Rohini Nilekani

Rohini Nilekani began her career as a journalist and writer. But upon marrying Nadan Nilekani — co-founder of the Indian tech-consulting firm Infosys — and coming into some money, she sought a cause to support financially. “I was looking for an area that would make sense to me and that would also have some kind of impact on the ground in a critical area that was underfunded in India,” Nilekani says.

So in 2005, seeking to address the need for philanthropic support for water, Nilekani founded Arghyam, which means “offering” in Sanskrit. “Too many societies in history — societies that have taken water for granted and not respected it and valued it — have sort of faded away and have become less than a footnote in history,” Nilekani says. Thus, Arghyam funds the implementation of innovative sanitation solutions, mostly funding work that is related to domestic supply and quality, as well as individuals and networks who utilize more traditional methods.

For example, because some Indians use contaminated flood waters as their sole water source for up to five months of the year, Arghyam recently funded a network that creates simple rainwater collection mechanisms from shallow aquifers. “They’re better off rejuvenating old practices to capture every last drop of local water,” Nilekani says. With Nilekani’s endowment, both rural and urban communities benefit from new technologies, easy-to-understand data analyses, and more. “I happen to be in a situation where I can support others who are doing fabulous work,” Nilekani says. “That’s really what my story is.”

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