This interview was first featured on www.indiaincorporated.com, where I write a column called The Social Capital
The Social Capital with Vikas Pota – What giving really means?
Vikas Pota speaks to Ravi Shankar Pandey from the world of information technology…
Ravi Shankar Pandey was the head of the UK Business Unit of NIIT, the global IT education services giant and has recently joined Rolta as their President for Europe and MD of their regional ops in Germany, Netherlands and UK.
1. Is giving important? Why?
Yes, it is very important if someone is in a capacity to do something beyond their regular job and contractual obligation. As long as the ability and desire to help others come naturally.
2. What charities do you personally support?
I would not like to go into details as there are quite a few but I support children’s charities like CRY. I also support national charities like Comic Relief.
I also try and be supportive and sponsor my executives on their charitable missions such as motorbike rides or long treks, both in India and in the UK.
3. What was your first ever donation to a charity?
It is quite a funny story that has stayed with me. I grew up in Jamshedpur in India where there were regular home visits by a leper in search of alms. As children our birthday gift would be some pocket money from the elders, which we would use to buy a cricket bat or a football. I remember one such birthday when I chose to give all my birthday money to this leper.
I am not sure why I did it and it certainly was not a lot of money. But from then he became a regular visitor and was even at my wedding years later.
4. Which individuals stand out for their support to charitable causes?
Among the well-known names there is of course Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who have devoted their time and billions to charitable causes. However, there are many, many unsung heroes who have been giving their money and time but are not in the public eye.
To me it is a bigger inspiration when people with far less means try to still give something back.
5. What percentage of our income should we give to good causes?
This is a very valid consideration. I think anything that does not pinch. Sacrifice is very different from giving, as that requires a higher being. For those with some limited aspirations to make a difference about 10 per cent of your savings could be a good start.
Muslims have the concept of zakaat, which is a great motivator. I think it also makes commercial sense as it ultimately encourages you to save.
6. What do you, personally, gain from contributing?
I feel thrilled by the pleasure it gives my family. My children love being involved and it is a great motivator to see the amount of pleasure they get.
7. How important is it to you that charities provide evidence of their impact?
It is very important to see that the money is used for a worthy cause. Our contributions may be small but accountability is important.
8. Have you taken part in any adventure events to raise money?
If playing cricket for CRY counts, then that is something we did last year. But besides that I am always keen to encourage people who want to take on adventurous missions for charity.
9. Should charitable donations be private?
Charity is a very personal thing. We as Indians are always encouraged not to talk about it too much and I find it quite corny to speak about it too much.
10.· Do you have a focus on where you donate money?
Children’s charities are close to my heart. I have small children of my own and like to contribute in whatever way I can.
Through these in-depth interviews with industry leaders, Vikas Pota asks charity-related questions that unearth the driving force behind their philanthropy and social responsibility.