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Jayesh Parekh -- 'I have arrived'
Planning one's fiftieth birthday could include self indulgences like a shiny, new sports car or a round-the-world cruise. But not for Jayesh Parekh, the founder of Sony Entertainment Television in Asia and a CharityFocus volunteer and active member of the Tiger Team. For Jayesh, turning 50 means making the transition from the corporate, for-profit world to non-profit social development.
"Most people say that you wait until you're 65, and then you go into social development and spiritual development," said Jayesh, now 48. "My take is that I'm ready now. I have a lot of energy now, and I put a lot of energy into my business, so why not take that and put it into social development, which probably needs much more help and resources than the commercial world. Many of us don't realize we've arrived and should go on and do some other things."
With his birthday still a year and a half away, Jayesh can't wait to make the shift. "I'm ready to go today," he said on a recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. Rather than rush it, he is taking two years to make the transition, so he won't cause difficulties for his business partners or hurt the businesses he has worked so hard to build.
Sony Entertainment Television is only one in a string of businesses Jayesh has had a hand in starting and running. The self-described "serial entrepreneur" and his wife founded Frontier Technologies, a software product and services marketing company, which they later sold to Applitech Solution Limited. Jayesh also founded MobiApps Inc., a wireless solutions company based in Virginia. Currently, he is MobiApp's executive chairman and sits on the board.
One of the organizations that gets Jayesh most excited and animated is ProPoor, which serves as a meeting place for more than 13,000 South Asian NPOs and NGOs. ProPoor was recently taken over by Charity Focus in what Jayesh describes with a laugh as a "hostile takeover." (Full story of how it happened!)
Turning ProPoor's website over to CharityFocus hasn't lessened Jayesh's involvement. On the contrary. During a recent trip to the Bay Area, Jayesh met with the band of CharityFocus volunteers who spent many a sleepless night transitioning the site. One of those volunteers was Yoo-Mi Lee, who said she appreciated the high level of importance that Jayesh gives his work with CharityFocus. While surfing the original ProPoor site, Yoo-Mi came across Jayesh's resume. "I was very much impressed that he chose to list the CF Tiger Team before such organizations as the United Way International and Orbicom," said Yoo-Mi. "Jayesh was really honored to be asked to become a member of the Tiger Team."
Jayesh had no fears or qualms about turning the site over to the CharityFocus team. "It was an incredibly perfect match," he said, a refreshing change from bureaucracy. "Coming from the commercial world, nothing gets done without lawyers, nothing gets done without a 30 to 300-page contract. Here is Nipun. We had not one piece of paper, not one agreement, not one lawyer, not one witness. We sat, looked into each other's eyes, and that was it. Basically, I just said, 'It's all yours,'" remembered Jayesh. "I didn't need proof, I didn't grill him, I didn't do due diligence. It just took a couple meetings, and I was so confident about the technology, about the people, about the volunteers, the work, and the look and feel of the site."
Jayesh makes his home in Singapore with his wife, daughter, and son. In addition to his work with CharityFocus, he is also an active volunteer and patron with Project Life which is based in Gujarat, India. The NGO provides a blood bank and other medical services to help combat thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder. Project Life also runs a teacher-training program and a forestation and conservation effort.
Jayesh grew up in Calcutta in a lower middle class family and studied electrical engineering at Gujarat where he earned his undergraduate degree. He received his Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. From there, it was sales and marketing for IBM in Houston and Singapore for a total of 13 years. Then began his entrepreneurial streak.
"I think I'm one of the fortunate people who is content. I know I have arrived, and I feel great," said Jayesh.
But arriving isn't enough for Jayesh. Now, he wants to take all that he has learned in the commercial sector and share it with the non-profit sector. "The beauty of this social development sector and spiritual development is I have enthusiasm and passion. I want to use my mind. I want to use my communication skills. I want to use all the things I've learned over the past 20 to 25 years. I'm incredibly enthusiastic about that next step. I'm eager to go and do that. In a way, I'll actually be doing a journey. It's a journey with no specific end. It's just a means by itself."
For Bharat Mehta, who has known Jayesh since his days at IBM, Jayesh's volunteer spirit helps define him. "If I was describing him to a businessman, I would certainly introduce him as a successful, rich, young man," explained Mehta. "To a person in the social sector, I would introduce him as a young man with philanthropic zeal and active contributions."
Jayesh's hope is that his zeal and enthusiasm are contagious. "I have this balloon theory for Nipun and me," he explained. "Now that Nipun and I have met and our hearts have met and our spirits of service have met, we want to bring other people along who are sitting on the cusp, waiting at the edge of the fence," explained Jayesh. "Nipun's got a helium balloon, and I've got a helium balloon. I catch one hand, he catches another hand, and we lift these people off. We want to lift more and more people off, and take them to this next level. There are many people working on their own little islands. You could get a lot more done in the development sector together. That's the next step."
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