Meet Anji Reddy, the philanthropist
E. Kumar Sharma March 4, 2008January 25: The Board of Directors of Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, one of India’s largest pharmaceuticals companies, is meeting at ITC Kakatiya Hotel. It is a typically pleasant Hyderabad afternoon. But Dr Reddy’s Chairman Kallam Anji Reddy is not there. He is at the Taj Krishna, 3 km away, sipping coffee, leafing through some papers. “I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day affairs of the company,” he says, “and spend more than half my time on philanthropic activities.’’
And it’s not just time that he invests. Reddy also gives away the over Rs 2 crore per annum he receives as salary from his job at the company he founded 24 years ago. “I have given away almost all the remuneration I have received,” says the 67-year-old scientist-entrepreneur.
The bulk of this money has gone to fund initiatives to alleviate hunger, create livelihoods, provide education and access to safe drinking water and pull back children from hazardous industries. His company is also funding an initiative to promote the study of science in the country so that independent India can produce a Nobel laureate in one of the pure sciences (C.V. Raman, the last Indian national to win the prize, lived in British India).
So, how did the man who made his fortune in the ultra-competitive world of the global pharma business and whose first love is still science, morph into one of India’s largest givers? He says it’s a desire driven by the need to do what he wants to do the most now: give back to society.
A hands-on philanthropist
Like many other big givers, he is extremely reluctant to discuss money. Business Today had to piece together the broad figures from individuals and organisations involved in his philanthropic activities. “Philanthropy is not about giving away a cheque; for me, it involves taking up an issue and solving it single-handedly.”
He founded Dr Reddy’s Foundation in 1996 to pursue causes close to his heart. The Foundation is particularly active in the field of creating livelihoods. Its initiative, called Livelihood Advancement Business School or LABS, has, so far, trained over 130,000 youngsters with skills suited for entry-level jobs in sectors such as hospitality, ITES and customer relations.
Reddy says each of the causes he promotes was triggered by often unrelated issues. He recalls reading a sign in the bathroom of Imperial Hotel in Tokyo about 10 years ago which said: “This water is perfectly potable.”That set him thinking about how to make pathogen-free water available to millions of Indians who do not have access to it. He found the solution in WaterHealth International, a US-based company with patented technology in this field. Happily for Reddy, the company was in financial distress and looking for a white knight to bail it out. Reddy’s holding company, Dr Reddy’s Holdings Private Limited, invested $1 million in 2005 and revived it. The company is now installing water million. “When he thinks of something, he thinks scale. In the case of water, he wants to eliminate the problem of poor access of safe drinking water. He also believes that technology is the enabler that will help connect the dots,” says G.V. Prasad, Reddy’s son-in-law and Vice Chairman & CEO of Dr Reddy’s. Adds G. Anuradha Prasad, Reddy’s daughter and Managing Trustee of Dr Reddy’s Foundation: “If you go to him with an idea, he is very receptive, gets completely involved and is always ready with suggestions on how it should be implemented.”
In the late ’90s, then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was keen that India Inc. do more for society, and this led to the formation, in 1999, of Naandi, a not-for-profit institution that counts Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman & MD, Mahindra & Mahindra; Isher Judge Ahluwalia, economist and Chairperson, International Food Policy Research Institute; B. Ramalinga Raju, Chairman, Satyam Computer Services; G.M. Rao, Chairman, GMR Group; and K.S. Raju, Chairman Nagarjuna Group; among others, as board members. Headed by Reddy, Naandi implements its own programmes. “Following the success of our initiative in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh (WaterHealth is the technology partner) two years ago to provide 12-15 litres of pathogen-free water for just Re 1, we broad-based it in August last year to include treatment of flouride, arsenic, pesticides and chemicals in partnership with Tata Projects,” says Naandi CEO Manoj Kumar. A user fee, not exceeding 10 paise per litre, is levied for maintenance and upkeep of the plant and equipment. This project has already been rolled out in 10 to 12 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab.
In all these initiatives, Reddy has taken pains to put in place structures that can make them self-sustaining. Says B. Ramalinga Raju, Chairman of Satyam Computer Services, who himself is quite well-known for his philanthropic activities: “He is bringing his institutionbuilding skills to the social arena.”Reddy has committed to contribute 10 per cent of a corpus of Rs 100 crore over 10 years that will make the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute self-sustaining. The institute is the only one in India and one of the few in the world that uses stem cells for corneal reconstruction (for restoring eyesight). It has treated over 500 such cases over the last five years, the highest anywhere in the world. Besides this committed amount, Reddy has been regularly contributing (he won’t reveal the exact figure) to the various initiatives and programmes run by L.V. Prasad Eye Institute. Says Dr G.N. Rao, a noted ophthalmologist who heads the institute: “He is always there for us. We see him as one of the finest examples of individual and corporate giving.” Adds Satish Reddy, his son and MD & COO of Dr Reddy’s Laboratories: “Today, whatever the organisation (Dr Reddy’s) is doing is just a reflection of his personality."
Most of Reddy’s philanthropic initiatives are ventures that he or his family have funded out of personal money. In some cases, this has been supplemented with donations from Dr Reddy’s and other large companies and individuals. Now, he is thinking ahead, putting in place an institutionalised structure and corpus to keep these activities going. It’s early days yet, but he is considering transferring all or a part of his 10 per cent stake in Dr Reddy’s, which is valued at around Rs 1,000 crore, to the Kallam Anji Reddy Foundation (KAR Foundation), which he plans to set up soon. He is still working out the details, but says this new foundation, once set up and funded, will provide people with access to all the key unmet healthcare needs (from common cold to cancer). The structure he has in mind could be like the Tatas where part of the shares are held in a trust. “It is still early,” he says. When that happens, he will have set another example for others to follow.