Gururaj Deshpande delivers first American Bazaar Philanthropy Lecture

‘India can be a beacon of hope’.

By The American Bazaar Staff

WASHINGTON, DC: An idea could be a great idea, but it doesn’t have an impact unless it is directed to solve problems in the world, Indian American technology and philanthropy pioneer Gururaj Deshpande said.

Gururaj Deshpande
Gururaj Deshpande

Delivering the inaugural American Bazaar Philanthropy Dialogue at the Washington Plaza Hotel here on Saturday, he said entrepreneurship is all about “learning to unknot problems of the world.”

In his 40-minute speech and question-answer session, Deshpande touched up on a variety of topics and areas, including shared prosperity—which was the broad theme of the lecture—entrepreneurship and innovation.

Explaining his own philanthropic philosophy, Deshpande said creating opportunities was one of the first things he focused on at the beginning of his philanthropic journey 15 years ago.

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“The first thing we wanted to want to do was to see if we could make more opportunities available in the US,” he said.

Getting people to be excited about what they are doing and taking that initiative to making things happen seems the way to bridge the prosperity gap, he said. “Giving people [an] opportunity to become passionate about something is the essence of social innovation.”

He also talked about the necessity of marrying the best-practices from the for-profit and non-profit worlds, especially bringing execution excellence of the former and the compassion of the latter.

“Execution excellence is absolutely [a] given in the for-profit sector, but the for-profit sector can lose in choosing the top lines and the bottom line, can lose their compassion,” he said. “They can lose concern for the people, for environment.”

In contrast, Deshpande said, “on the nonprofit side you absolutely have the compassion, but unfortunately most of the time the people you are trying to help don’t have the ability to pay.” Because there is no “natural feedback loop” many nonprofits tend to cater to their donors over the long run, he said.

The United States, he said, is the worst culprit in this and “every intervention is gold-plated” in this country.

On the other hand, a lot of innovation is happening in India because of three reasons, he said.

“You have execution excellence. There is one percent of the population that is globally very competitive. You have the huge problem staring right in front of your eyes—millions of people who cannot read and write, millions of people living in slums, the health care; the problems are right in front of your eyes. The third thing is the freedom to do whatever you want to do,” he said.

Because of these reasons, “scalable low-cost solutions will come from India.” When that happens it will bring hope to people. Describing “hope” as a national asset, Deshpande said “India can be a beacon of hope.”

Indian Americans “can all be catalysts to what’s happening in India,” he said. “We can provide the financial support. We can provide the intellectual capital that you have. We can all help with your execution excellence.”

The American Bazaar Philanthropy Dialogue and Lecture featured a number of heavyweights from the Indian American philanthropy world.

Javad K. Hassan, Founder of the JKH Foundation, inaugurated the Philanthropy Lecture, the first of its kind in the US.

Hassan, the Chairman of the Virginia-based NeST Group, said the Lecture is “not going to be just an intellectual exercise, it will also be an occasion to highlight accomplishments and inspire more people to give to philanthropic causes.”

He added, “In the first edition, we’ve assembled some of the top stakeholders and leaders from within this community with the goal of opening dialogues to promote giving in both India and the United States. In my opinion, there is no better person to deliver the inaugural American Bazaar Philanthropy Lecture than Dr. Desh Deshpande, who has been a pioneer in this field.”

Prior to the Lecture, Wadhwani Foundation President and CEO Ajay Kela and Ekal President Vinod Jhunjhunwala spoke about the works of their organizations.

Earlier in the day, a number of prominent speakers addressed the Dialogue.

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