Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bharti's Mittal putting more money aside for education

Having helped with the transformation of India through the power of communication, Sunil Mittal, the founder of the country's largest mobile phone operator --- Airtel, is channeling his wealth towards education for poor children that has the power to change their destiny. Right now, Mittal's philanthropy through the Bharti Foundation has touched the lives of 30,000 underprivileged children and the telecom czar has pledged to put more money aside to expand this number to at least 100,000. In 2000, when the telecom sector was in the midst of a revolution, Mittal realised that connecting communities in small towns and villages through mobiles was not enough. They needed the power of education. And the Bharti Foundation was set up to make this possible.

In an interview with PTI, Mittal said: "The focus of the foundation is education for the poor in the villages. Nearly 30,000 students are already there in 236 schools. We are determined to take it to 1,00,000. This will be the single largest intervention by any corporate in the history of this country". Mittal has already donated Rs. 200 crore (Rs. 2 billion) towards various educational initiatives.

The first generation entrepreneur, who has been ranked among the top philanthropists in the country, feels that money is not going to be a limiting factor for his initiative. "Whenever money is required, we will put in cash", he said. Mittal, who started his business as a bicycle manufacturer and is now leading the over US$ 8 billion business conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, is also ready to part with his stake in the company for charity. "We will put in cash or (dilute) stake" whenever required, he added.

The company he founded is the largest mobile phone operator in terms of subscribers in a country where mobile phones are seen as a tool for economic empowerment. Everyone from fishermen to street vendors use mobile phones across the country, thus gaining access to information such as the market price they need for growing their business.
At Bharti Enterprises, there is absolute belief in education being the most important tool for social and economic development in India. This belief is what led to the launch of the Satya Bharti School Programme in 2006. Currently, 236 Satya Bharti Primary Schools are operational, reaching out to approximately 30,000 children across the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Of these 236 schools, 49 schools are adopted government-run schools, reaching out to about 6,000 children across the Neemrana and Amer blocks of Rajasthan.

Mittal, a recipient of the country's third highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan, believes that this initiative will help him give back to the society what the society gave to him.

Source: The Economic Times, July 18, 2010

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