Interview: Vijay and Umayal Eswaran

'We are not an organisation who will give funding and then sit back and say ‘OK, this is done.’ We want to be involved.'

When Vijay Eswaran founded the QI Group of Companies in the 1990s with a number of partners, one of its premises was that some of its profits should fund social initiatives. Later, and with QI grown into a multinational concern, with offices in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand the Philippines, this principle was institutionalised in the RYTHM Foundation, based in Malaysia but operating internationally. Vijay and his wife, Umayal, who runs the Foundation, explain the derivation of the name (which is not a mis-spelling), the ideas behind this ‘built-in’ CSR – and why they no longer refer to it as either CSR or philanthropy. They also talk about the alignment of the Foundation’s work with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their hopes – and fears – for the Goals’ achievement.

Could you tell me how RYTHM Foundation got started?

Vijay: When we started the company, one common view among the partners was to make sure that we incorporated within it a way to pay back to the community – worldwide, as well as where we live, because we are very much a worldwide organisation.  So we incorporated in the first company that eventually grew into a group a philosophy that 10 per cent of our revenues would flow back into what at that point we called charity but became what I suppose is now known as CSR.

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