Hemendra Kothari will not forget May 21, 2009. The billionaire investment banker recounts the day villagers along the Sundarban forests awoke to Cyclone Aila. Over the next 48 hours, the tropical storm wreaked havoc, leaving more than 300 dead, 8,000 missing and close to 2.3 million people affected. “It was a humanitarian disaster. There was just so much at stake, with fears of outbreak of disease, and we had no idea of the impact on wildlife in the Sundarban Tiger Reserve,” said Kothari. “I just had to do something, it wasn’t even a question.”
Sixty-four-year-old Kothari’s NGO, the Wildlife Conservation Trust, which had been working in the area with the state forest department and park officials, sprang into action. It provided emergency funding and resources such as food, water, medicines and tarpaulin sheets to stranded villagers in some of the most isolated and dangerous areas.
In 2008, he had set up the Hemendra Kothari Foundation, a charitable trust that focuses on education and healthcare. It maintains many of the Kothari family’s projects that includes the D.N. Kothari Hospital in South Mumbai. But wildlife conservation is Kothari’s true passion and contribution to society. He founded the Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2002. One of its key functions is to generate alternative skills and employment for villagers in forest areas; the Trust is already working with more than 17 national parks and reserves.
Kothari belongs to the fourth generation in a family of stockbrokers. In 1975, he ventured into investment banking by setting up DSP Financial Consultants Ltd. He amassed a fortune by selling his stake in the firm (his net worth is about $860 million).
“Hemendra Kothari, given the tremendous business acumen he has in terms of knowing how to build an institution, is among the few people in the country with the opportunity to make a transformative impact on anything he is passionate about,” says Amit Chandra, managing director of Bain Capital and board member of GiveIndia.
Going forward, Kothari has set aside nearly Rs. 50 crore of his personal wealth for venture capital investments to help upcoming entrepreneurs. “There are new entrepreneurs who want to start a business, specifically in the social space, and require capital. I want to help these start-ups,” he says.
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(This story appears in the 31 December, 2010 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
I have already commented about the the activities in various parts of the country. In my opinion conducting awareness camps,rallies,health camps,supporting tribals,raising funds for forest dept. is definitely important but at the same time meticulous monitoring and supervision is also essential to guess the path of the impact. As we are all the agent of CHANGE it is necessary to visualise the UNFELT NEED of the community and the system and application of people freidnly solutions to convert unfelt need into felt need to save the flora and fauna ultimately a way to save mother Earth. I once again apriciate the effort of visionary Shri Hemendra Kothari and others contributing and working for the noble cause.on Sep 18, 2013
I have been listening wildlife conservation and public health activities from the villagers around the national parks and from officials during my official visits to areas public health officer but very recently I came to know such massive work by the foundation. I am very much impressed for great concern and true passion for wild life conservation and preserving the culture of the tribals and also upliftment.As I am a wildlife lover and public health specialist served the Govt. of Maharastra for more than 25 years I will be very happy to work for such noble cause.on Sep 14, 2013