Kiran Patel: The Indian-American who donated $200 million to Florida
Dr. Kiran Patel, the person who donated $200 million to a Florida university has set a new high-water mark for philanthropists among the Indian-American community in the US. The donation made to Nova Southeastern University is the largest amount that an Indian-American has donated to a US institution. In a new interview, he opens up about his tryst with business and philanthropy. Here's more.
Born in Zambia, Patel moved to the US in 1976. He entered the business world after setting up a network of physicians with varied specialties and later made a huge fortune in the health-insurance business. He has backed numerous social-welfare initiatives in India and set up a research center working on developing world's issues at the University of South Florida in 2005.
Patel calls himself an "aggressive entrepreneur." "I'm a risk taker and a 90 miles/hour guy, always pressing the accelerator," he states. He says he believes in the old Gujarati saying, "when the goddess of wealth comes knocking, don't run away to wash your face."
Patel's aim is to improve healthcare in India and Zambia. Out of $200m, Patel has directed $50m to the NSU, which plans on setting up two medical colleges in Florida and India. $150m will be used to establish a medical education complex in Florida. Patel aims to institute an exchange program, whereby Indian students can spend a year in Florida and American students can get experience in India.
Patel says that the program aims to bring American-style education to India to the benefit of Indian students, while also helping thousands of people in need of care. American students can benefit from the practical knowledge they gain from handling different cases in India, he adds.
Aside from numerous philanthropic ventures, Patel does not shy away from a luxurious lifestyle. He is currently constructing a 40-bedroom mansion built of red sandstone sourced entirely from India. He hopes for it to become a home for three generations of his family. "He has given more than he has splurged on himself... I think he's earned a right to enjoy", states Mrs. Patel.
A number of Indian-American millionaires have increasingly been turning to large-scale philanthropy. While most donations initially went to religious institutions, they have now started turning to socially beneficial causes both in India and the US. For instance, Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon donated $100 million to the NYU school of engineering in 2015. The Sanju Bansal Foundation also backs numerous non-profits in Washington DC.