Rohini Nilekani is the Chairperson of Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and Co-founder and Director of EkStep, a non-profit education platform. She is also the Founder and Former Chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation she set up in 2001 for sustainable water and sanitation, which funds initiatives across India. From 2004 to 2014, she was Founder-Chairperson and chief funder of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher that reached millions of children during her tenure. She sits on the Board of Trustees of ATREE, an environmental think tank. In the past, she has served on the Audit Advisory Board of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Eminent Persons Advisory Group of the Competition Commission of India.
A former journalist, she has written for many leading publications such as Times of India, India Today, Mint, etc. Penguin Books India published her first book, a medical thriller called Stillborn, and her second non-fiction book, “Uncommon Ground”, based on her eponymous TV show. She has written several books for young children, published by Pratham Books, including the famous “Annual Haircut Day”. In 2022, she published an anthology of her writing titled “Samaaj, Sarkaar, Bazaar”, outlining her philosophy of restoring the balance between the state and markets by positioning society as the foundational sector.
In 2017, she was inducted as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been a member of the Board of Science Gallery Bengaluru, the Advisory Board of the Well Being Project since 2019, and the Dakshin Foundation since 2021. Rohini was voted the Best Grassroots Philanthropist by the Forbes India Leadership Award in 2022.
Rohini Nilekani is a committed philanthropist and has been named ‘the most generous woman in India’ for the third consecutive time in 2022 by the Hurun India Philanthropy Report. In 2017, she signed the Giving Pledge with her husband Nandan Nilekani, which commits half their wealth to philanthropic causes.
There is nothing more valuable than giving your time, your talent and your heart.
A personal Social Responsibility
The ‘Giving Pledge’ is a movement initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. In 2017, Rohini Nilekani and her husband Nandan became signatories to the same, pledging half of their wealth to philanthropy.
By taking the pledge, the Nilekanis have joined other Indian billionaires like Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, Biocon Chairman and Managing Director Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, and Sobha Ltd Chairman P N C Menon.
Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma karma phalaheturbhurma Te
This verse from the Bhagwad Gita reminds us that we have a right to do our duty but no automatic right to the fruits from the doing. It is the idea that the action of planting a seed of change itself should motivate us much more than the ego-driven desire to harvest the reward. We must recognize potential where others see despair.
Doing what’s right, not what’s easy. It is to this ideal that we make The Giving Pledge.
Rohini was a founding trustee of the Akshara Foundation when set up in March 2000. Akshara's mission is to ensure "Every Child in School and Learning Well".
Arghyam is a foundation that strives to provide safe, sustainable water for all. It came up as Rohini’s first idea of experimenting with philanthropy when
she came into wealth and decided to put it all into the foundation.
EkStep is a Societal Platform initiative that provides a digital infrastructure for early learning. Set up with her husband, Nandan Nilekani in 2014, the education non-profit is an open learning platform.
Kshetra was incubated as Uncommon Ground by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and CAMP Centre for Advanced Mediation Practice. This is inspired by the television show Rohini Nilekani hosted in 2008 called Uncommon Ground for NDTV that later formed the basis for her book Uncommon Ground: Dialogues Between Business and Social Leaders in 2011.
In 2004, Rohini Nilekani was the principal founder and donor of Pratham Books, a non-profit publisher of affordable and good-quality children’s books. Its mission is to put ‘a book in every child’s hand‘.
Repeatedly named one of Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy, Rohini Nilekani first started contributing through her writing as a journalist. In the past, she has spent several years working with leading publications of the time, including Bombay Magazine, India Today, MINT and The Times of India. Her work shows the intent and determination to deepen the discourse on society’s well-being and the role of samaaj.
Rohini writes opinion pieces for various newspapers and magazines on subjects such as Art, Education, Environment, Water, Economy, Civil Society and Governance among many others. She is an active-thinker and speaker on the subject of philanthropy and social responsibility.
In 1998, Rohini released her first novel, Stillborn. The medical thriller was published by Penguin Books and was well received. Rohini is also a prolific author of children’s books written under the pen name ‘Noni’. Published by Pratham Books, these include the popular Sringeri Series.