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Foundation to help society

Mumbai, Nov. 17: Mukesh Ambani is finally revealing his philanthropic side.

The country’s richest person today announced plans to establish a Reliance Foundation that he hopes to turn into “one of the foremost professional philanthropic organisations in the world”.

The foundation will start with a corpus of Rs 500 crore — which could rapidly swell to Rs 1,000 crore — and focus on affordable high-quality healthcare, vocational education, rural development and urban renewal projects, and the preservation of India’s ancient art and culture.

The initiative will pitchfork Ambani into a growing club of corporate philanthropists who draw inspiration from the $10-billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and value investor Warren Buffett. Closer home, there is the $70-billion Tata Group’s clutch of charitable trusts that control 65.8 per cent of the group’s holding company, Tata Sons.

“The Tatas and Birlas are well known for their social initiatives. This seems to be a step in that direction. Ambani has chosen well to focus on the economy’s two pressing needs — education and healthcare,” said consultancy Grant Thornton’s head of corporate social responsibility Kenneth Khaiko.

Plans are being drawn up for a myriad social initiatives spanning from a school dedicated to Bharat Natyam — a classical dance form that Nita Mukesh Ambani excels in — to vocational training for thousands of carpenters and plumbers.

It will also establish primary healthcare centres in villages and infrastructure facilities in villages to reduce migration to urban centres and even a small rain harvesting project, said a Reliance source.

The foundation will be run by professionals from within and outside Reliance and is separate from the Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation that also focuses on healthcare and education.

Ambani’s vision to set up a philanthropic organisation of size could be an attempt to leave an enduring legacy, said corporate watchers.

Ambani plans to use Reliance’s strengths of “strategic planning, meticulous detailing and flawless execution on a large format” to give wings to his philanthropic endeavour. So it’s not just about writing cheques but seeing a project through — from inception to execution.

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