Sony TV's Jayesh Parekh Boosts His Nonprofit Focus
--Richard Springer,
India-West, June 13, 2003

Jayesh Parekh, co-founder of Sony Entertainment Television - which is seen in more than 30 million households in South Asia and the Middle East - has an infectious enthusiasm and a positive attitude that has held him in good stead both in business and his community work.

Up until now, Parekh has spent about 80 percent of his time building businesses and nearly 20 percent of his efforts on projects like ProPoor.org, a Web site he launched in 1998 to network nonprofit groups with donors and marketing channels.

ProPoor has exploded in growth and now showcases more than 13,000 nonprofits and non-governmental organizations working in South Asia.

The website in December merged with Santa Clara, California based CharityFocus.org, a nonprofit group co-founded by Nipun Mehta to provide Web-based technology services to nonprofit groups.

Parekh, who spent about 13 years working for IBM in sales and marketing - eight in Houston and four and a half in Singapore - is currently based in Singapore, where Sony Entertainment TV has its corporate offices.

He paid a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area recently to plan new initiatives with the CharityFocus volunteers.

Parekh told India-West at Mehta's home office here that he hopes to turn the 80-20 ratio on its head, so that in a few years he will be spending about 80 percent of his time on volunteerism and the rest on business.

Also dear to his heart, he pointed out, is Rajkot, Gujarat-based Life, run by the Indian Medical Scientific Research Foundation.

Parekh is a patron of Life, which runs a blood bank and other medical services to combat thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder in which the body produces reduced or no hemoglobin. The disease requires frequent blood transfusions and impacts about 40 million people in India.

Life also runs a teacher-training program at the Center for Excellence in Education. The program builds schools in Gujarat and turns them over to the government. "That is where I spend the bulk of my (volunteer) time," he said.

Parekh, who grew up in Kolkata, received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, and an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin. He is married with two children.

In 1993, he founded his first company, Frontier Technologies, a computer software and product services and marketing firm. The company setup its sales office in Singapore and did back office coding in India. "The company is still going," Parekh said. His wife helps manage the operations.

In 1995, he and some friends and associates started the Sony TV channel to provide "family entertainment" to South Asian viewers. "It is a 24 hour wholesome entertainment channel that now goes out to 30 million Indian households and is seen in over 143 countries all over the world."

Parekh is also the chairman and co-founder with CEO Sanjay Chakrabarty of Washington D.C. based MobiApps, which supplies wireless solutions and products. The company provides asset tracking and logistics devices allowing trucks and other vehicles to track shipment through satellite signals.

"It will take time to do it right, but in two years, I hope to walk away from the commercial world," Parekh told India-West. Since he spends about one-third of his time in the U.S., one-third in Singapore, one-third in India and the rest traveling or in other countries, he sess himself "a citizen of the world."

One problem for nonprofits, he pointed out, is that they lack a support network. "We (CharityFocus and ProPoor) want to try to be a catalyst and an information repository. Many of these organization are doing their own work in isolation."

The synergy between the two groups is strong, Parekh and Mehta agreed.

"There were no lawyers, no piece of paper. We just shook hands," Parekh said.

"He (Parekh) just said, 'From now on, ProPoor is yours," added Mehta. "It took just three months to reorganize completely."

One improvement at ProPoor is to include in the network groups outside South Asia who are trying to help South Asian countries. CharityFocus is also helping launch an online donation system and an e-commerce function to sell goods and services offered by artists and craft workers in South Asia. CharityFocus will set it up so that the artisans or their representatives overseas will get all the proceeds.

"One thing we both have in common is the spirit of service," said Parekh, as Mehta nodded in agreement. "Through our collective reach, we will reach out and bring people into the social development sector."

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