India Inc India Inc: Friday, 13 April 2012 11:17

The Social Capital with Vikas Pota - What giving really means?

Vikas Pota speaks to start-up expert Rajeeb Dey…

Rajeeb Dey is CEO of and co-founder of StartUp Britain.  

The Social Capital with Vikas Pota - What giving really means?1. Is giving important? Why?

Definitely. I think that if you’re blessed to be in a position to be able to help others, it is your duty to help those who may not be as fortunate as you. Giving, however, takes many forms and is not just financial – it can be your time as well.

2.  What charities do you personally support?

I support various charities in India, mainly Kolkata, with my parents such as the Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Dakshineswar Ramkrishna Sangha Adyapeath, among others. We also directly support a school based in the slums of Kolkata. These are all organisations that do a tremendous amount of social work in their community and run schools, orphanages and hospitals for the poor.

3.What was your first ever donation to a charity?

Probably to my temple in the UK, the London Sevashram Sangha, when I was about seven years old.

4. Do you have a focus on where you donate your money?

I generally financially support charities in India, especially Kolkata where my family are based, and support UK charities through my time by being on boards of trustees and volunteering. My focus in the UK is especially towards young people and education-related initiatives.

5. Which individuals stand out for their support to charitable causes?

Personally it’s my mother who stands out. She has instilled this sense of duty within both my sister and I and always said that we should give a percentage of our earnings regularly to charity and not live lives in excess and think about those around us. She regularly supports charities and would always prefer that rather than buying gifts for her birthday or Mothers Day, we donate that money to a good cause instead.

6.  What percentage of our income should we give to good causes?

I don’t think an arbitrary percentage is the right approach. I think it’s a very personal matter and more about what feels like a meaningful amount to you. As mentioned its not only about a financial commitment to good causes but always how you can offer your skills and time through volunteering.

7. How do you decide whom to donate to?

My family plays a big role in influencing my decisions as there are numerous charities, especially in India, where my family has a personal and existing relation. I have been to see the impact of their work first-hand and therefore predominantly support these initiatives.

8. When was the last time you volunteered for a cause?

I regularly volunteer my time for charities – mainly through my role on the boards of two charities. The first is the Phoenix Education Trust ( – a charity that promotes democratic education, whereby all stakeholders are engaged in shaping the education system.

Phoenix supported me when I was 17 years old to launch my own charity organisation called the English Secondary Students’ Association (ESSA), which worked to give students aged 11-19 a voice in their education. The organisation is incubated by Phoenix and, given their support for me, I have been on the board of trustees for a number of years.

The other is UnLtd – the foundation for social entrepreneurs. UnLtd has supported over 10,000 people to become social entrepreneurs. I am a trustee of the organisation and regularly take part in the various events and meetings. Once again, UnLtd backed me to launch ESSA and I felt it appropriate to give back in the form of my time to help the organisation continue with its fantastic work in backing other social entrepreneurs.

9.·Is corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charitable giving by companies a marketing gimmick?

I think it’s important to realise that businesses are businesses and that their primary objective is to maximise shareholder value and profit. Many enlightened corporates have seen the business benefit in CSR and there seems to be a trend to back projects which have both a social benefit through CSR and a long-term commercial benefit. Where the two interact effectively I think provides the best types of projects, as the incentives are more aligned to see them succeed. It is not purely altruistic and therefore the corporate is more likely to be fully engaged and want to continue to support the cause.

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.

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