded the Tej Kohli Foundation in 2002. The Foundation, entirely funded by Tej Kohli, is focused on making donations which have a measurable and sustainable impact in India (his birthplace), in Costa Rica (Wendy’s birthplace), and in the United Kingdom (where the family now lives). Through the Foundation, Tej and Wendy are committed to fighting poverty, ignorance and illness through human intervention across the globe.
In particular, Tej Kohli is focused on philanthropy projects relating to restoring sight. India has 7.8 million people that suffer from blindness – approximately 20 per cent of the world’s blind population. Corneal blindness is one of the most common causes of blindness in India, and it is thought that 4.8 million blind Indians – including 2.9 million children under the age of 12 – could be cured through having corneal transplants.
The Foundation has an open-ended commitment to the Niramaya Hospital in Gurgaon, Haryana and has also launched a mobile corneal transplant unit which will operate in the National Capital Region of India. Since 2007, the programme has already helped 1,000 people and with the infrastructure and procedures now in place, aims to help a further 1,000 every year. For those that are unable to travel, the Foundation has provided the means for mobile ophthalmology units to travel to rural, poorly-equipped areas with the latest in modern ophthalmological equipment. In addition to funding cataract surgery and the transplant operations, the Foundation’s corneal transplant programme aims to raise awareness about the issues involved, facilitate future transplants and popularise corneal donation, which is currently the biggest barrier to successful treatment of greater numbers of people.
"The gaps can be filled by those with the desire and ability to make a difference – Tej Kohli"
Tej Kohli understands that resources are limited, and there is only so much that can be done by government services. However, the gaps can be filled by those with the desire and ability to make a difference. Philanthropists are driven to support charitable endeavours because they recognise that everyone has potential, but this potential can only be realised with the right conditions in place. Bringing out the best in individuals, and nurturing their talents, is essential to successful philanthropy. Large foundations have the same bureaucracy problems that face any large organisation: balance the act of carrying out meaningful activity with recording that meaningful activity through appropriate… reporting without too much paperwork. When financial support has to pass through several layers of organisation to get to the people that need help, it is very inefficient.
For this reason, the Tej Kohli Foundation prefers to work directly with existing community organisations that are already on the ground or setting up small grass-roots groups to deliver philanthropy services. It is a method that has proved tremendously successful in Costa Rica, where the Foundation works to provide food, support and education scholarships to under-privileged children through local established partners and its own grass-roots organisations, complementing government services. Governments and great foundations have achieved so much in halting the spread of fatal diseases, improving education, improving infrastructure and sustaining the cultural life of communities around the world. The Tej Kohli Foundation believes that more can be done to work in partnership with smaller organisations to ensure that philanthropic investment is making as big an impact as possible.
Please note, the Tej Kohli Foundation does not accept any donations from third parties and is entirely funded by Tej Kohli and the intellectual capital that is provided by the Kohli Ventures team. Further information is available at: www.tejkohlifoundation.com