His philanthropic work through the Tej Kohli Foundation and the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute has changed lives of thousands of families. In the Forbes feature of June 2014 titled Top 15 Entrepreneurs Who Give Back to the Community, Mr. Kohli was ranked second after Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. In 2018, IIT Kanpur conferred upon him the Distinguished Alumnus Award for serving the society at large.
Mr. Tej Kohli obtained his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Kanpur in 1980. While studying at IIT, he developed a deep passion for technology and ethical and sustainable innovation. After a brief stint with a small Delhi based company making tachometers, he served onto develop e-commerce platforms combining his technical prowess with his sharp business acumen. In 1997, he plunged into entrepreneurship and established his own company Grafix Softech to provide support for business-to-consumer e-commerce payments. From one office in India to a multinational company headquartered in Costa Rica, the company grew at an unprecedented scale. He soon real-ized that advances in processes could revolutionize a business and further expanded the company into offering internet marketing solutions and SEO services to capitalize on online advertising. In 2009, the company opened its first office in India in Hyderabad.
Mr. Kohli believes that “innovative and ground-breaking fields are also the keys to driving progress and creating positive social impact across the world.” Therefore, to foster innovation, he set up Kohli Ventures. Started in 2002, the firm has numerous investments worldwide from Robotics and Artificial Intelligence to eSports, biotech and renewable energy. He is a major investor in Rewired, a robotics-focused venture studio, that invests in applied science and technologies helping the next generation of robots understand and interact with the world around them. He has invested in start-ups and high-growth companies across the globe, building businesses including Elegant Technology, Cedars Online and Dynacart Solutions.
A great admirer of Bill and Melinda Gates’ charitable work, Mr. Kohli strongly believes in giving back to the society. In an interview, he said, “I have money luckily but what can I do with it. I feel I have a duty to give back.” In 2002, along with his wife Wendy, he set up the Tej Kohli Foundation to support philanthropic work. The Foundation is solely funded through his personal wealth. “The number one rule is that I never accept donations nor is there any crossover between my business interests and philanthropy. It must have impact and be sustainable.” Based in Costa Rica and India, the Foundation provides educational opportunities to children, mid-day meals for malnourished children and vocational training to the physically challenged.
In 2015, with a vision to reduce the number of blind people significantly, Mr. Kohli set up the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in collaboration with the LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. The Kohli institute is funding the development of ways of synthesizing cornea from yeast and peptides and the results have been very encouraging. It also funds cataract surgery, corneal transplants and a mobile bus equipped with the latest ophthalmological equipment for the rural areas. “It was very emotional when we witnessed our initial patient seeing his wife and sons for the first time.”
Mr. Tej Kohli strongly believes that philanthropy and business can be intertwined and need not be disconnected. People can help society while earning profits as well. One of the best examples is his investment in solar-powered pumps that cost half the price of the available diesel pumps, transport water from water beds to agricultural land and contain air moisture sensors enabling them to stop pumping when land is well irrigated.
Despite his stupendous success, Mr. Kohli continues to look out for innovative and ground-breaking ideas that may have a long-lasting global impact on the economy and the society.