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Richard Branson lends a hand to tiger conservation

Last updated on: November 1, 2011 11:18 IST

Richard Branson lends a hand to tiger conservation

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Kavita Chowdhury in New Delhi

Richard Branson, the founder and head of the 㾹-billion Virgin group, says he spends 90 per cent of his time on non-profit work.

The 61-year British business tycoon flew into New Delhi on Saturday evening to help efforts in conservation of tiger, which he says his favourite animal.

The unconventional businessman, whose businesses span from aviation to media, telecom, financial services, space and renewables investment, never wears a tie, even for the most august gatherings.

Branson, who is in India to partner with wildlife conservation group Wild Aid to help conservation efforts at the Corbett Tiger Reserve, also cheered his Formula 1 team, Virgin Racing, on. His business mantra is "business as a force for good" - to save the species, to stop conflict, to address climate change and disease.

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Image: Richard Branson

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Richard Branson lends a hand to tiger conservation

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What strikes most about the casually attired business tycoon is the complete no-airs attitude and down-to-earth manner.

Branson says he believes in spreading his business mantra globally and wants to see a multiplier effect.

"The question to be asked is why everyone who is successful or is a business magnate is not engaged in such things. We should not be leaving it to politicians – to save the species, to stop conflict."

He reiterates, "Our job (i.e. businesses) is not just to make money."

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Photographs: Reuters
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Richard Branson lends a hand to tiger conservation

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Virgin's non-profit arm, Virgin Unite, is partnering with Wild Aid in India for the tiger conservation effort. Branson says apart from the many things in India that he has lined up for this week, he will also be releasing his book, Screw Business As Usual.

Branson confesses he manages to focus "90 per cent of his time doing non-profit work". "The Virgin businesses run themselves without much involvement from me. I learnt the importance of delegation many years ago."

In fact, Branson who flew in from Brazil, where he put together 'Global Elders' initiative with world leaders like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and former American President Carter, has brought a group of 30 overseas philanthropists to India to see for themselves the gravity of the situation at the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

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Richard Branson lends a hand to tiger conservation

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Branson, who seems to know the complexities of problems relating to tiger conservation at Corbett, says, "We need to come up with entrepreneurial ideas to save the tiger, one of the most precious assets of not just India but the world.

There are only 1,500 left in the wild in India and we need to interact with the local community and see how we can increase the tiger population. In fact, I'm going to Corbett this week myself to see first hand the situation there."

Eager to ensure that his efforts are not misconstrued as "interference by Westerners", he says for the sake of the next generation, "we need to save the species".

Branson, who owns a game reserve in Africa with lions, cheetahs and elephants, hopes to partner with Indian entrepreneurs as well to save this species.

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Image: Jim Corbett National Park

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Responding to how a self-confessed environmentalist and conservationist like him rationalises his businesses like aviation and Formula 1, Branson says, "We have businesses that pollute like the airline business or Formula 1. To balance our books, 100 per cent of the profits from our airlines are invested in developing clean fuels."

For instance, he says, "We have developed a nearly completely clean aviation fuel which our planes will start flying on in a couple of years."

Asked if he has any message for the likes of the Tatas, the Birlas or the Mallyas, Branson suffices to say, "All I'm saying is that businesses, big or small, need to do a little bit more. Businesses leaders need to put some effort into tackling the problems of this world if they could."


Photographs: Mick Tsikas/Reuters
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