Nilekani couple gifts Rs 50 crore to NCAER

19 Dec 2013

In what is one of the largest private gifts to an independent economics research organisation in the country Nandan and Rohini Nilekani have gifted Rs 50 crore (around $8.08 million) to the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) from their personal wealth.

The funds will be used to fund a new India Centre of the institution in the national capital along with furthering new research and knowledge capabilities at NCAER.
Nandan Nilekani currently chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India is a co-founder of Infosys Ltd and is also the president of NCAER’s governing body. His wife Rohini is a philanthropist and writer and has been investing towards various causes such as education environment and sanitation.
In 2011 the power couple had donated Bangalore-based Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) Rs 50 crore to fund the establishment of its School of Environment and Sustainability. Nilekani is one of the directors of IIHS. They have also given $5 million each to IIT-Bombay in 2002 and Yale University in 2008.


In August this year Rohini sold 570000 shares of Infosys for Rs 163 crore to further her philanthropic activities. In an interview to Business Standard she had said instead of setting up another foundation like ‘Arghyam’ which supports initiatives for safe water and sanitation she plans to use the money to support institutions working in the area of governance transparency data etc. These are some of the emerging areas where lots of innovative ideas are coming up and need early support she had said. “We have identified a few organisations. There are some think tanks along with some good research that needs to be encouraged.”


However it is unclear whether the Rs 50 crore for NCAER have come from Nandan’s personal wealth or from the Rs 163 crore Rohini derived from the sale of Infosys shares. In the interview Rohini had also said she had given away Rs 210 crore till date from her own personal money which doesn’t include Nandan’s.


Rohini’s recent investments have gone to institutions such as Parliamentary Research Service Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment or ATree Dakshin Foundation IndiaSpends Association for Democratic Reforms etc.


In a statement on Wednesday Nandan Nilekani said from its early days in the 1950s NCAER’s empirical research and data collection have contributed immensely to economic policy thinking in India. “Rohini and I are excited about contributing to a national institution of NCAER’s stature helping it build further on its durable legacy of almost six decades of service to the nation and supporting its rejuvenation in ways that will make it even more vibrant.”


The governing body of the institution includes Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani economist Surjit Bhalla banker Naina Lal Kidwai and economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram among others.


NCAER Director-General Shekhar Shah added the country needed institutions like it more than ever before. “India is grappling with hard policy choices challenges of implementation regulation and governance an uncertain macroeconomic environment and global transformation at a pace that is unprecedented. Mapping a sound course through this can make the difference between floundering and flourishing between attaining India’s vast potential and letting it slip away.”


Published in: Business Standard, December 19, 2013