Ravi K. Mehrotra, founder of the shipping conglomerate Foresight Group Ltd. has pledged a “landmark gift” for a new center at the Questrom School of Business.
At a time when capitalism itself has come under increasing scrutiny, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business has amassed more than $50 million in funding to create a new center to bring deeper understanding to business and markets.
Recently, the school announced the naming gift for the Ravi K. Mehrotra Institute for Business, Markets, and Society at Questrom.
Most business school centers can be launched on a $15 million to $20 million budget.
“With $50 million in funding and more to come, this is a well-funded institute with an endowment to be around a long time,” says a Questrom spokesperson.
“The institute is intended to build upon, benefit from, and inform the current cultural moment in which business is increasingly scrutinized and the benefits of business in and for society are hotly debated,” says Questrom Dean Susan Fournier in a statement.
“The how of the Institute is as important as the what. We will apply the powers of rigorous and balanced scholarly research, the fundamental principles of free and open speech, and our belief in data to advance our understanding and practice of the complex, thorny process of value creation through business. Including this gift, the largest received to date, we have been able to raise over $50 million from multiple donors to support the Institute’s work.”
The precise value of the landmark gift by Mehrotra was undisclosed but the school confirmed that it is the second largest received by Questrom since the school’s naming gift of $50 million in 2015 from retailing executive Allen Questrom.
Mehrotra, who is not an alum of BU or Questrom, is the India-born founder of the conglomerate Foresight Group Ltd. based in London. Initially a shipping company founded in 1984, Foresight has diversified into a wide portfolio of businesses, including drilling, port and gas infrastructure, retail business, and hospitality. His gift was secured in May and announced at a company event in London on Friday evening as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Foresight’s founding.
Mehrotra first became interested in supporting the cause after seeing a slide deck presentation put together by Questrom Dean Fournier. A school spokesperson explains that the deck includes a slide of a scale that illustrates the good that business contributes to society on one side with the growing vilification of business on the other. “It immediately resonated with him,” says the Questrom official. “There is this ongoing rhetoric around all the bad things that happen with business. It’s those headlines that grab the attention and people forget about all the good things that business has done. He prides himself on the notion that business is good for society and you can do it and still be profitable.”
“Boston University Questrom School of Business is among the world’s top-ranking schools for business administration and management programs,” says Mehrotra. “Questrom makes the ideal home for the institute because of its innovative curriculum, distinguished faculty, the diverse and global perspective it offers to students, and above all, its strategic location in Boston, the world’s most innovative finance, legal, and technology hub. An institute dedicated to exploring the intersections of business, markets, and society plays a pivotal role in bridging gaps in understanding and collaboration between these crucial domains fostering a more informed, ethical, and sustainable approach to commerce and economics.”
The school is currently searching for an executive director and additional faculty to staff the center.
Questrom says the core of the Mehrotra Institute is “the commitment to demystify the complexities of how business and markets contribute to individual prosperity, societal advancement and global problem-solving. The Institute envisions a society where the potential of business to drive positive change is fully realized and harnessed.” The school cited three ways to deliver on this vision by creating and supporting:
Targeted Educational Initiatives tailored to enhance the understanding of students, organizational leaders, policy makers, regulators, and the broader public about the pivotal role of business in society.
Constructive Dialogue that promotes balanced and insightful discussions on capitalism, with the intent to transcend ideological barriers and raise the level of debate on the societal contributions of business.
Rigorous, Evidence-Based, and Actionable Research that explores the complex interplay of the tensions that influence the balance between firm prosperity and societal goals.
Kenneth Freeman, president ad interim of Boston University, highlights the importance of new center on research and education. “The focus of the new Institute on understanding the important role of business in our society embraces the vision and spirit of its benefactor, Ravi Mehrotra, and builds on his philosophy that ‘knowledge is powerful.’ We are pleased and honored that the Mehrotra Institute will become a vitally important part of Boston University’s research and teaching mission.”