Updated: Jul 31, 2021
Catch the conversation here: The Philosophy of Philanthropy
This installment of real life stories from real world people is an unprecedented one for ONEOFTHE8. It’s our first conversation across the continents as we connect the virtual string with one tin can in the UK and the other more than 4,000 miles away in Delhi. Thank heavens for great WiFi.
We’re honoured to be joined by writer, creator and philanthropist Anand Kapoor who is hyper-humble by his own admission, despite having bragging rights to some seriously extraordinary accolades and experiences.
So, how did such a magnificent human come to be so damn modest?
'I was living literally sandwiched between Monica Lewinsky and Grace Jones'
Anand’s life begins in Bury, not too far from where he now co-runs successful CGI studio, Image Foundry alongside his brother, Anshul. Manchester might mark two of the most significant epochs in his life but Anand’s passport has never been left to collect dust. At the age of 9 he was sent to Delhi for a year to acclimatise and learn the language but eventually ended up back here in the UK. Despite gaining qualifications in creative subjects, his studies led him into law at Exeter University, which then spearheaded a career in sports law, spanning England, France and San Francisco.
A move back to the Rainy City known as Manchester, after sunny San Fran, sparked a career change to the world of public relations after Anand found himself struggling with the legal ethics behind some of the cases he was working on. During this part of our conversation, Anand casually recalls how he moved to Manhattan for a job in PR and eventually wound up living in an apartment in the Archive Building, “literally sandwiched between Monica Lewinsky and Grace Jones”.
Parallel to his hustle in NY PR, Anand began designing products, working with craftsmen in India and (again, recounted ever so casually) found himself with the likes of QE2, Selfridges and John Lewis on his client books. Anand moved back to Manchester, bringing his product business with him but had to surrender the venture in the wake of 9/11 when importing and overseas trading became that bit too tricky.
The next milestone for Anand manifested in launching a business with his brother, outsourcing websites to India. One of the Kapoor brothers’ clients asked if they could produce him some 3D imagery and so, Image Foundry was born, specialising in incredible CGI of interior and exterior buildings. They’ve worked on Grand Designs, they’ve bagged a BAFTA and an Emmy; they’ve even partnered with the forensic department at Manchester University to scan the bones of St. Nicholas at the Vatican to form a recreation of what Santa Claus might have looked like. Still, none of this is perhaps even arguably the most remarkable thing about Anand Kapoor…
'If you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day but if you teach a man to fish then he’ll eat for a lifetime'
The quote above is not something Anand coined but rather a well-recited proverbial that formed the basis of a rather important mantra - the mantra behind a charity Anand launched back in 2011 after being harrowed by the poverty he witnessed in India. Not only harrowed by the hardship itself but also by how easy he found it to accept as normality. He elaborated: “after a point [poverty] gets easy to blank out but that’s what bothered me” and “when something becomes normal, it’s easy to accept. It’s human nature. It is what it is but that doesn’t mean something is right”.
This subconscious complacency about the tragedy in front of his very own eyes inspired Anand to forge a connection between the creative industry (in which he was working) and the lack of education and opportunity for underprivileged children in care homes or orphanages. These kids were being cast back onto the streets at 18 years old with nothing much more than some tough life lessons to guide them. Naturally, teenagers on the streets with no hope or contingency fostered a whole spectrum of different social issues - and therein lay the target focus for the charity.
The proverb begins with “if you give a man a fish…” and of course, it’s old fashioned and hypothetical but this isn’t a man’s world anymore, we’ve moved on. As part of his philanthropic work, Anand used his relationship with the British Ambassador and various contacts in the creative sector to generate more opportunities for females. The charity ran workshops with 2,000 kids on the definition of gender, which culminated in training and mentoring more than 40 girls into becoming chefs. This matriarchal demographic would have otherwise been condemned to life as a hairdresser, a beautician or a nurse - if they were lucky.
'When something becomes normal it’s easy to just accept. It’s human nature. It is what it is but that doesn’t mean that something is right'
It’s a charity that doesn’t believe in charity. It’s about instilling drive and opening doors to possibilities that will help these young adults find their own path. Anand tells us about one girl in particular, Lilima Khan, who had a truly gut-wrenching backstory - a narrative weaved from tragedy, abuse and neglect. She was part of a workshop in which the charity brought in ten Michelin chefs from around the world to teach these kids the skills they needed to become professional chefs. The girl eventually got herself a job in a kitchen, found independent financial stability and this year, was shortlisted for Masterchef India. Her life has come full circle because she’s now in a position where she too, can give back.
Many of the impressionable humans Anand has helped through the charity wrote letters about their hopes and dreams. These letters were sent to influential people around the world - celebrities and non-glitterati - and Anand plans to publish a book full of the responses to kickstart a new youth programme. The respondents of these letters go to show that whether you’re Donatella Versace or a 13 year old climbing Mount Everest, it’s within our nature to connect with others. It’s an innate compulsion to help other human beings survive and one which Mr Kapoor capitalises on so generously.
It’s funny though, Anand never wants to take centre stage or broadcast his accomplishments and when we asked him why he shys away from self-promotion he replies: “I’m not a Kardashian!”. He admits to hating social media and having an “old school attitude towards boasting” and in a world where brag art has become such a hot commodity, it’s a refreshing stance to take.
'The key is to be open to inspiration'
As is customary for all our ONEOFTHE8 subjects, we asked Anand to share his greatest inspiration with us and his response was characteristically diplomatic. He said that there isn’t any one thing in particular that inspires him - it could be anything from his parents to a piece of music - but that “the key is to be open to inspiration”. If you stay open to new forms of inspiration every day, then that’s when you can grow and expose yourself to new opportunities. Inspiration is everywhere we look, we’ve just got to look up from our social media apps every once in a while to see it…
Find out more about Anand’s stories, his philanthropic ventures and how he finds inspiration every day by listening to his episode on the ONEOFTHE8 podcast. Stay up to date with the latest real life stories from real world people by following us on Instagram @weareoneofthe8.