Legacy of Giving Mukesh Malhotra continues his father’s legacy of helping the less fortunate.

Mukesh Malhotra (second from right) at the Arch Klumph Induction Ceremony, along with RI President Gary Huang.
Mukesh Malhotra (second from right) at the Arch Klumph Induction Ceremony, along with RI President Gary Huang.

His father was only 15 years old when his grandfather passed away. And after the partition, “when my father came from Rawalpindi to India as a refugee in 1947, he was penniless,” recalls Mukesh Malhotra, Past President of RC Pune Riverside, and Managing Director, Weikfield Products Corporation LLP, Pune.

But, on his journey from having virtually nothing to building up a prestigious food industry, giving the ­family the ability, and more important, the motivation and ­generosity, to donate $250,000 to the Arch C Klumph Society of The Rotary Foundation (TRF), S P Malhotra, founding chairman of the company, gave his children some invaluable lessons.

One of them was to celebrate life; “he set up this company in 1956, and even in 1958-59 when we had little, he would ensure that the entire family would go every week for a picnic. He would always say enjoy life,” says the son.

He recalls the day when he was barely six years old, when a friend drew his father’s attention to a starving ­family. “In the small Standard car we had then, along with me he drove to the bazaar, bought some rice, dhal, sugar, ghee … about 1–2 month’s ration, and we personally ­delivered it to that family.”

On October 29, S P Malhotra’s portrait was unveiled during the Arch Klumph Society Induction Ceremony at the Rotary Headquarters in Evanston, USA.


Passion for giving

These invaluable childhood lessons are firmly ingrained in the son’s psyche, as he handles a cache of community welfare projects run by the Malhotra Weikfield Foundation. One of these is giving scholarships to deserving students in pure sciences. “Unfortunately the best minds in India do not take up pure science or don’t continue with it. And without research in pure science, applied sciences cannot exist.”

The other bane of our society is to ignore girls’ ­education. “In poor families even the education of very bright girls will be ignored, but the parents will beg, borrow or steal to educate their sons. So we’ve decided that 65–70 percent of our scholarships will go to girls.”

Of the 50 scholarships given every year — 25 for M.Sc. (Rs 20,000 per student) and 25 for B.Sc. (Rs 10,000), 70 percent go to girls. Scholarships are also given for Ph Ds and research in food.

His family also works in tandem with the Jan Seva Foundation in Pune, which is building toilets in ­villages … one for each home. “We started doing this well before Prime Minister ­Narendra Modi talked about it.” As part of the donation to the TRF is for sanitation, this finds a strategic fit.

But what Malhotra is most passionate about right now is the setting up of a world-class vocational training ­centre. His Foundation has sponsored skill development and placement of about 500 tribals, paramedics, etc. “We want to set up a world class centre and have bought five acres of land about 20 km from Pune and applied for necessary government permissions to convert agricultural land into public service land.”

But this is still hanging fire for two years, even though his plans are ready. While $75,000 from the family’s Arch C Klumph donation will go into building toilets, $50,000 will go into such a centre to train auto and IT maintenance engineers, machine operators, welders in modern methods of welding technology, and so on.

Global auto majors such as Mercedes Benz and Volkswagon have agreed to provide “us retired people to train our trainers, mostly from villages, in modern industrial methods, which make jobs possible at a starting salary of Rs 15,000–20,000. We’ll start with 180 and go up to 1,200. My father always said ‘let us be job creators and not job seekers.’”

Such trainers from villages (he is also looking at retired army personnel as they have the right orientation and ­discipline — to undergo such training) would then return to their villages and start small training ­centres there. “Today every Indian village has diesel pumps, tractors, mobile phones; these things require repair and maintenance. If the villages can get ­competent trained people, there will not be large scale migration to cities for jobs.”

This is the essence of Malhotra’s mission, which may take 5 or even 10 years to materialise. Incidentally, he recently told his sons, when he turned 61, that from 21–61, he  “spent 90 percent time doing what I needed to do and only 10 percent on what he wanted to do. Now I’d like to reverse that process.”


Helping Uttarakhand victims

The undercurrent of philanthropy running in his genes has spurred him to act through Rotary to give speedy aid to ­victims of natural disasters. In Uttarakhand, badly ­damaged by last June’s flash floods, the Malhotra family has ­undertaken an ambitious project in a village 35 km from Mussoorie to rebuild 75 houses with 75 toilets and a school. This project may go upto Rs 6 crore or more; Rs 1crore has been collected. These houses will be built for families earning less than Rs 10,000; houses can’t be sold for 11 years and labour has to come from the beneficiaries.

But the project has slowed down because of ­technical problems related to land ownership, contribution of labour; “if the beneficiaries don’t agree to our conditions, which are really safeguards to ensure that the really needy get our help, we might even drop the project, building only the school,” he adds.

When the tsunami hit in 2005, he was RC Pune ­Riverside President, (“called by some as the ‘royal club’ because we meet at the Meridien”) and the club executed an Rs 85 lakh project adopting a village near Puducherry. Forty new boats with engines and GPS systems were given to fishermen, along with nets and a small cold storage facility set up.

Similarly in the recent J&K disaster, his club has been quick to marshal help for the victims.

Rotary se management seekho


Mukesh Malhotra recalls the passion his father, the late S P Malhotra, had for Rotary. “He’d return from overseas at 6.30 pm and attend his Rotary club meeting at 7 pm! My father loved the way Rotary is run; its ­Presidents/Governors are trained. I remember as a youngster how he’d bring Rotary manuals home and say ki ­Rotary se management seekho. He would tell our GMs and other managers to just observe how such a huge organisation is run, how they delegate work, ­organise events. In our company, many of the procedures are based on Rotary manuals. He himself was a very well organised and disciplined person, and loved Rotary for its principles and procedures.

S P Malhotra never lost touch with his roots; once he invited 75 couples from Pakistan and they were put up in the homes of Rotarians. The ultimate irony: The man who left Rawalpindi penniless in 1947, returned as a valued guest 40 years later to attend Benazir Bhutto’s wedding in 1987!

So what does Rotary mean to the son?

“I look at Rotary as a vehicle; it depends on how you press the ­accelerator and drive the car. Rotary provides you the platform to do service and have fun and fellowship at the same time. It has helped me and some others build so much camaraderie that we can pick up the phone and get work done, that otherwise need 10 meetings. We can raise Rs 4–5 lakh in just one meeting when disasters like the tsunami strike.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Message Us