Charity is ingrained in Indian spirituality from time immemorial. In order to support the community and balance the economic gap between various groups, philanthropic initiatives are essential that include generous donors and community members working collaboratively at the grassroots level. Philanthropy is also critical to the long-term viability and expansion of higher education. For both public and private institutions, philanthropy has assumed a significant role by facilitating the development of infrastructure, generating investment for research and providing financial support for underprivileged students.
Gupta brothers, Vineet Gupta and Pranav Gupta are associated with philanthropic ventures for a long time. They have long been contributing to the community by being involved in different charitable endeavors. Vineet Gupta along with other entrepreneurs and philanthropists conceived the idea of Ashoka University in 2007. Ashoka enrolled its first batch of students in 2014. They also established Plaksha University, with other like-minded philanthropists, which began operations in 2021. Both institutions bring together a large number of donors as founders providing the ideal illustration of how collective philanthropy in higher education can help build outstanding institutions.
“Some of the best universities in the US like Harvard, Yale and Princeton are built on a model of collective philanthropy of a large number of people. The spirit of collective fosters a mission to build something truly outstanding and an institution that serves society. Ashoka University is perhaps India’s first academic institution built on a collective philanthropy model and dedicated to fostering strong societal impact. We hope these institutions can inspire another 100 universities to come up in India in the next two to three decades.” asserts Vineet Gupta, Ashoka University and Plaksha University’s Co-Founder.
There is a definite need for more such initiatives that can be aimed at building long-lasting institutions with a positive social impact. The lack of knowledge and information on India’s philanthropy hinders rational decision making and constructive discourse. The Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka advocates for strong philanthropic goals and acknowledges their role for the commitment towards economic, social, political and cultural development of India.
Plaksha University was created with the combined charity of more than 60 donors and its community is steadily expanding. These philanthropic contributions to Plaksha support building of infrastructure and research. Plaksha advocates for building solutions to social problems and help students from underprivileged backgrounds. “We use information, discussion and collaboration to promote and empower strategic philanthropy across India. Every contribution, no matter how little, helps our institution fulfill its promise to promote the development of a new generation of strong leaders who will tackle the difficult problems confronting the world,” highlights Pranav Gupta, Co-Founder of Ashoka and Plaksha Universities.
The idea of philanthropy to support education is deeply rooted in the Gupta family. The CL Gupta Family Trust was formed in 1977 by Shri Charanji Lal Gupta, grandfather of Vineet and Pranav Gupta. It started with a modest goal to support the college education of individuals coming from poor backgrounds. Over 45 years, it has assisted over 200 persons in the cities of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali to fulfill their higher education goals. Other than this venture, Sh. J. D. Gupta, father of Pranav and Vineet, established Karuna Charitable Society in April, 2006. Karuna Charitable Society was initiated with the mission statement – ‘For those in despair, Karuna brings hope.’ Members of the Society spend their time to serve the community, particularly the less privileged groups in society. Along with Pranav Gupta and Vineet Gupta who are significant members of the Society, J.D. Gupta serves as the President and is the organization’s principal motivator and guiding spirit.
Pranav Gupta, Vice President of Karuna Charitable Society states, “We look for possibilities to serve as many widows and talented children from underprivileged backgrounds. All people in need are approached and given financial support so they may maintain their lives and achieve financial independence. Over the past 16 years, we have worked to improve the lives of 600 motivated students from low-income families and 400+ widows.”
By providing financial support to the disadvantaged groups, Gupta brothers hope to improve society by inspiring people to launch any small business that would enable them to become self-sufficient. Students who are academically talented and belong to poor families with monthly incomes of under INR 10,000 are provided with financial assistance by the Karuna Charitable Society. These scholarships enable the nation’s future generation to continue their education after completing their 10+2 in order to prepare them for productive employment. Along with that, the widows from low-income families get monthly monetary help from them, often for a period of 5-7 years. They receive emotional support from the society in addition to financial aid as they interact with widows who are in a similar situation and share their own sorrow.
“Our experience has shown that providing financial assistance and compassionate care may significantly lessen the grief of the poor widows and aid in their recovery. Again, the students we assist in completing their professional education have a significant number of success stories. They have respectable jobs that allow them to provide for their family and siblings. These youngsters have an impact on the development of our nation,” shares Vineet Gupta. “We believe that Philanthropy has great potential not only to help educate millions of Indian but also help build high quality institutions. We feel encouraged that the appetite for philanthropy has grown significantly in the last two decades in India. The CSR act of the government has also brough in corporate philanthropy. Traditionally Indian Philanthropy was targeted at building temples and places of worship. Philanthropy, today, can perhaps build great universities which are temples of modern India”