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Millionaire businessman turns philanthropist
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | March 11, 2008 13:58 IST
Last Updated: March 11, 2008 14:03 IST
Three days after his father Sukhdev Raj Soin, a retired Indian military engineer, died in India in 1999, Raj Soin, an Ohio-based entrepreneur and philanthropist, who was at his father's bedside, announced the building of a nonprofit hospital in Banchari, Haryana.
It was a son's tribute to his father who has spent his life trying to help people and to care for them in whichever small way he could.
"My father was involved in a lot of voluntary work in the field of health and medical care although he was not a medical doctor," Soin said. "So we thought the best thing to do to commemorate his memory was to build something he was interested in".
In December 2007, Soin, along with United States Senator George Voinovich, US Congressmen Mike Turner, Phil Gregory, Congressman Rob Bishop and Steve Pierce, travelled to India to formally dedicate the 55-bed, multi-specialty hospital in the name of the late Sukhdev Raj Soin.
The healthcare facility that seeks to improve the quality of life in the community in the underdeveloped area through better healthcare and education has a 24-hour intensive care unit facility and emergency trauma services, rarities in India's rural or underdeveloped regions.
After years of stagnation at spending 0.92 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health, India has recently started spending 1.32 percent of the GDP on health, although it needs to spend at least 2 to 3 percent to take care of its population. The country is increasingly looking at the private sector for investments in health and medical care.
Soin said the construction of the hospital was started after the Soin Foundation acquired the land for the facility, thanks to a donation from the Maharishi Dayanand Memorial with which his father was associated.
The first phase of the project was finished by 2002, but the completion was delayed thanks to procedures involving the Dayanand Memorial.
The project was in limbo for three years and was completed in May 2007 after the Foundation reached an agreement over the memorial, resolving differences as to how the project ought to be finished.
"We scheduled the grand opening or dedication for December 29 as I wanted to make sure that the hospital is fully operational," Soin said. He added that the plan is to make it an 80-bed hospital by April and to expand it to 200 beds by April 2009. He is looking forward to building a medical college and a nursing school within the next decade.
"So far, 100 per cent of the funding has gone from the Soin Foundation. The Haryana government has said it will get involved in the project in the future," Soin, who co-heads the Foundation with wife Indu, said.
This is not the first time that Soin, who sold his MTC Technologies Inc in December to global defense and aerospace company BAE Systems Inc in a transaction valued at approximately $450 million, has taken up a philanthropic cause.
A native of Punjab, Soin and his wife Indu have given millions of dollars in donations, including $2 million to Wright State University, which named its college of business the Raj Soin College of Business in 2000.
Described by his friends as a man 'with a golden heart,' Soin once described to this correspondent how he started his company with his wife in 1984 with just $1,700 in cash, a few credit cards and a dream.
Where does he get this philanthropic streak from?
"No it is not from the family, but the biggest thing you have to look at is that truly 'the man upstairs' has been very nice to us. You can say that you had worked hard and all that, but a lot of things go right for you (because God is willing). And if you get an opportunity to do something for others, you should do it," Soin said.
He said he and his wife share the feeling that if God has given them an opportunity, then they must do something for others.
An engineer, Soin said when he came to the US for higher education, somebody, who he does not know till today, funded his graduate assistantship, covering his expenses.
"Today we provide three scholarships each year to students from the Delhi College of Engineering, my alma mater, to come here to the Raj Soin College to study for an MBA. We provide for all the expenses and even a stipend," he said.
The Soin Foundation's philanthropic thrust is primarily on health and education. "Our philosophy is that we do not want to go and feed the hungry because it does not mean anything, because you have to feed people everyday - and they won't be able to feed themselves if you continue to do that. But if you provide education, that becomes self-sustaining someday. We support healthcare because the only thing that keeps people from earning after education is their ill health," Soin said.
He was unwilling to say how much he donated for the hospital, nor would he agree to send his photograph from the inauguration of the hospital. "All these do not mean anything," he said. Our motto is that if life has given me an opportunity, we should try and do whatever we can for the future generation.