The concept of Daana, a Sanskrit word that denotes generosity, charity, or donating, is as old as time in Indian spiritual tradition.
The Upanishads, one of Hinduism's philosophical texts, outlines three guiding principles for life: Damyata (Self-restraint), Datta (Give generously) and Dayadhvam (Be compassionate).
In modern India, a new generation of philanthropists are emerging as key stakeholders in the country's efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. New-age foundations are driven by philanthropists who want to use their privilege to drive large-scale social impact.
One such not-for-profit organization is the Raju Vegesna Foundation (RVF), founded by Raju Vegesna, a visionary entrepreneur. A drive to honour legacy and a high sensitivity to social inequities was what led to the establishment of RVF.
The Raju Vegesna Foundation does sterling work in areas of healthcare, education, and community initiatives globally. The Foundation hit the headlines when it built the world's largest standalone dining complex, which serves free meals to 120,000 people daily in Tirumala.
The Foundation's stated mission is "To serve humanity and help create equitable societies by enabling access to education, clean water and health".
RVF RO plants provide safe, purified drinking water across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in institutions ranging from court complexes to temples to colleges. No mean feat, considering that more than 163 million people in India do not have access to clean water.
In Tirupati, home of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple that is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites, the Foundation's work is visible in many ways. This temple town sees an average of 30 to 40 million visitors every year.
The Raju Vegesna Foundation helped set up the TTD Annadanam complex, which serves food to nearly 100,000 people daily and is the largest pilgrimage dining hall. The facility, which covers an area of 150,000 square feet, was inaugurated by the then President of India, Pratibha Patil.
The RVF also helps Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, the trust that runs the temple, supply purified drinking water to pilgrims with the help of RO plants. This has helped the TTD ban packaged drinking water in the town, thus reducing a major source of plastic pollution.
The Foundation has identified specific areas of focus which it believes will benefit the country in terms of enhancing employability, improving the quality of life as well as the health of India's citizens. The Foundation has set up the Venkateswara Institute of Relief and Rehabilitation for Disabled (VIRRD) at Dwaraka Tirumala.
From its inception, the Raju Vegesna Foundation has been investing in impact-driven solutions that create systemic change. RVF has help build schools, enabling thousands of children to have a better life. The Foundation's initiatives help students from poor and backward communities with scholarships and grants for books. High-performing students across communities are given medals and incentives.
The Vegesna family's philanthropic work in the field on education has made a mark globally, too. The Raju and Bala Vegesna Foundation's Teacher Excellence Program at The Harker School, San Jose, awards grants to teachers to further their teaching skills.
The program, launched in 2015, has sent many educators to seminars, study-abroad programs and enabled them to make use of educational opportunities. Grants are awarded to individuals and to groups and are used for entry fees and travel expenses.
An article on The Harker School website quotes Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, as saying: "The Raju and Bala Vegesna Foundation Teacher Excellence Program allows our faculty to 'dream big' and take their ideas about how the academic experience for the students can be further enhanced, and make those ideas a reality."
RVF founder Raju Vegesna has deep experience founding and leading technology companies around the world. Today, he leverages that entrepreneurial experience to lead the digital transformation of India and support emerging technologists globally from his home in the Silicon Valley.
Raju Vegesna currently serves as the Global Chairman and Managing Director of Sify Technologies. He is also Managing Partner of Sify Ventures, a seed fund that supports US entrepreneurs through capital, mentorship, and access to the Indian market. The Fund is an essential element of Vegesa's broader vision to create a vibrant technology ecosystem in the US and India.
Vegesna was honored by the U.S Congress and California Legislature and City of Los Angeles at the 25th Asia Society Southern California Conference for exemplary dedication to strengthening the relationship between the US and Asia.