|Several modern-day philanthropists and the foundations they created have shattered the stereotype of cautious and unimaginative check-writing that has dominated charitable giving over recent decades.
Founder & Chairman
Getting a (spicy) taste for Social Entrepreneurship
Back in 2002 I was a wet-behind-the-ears graduate, working crazy hours for UBS in Switzerland, trying to pay back my student loans. Focused on finishing my banking qualifications, I was also inspired to think about setting up an Indian restaurant. Zurich had very few Indian restaurants, unlike London. There were refugees and unemployed people in our church community, and I wanted to help them find work. So there was both an unserved need for Indian Cuisine as well as underutilised labour supply. This led to one of the toughest things I've done: recruiting a team, finding the first property, approaching hundreds of possible investors, setting up the first restaurant (all powered by my "C" grade, A-level German language skills).
We finally opened our flagship King's Kurry restaurant in January 2003. However, by December 2003 our financial results were not great; we had lost over £100,000. I was sleeping in the bath in the restaurant with no money for rent. Major shareholders wanted to cut their losses. But we were being given rave reviews and were booked out every weekend and even most week nights. The largest Swiss supermarket, "MIGROS", had also given encouragement by approaching us to design their microwave meals range. So we stuck in there, and the new ready-meals eventually started to hit the supermarket shelves in Switzerland and Germany from September 2005. Since the foundation of the company, we were motivated by social justice at both the local and international levels. Our company had publicly stated that we would give 10% of profits to charities in the Indian Subcontinent. We had supported several schools and orphanages, by digging wells and financing classrooms, as well as supporting MedAir with disaster relief during the Pakistan Earthquake. Our efforts were a drop in the ocean of need; but MIGROS were so enthusiastic when they heard about our example that they decided to give 1 million Swiss Francs (around £400,000) to schools and orphanages in India. By 2008, the company has grown from 1 restaurant to 7 outlets in Zurich, and our supermarket food has gone on to win prizes, available in over 650 Supermarkets in Europe.
Even with this commercial blossoming, looking back over the last seven years, the greatest success has to be discovering generous giving through sustainable social entrepreneurship. Perhaps it is more blessed to give than receive, whatever the form: ideas, time, expertise, energy, emotional support and hard cash. And in our case, we've made a difference to hundreds of children in India, out of the largesse of Swiss diners who were adventurous enough to develop tastes beyond fondue. Leveraging MIGROS, a much larger partner, with our modest example, was elating. This was surely one of the most satisfying and significant moments of my life so far.