Rohit Nanwani participated in this past year's White Collar BoxingTM charity event and shares his experience below. He is from the Tolaram Group, with headquarters in Singapore and offices in Asia, Africa and Europe, which evolved from trading to manufacturing to brand building, establishing leadership in several industries across different regions.
White Collar BoxingTM (hosted by Vanda Boxing Club) is an annual event in which 20 men and women aged 25-55 compete in a controlled boxing environment. All participants go through a professional 12-week training program leading up to a 3-round bout in the ring. The event is sanctioned by the World Wide Collar Boxing Association (WWCBA).
The event beneficiary is the Children's Surgical Centre (CSC) in Cambodia. To date, over US$1.5 million has been raised, enabling CSC to perform over 9,000 operations for children free of charge.
What motivated you to do this?
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone" - Neale Donald Walsch. This was a way to get out of my comfort zone, a way to push myself physically. I have alway enjoyed high intensity and contact sports, having grown up playing rugby, squash, football, etc. Boxing wasn't new to me. I picked it up a couple of years ago as a form of cardio. This was the first time I ever did it competitively though.
Coming from a large family and working at the family office, how did your family and work react?
The entire family has been supportive in their own way. There were mixed feelings all around, and even though many were against it out of worry for me, they put on a smile and encouraged me. Taking this on meant a drastic change in my lifestyle, both good and bad. I led a healthier lifestyle and it definitely helped me with discipline and focus. On the other hand, it completely consumed me and didn't give me much time for anything else, including family. I missed dinners, birthdays, etc. Regardless, everyone understood and I had a huge support system or fan base throughout, and on fight night itself.
Why or how did you choose this project for charitable involvement - was there any impact investing approach to philanthropy?
There wasn't any specific reason why I chose this as a form of philanthropy. It just so happens to marry my love for sport and the family's philanthropic history.
Tell us a funny story about this experience.
Not sure of a funny story, but taking this on did shock many. Not a lot of people could comprehend why I would want to put myself through such an experience. I got used to being asked questions like, "What's wrong with you? You lead a comfortable life, why do you want to make it difficult?" Many in the extended network made it known that I was doing the unconventional. I found it particularly funny the way the older generation used to react. One even asked my parents if I had gone crazy, thinking I left my job to box professionally.
What were the best and worst moments?
The best moment was seeing all the support I had through the journey and on the night of the fight itself. The worst moment was when I walked out of the ring, knowing I could've done better.
Has this experience changed you in any way?
Once you know what you are capable of, anything short of that isn't good enough anymore - it just feels wasteful. So you tend to constantly find ways to extend and better yourself. It hasn't changed my approach to philanthropy, but I have always wanted to open a sports school for the underprivileged. I think sports is one of the best mediums to reach out to kids and it is a great way to teach them life skills such as discipline, teamwork , confidence, etc. Not to mention the love and passion the kids will have for whatever sports they choose to indulge in.
Share the family approach to philanthropy and charitable causes.
The family is currently in the process of formalizing our approach to philanthropy. Soon, a large chunk of our family business will have a new beneficiary - The Family Foundation. Our group, Tolaram, is named after our Chairman's grandfather who was a physician and used to give away free medication. His way of life is embedded in all of us and the way we function. Having the foundation as one of the largest shareholders of the group has placed its importance and the need to institutionalize it.