Bringing Entrepreneurial Philanthropy To India With A New X Prize

The launch of India-only X Prizes could help use the country’s massive resources to fix its massive problems.

The most effective way I know to drive philanthropy at a tremendous scale and develop long-term economic vitality through giving is by embracing a philosophy I call Entrepreneurial Philanthropy. At its core, Entrepreneurial Philanthropy is designed to support innovation that creates sustainable, thriving economies in communities with tremendous need.

The truth is, the most successful models in philanthropy are no different than those we apply in business. Entrepreneurs know that big, successful businesses rely on the size and scope of each market. I would never start a business that only reaches a potential market of 1,000 people, for example. Why should things be any different in philanthropy?

The first step is to identify problems that impact hundreds of millions—or even more—people who are in need. Then, as Entrepreneurial Philanthropists, we should set our sights on finding the smartest people who can help us overcome these huge challenges by creating ecosystems of economic development that stimulate long-term vitality. By focusing on the big issues of our world today, enlisting support and contributions from experts, and leveraging scalable solutions, we are able to address the core of each challenge and subsequently improve the health and well-being of an entire community, village, or town.

Instead of simply donating equipment to provide diagnostic health screenings in remote villages, for example, why not lease the equipment and train community members to become experts in a new field? This type of entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy will create new markets for remote diagnostic equipment and equip people in underserved communities with sustainable jobs—not to mention help deliver the medical expertise that these remote areas so desperately need.

There is no shortage of problems for entrepreneurial philanthropists to help solve. Ratan Tata, my brother Atul Jain, Paresh Ghelani, and I just announced the first country-specific X Prize for India and put up $6 million to fund it. Why? The nation has both substantial resources and grave problems within close proximity to each other, along with a population of more than one billion people. As such, India is an ideal locus for deploying the practice of entrepreneurial philanthropy.

X Prize’s mission is to generate radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Given India’s vast complexities and socio-economic disparities, we are enlisting the help of people in the region to help us identify the issues and solve the problems with their local ingenious ideas. Once the top 10 issues are identified, we will partner with the Indian government to tell us which ones we can tackle where we won’t get in their way—and they won’t get in ours. While ambitious, we anticipate the development of three Indian X Prizes to impart real change in a country with tremendous need.

In addition to entrepreneurial philanthropists’ innate desire to solve big problems, there is also a business benefit to the time and financial commitment involved. People today expect more from business leaders and put a tremendous trust in our ability to extend social good at a global scale. With social purpose outpacing design, innovation, and brand loyalty, consumers’ desire to support a good cause through purchasing decisions has intensified globally, according to Edelman’s latest Good Purpose study. Four out of five global consumers believe it is important for companies to make them aware of their efforts to address societal issues. Edelman concludes, as do I, that consumers have given us a license to lead and build the future performance of our companies on societal actions and profit—the two are not mutually exclusive.

There is a direct correlation between fulfilling peoples’ needs as successful entrepreneurs and as philanthropists. This is why the work of entrepreneurial philanthropists has a compounding impact that reverberates far beyond the reaches of charity, aid, and relief efforts. Money can certainly solve some of the world’s problems, but without an entrepreneurial bent it will only create short-lived solutions to long-term problems.