Dr Suri Sehgal, an octogenarian Indian American philanthropist trying to solve the problem of rural India’s disempowerment, has received the 2016 American Bazaar Philanthropy Award.
Based in Gurgaon, Haryana, on the outskirts of New Delhi, the SM Sehgal Foundation he founded in the late 1990s is active in around 550 Indian villages.
The award was presented to Sehgal, who has committed most of his wealth to philanthropy in India, at the third annual American Bazaar Philanthropy Dialogue and Dinner here last week.
An Indian American community and business portal, the Bazaar also organizes a number of signature conferences in the US and India.
Presenting the award, entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Islam, a recipient of the award in 2015, described Sehgal as an inspirational figure.
“Philanthropy, like business, is about solving problems,” he said. And “what the SM Sehgal Foundation is doing in India is identifying some of the most pressing problems the country is facing and coming up with solutions for them.”
“The Sehgal Foundation is trying to solve in its own small way one of the greatest challenges India is facing at the moment: The disempowerment of rural India.”
Delivering the third American Bazaar Philanthropy Lecture, Seghal, 84, himself urged the Indian American community to donate at least a part of their income to philanthropy.
He pointed out that roughly 27 percent of the community has a median income of $140,000 and if they commit at least $1,500 a year — which is half of what an average American household is giving annually – about $1.8 billion will be available for philanthropy.
Sehgal, who came to the US in 1959, also described his journey from the pre-partition Punjab to building a successful career in the US and giving back to the country of his birth.
Sehgal holds a PhD in Plant Genetics from Harvard University and a diploma in business management from Harvard Business School.
He and his wife, Edda, allocated most of the money they received after selling their India-based Proagro Group of companies to the foundation.
Sehgal is the former president of the Des Moines, IA, -based Pioneer Overseas Corporation and vice president Pioneer Hi-Bred International.