Mr. Tej Kohli (BT/EE/1980)

Mr. Tej Kohli is a global business tycoon, visionary entrepreneur, investor and a philanthropist with a deep passion for disruptive technologies and ground-breaking innovations. In 2018, IIT Kanpur conferred upon Tej Kohli the Distinguished Alumnus Award for serving society at large thanks to his achievements developing solutions to major global health challenges through his philanthropic Tej Kohli Foundation.

In 2019 The Telegraph profiled Tej Kohli’s plans to turbo-charge the start-up scene in the United Kingdom, and the Financial Times reported on Tej Kohli’s mission to end corneal blindness worldwide by 2035. Mr Tej Kohli has funded innovative research at some of the world’s leading institutions, including at the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology; and at the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, which between 2016 and 2019 welcomed 223,404 outpatients and completed 43,255 surgical procedures, largely for free.

"Keep building yourself. Keep giving back. And keep helping others."


Tej Kohli founded a payment gateways provider in Costa Rica in 1999 that dominated the global high-risk payments sector due to its proprietary fraud protection technologies. The company expanded rapidly under Tej Kohli’s leadership and employed hundreds of software developers in Asia and South America. Mr Tej Kohli sold the company in 2006 for an undisclosed amount, and began investing in ventures focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and advanced senor technologies. Tej Kohli is also a real estate investor, with a substantial portfolio across South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Mr. Tej Kohli obtained his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Kanpur in 1980. While studying at IIT, he developed a deep passion for technology and ethical and sustainable innovation. After a brief stint with a small Delhi based company making tachometers, he moved to the United States where he founded a successful company in Beverley Hills that specialized in the bulk acquisition and resale of real estate assets from failing institutions.

In 1999 Tej Kohli established the company Grafix Softech, which specialised in the provision of payment gateways within high risk sectors. Grafix Softech grew at an unprecedented scale from its headquarters in Costa Rica. The multinational company expanded into a wide portfolio of services for clients in high risk sectors; and also engaged in the acquisition, turnaround and sale of distressed online gaming sites.

After 2006, Mr Tej Kohli turned his attention to impact investment through his investment vehicle Kohli Ventures. Mr. Kohli is an avid technologist who believes in the opportunity for technology to help create a better world. Through Kohli Ventures he has backed a large portfolio of innovative and ground-breaking technology businesses which also have the potential to improve human life. In 2019 Tej Kohli claimed in an interview with BusinessInsider that his children will live to 125, and in the same year he claimed that AI could be would $150 trillion within 5 years and poured $100m into AI and robotics by backing the Rewired ‘robotics-focused venture studio with a humanitarian bent’.

A great admirer of Bill and Melinda Gates’ charitable work, Mr. Kohli strongly believes in giving back to society. In 2005 Tej Kohli set up with Tej Kohli Foundation with his wife Wendy to focus on making interventions in poor and underserved communities worldwide. Since 2005 the Tej Kohli Foundation has operated a number of free canteens to ensure that underprivileged children in Costa Rica have access to daily food and nutrition.

The Tej Kohli Foundation is now best known for its mission to eradicate needless corneal blindness worldwide. In 2010 the Tej Kohli Foundation funded its first donor cornea implants at Niramaya Hospital in India. Tej Kohli was present when a 50-year-old patient, who had been blind for decades, had the bandages removed after a corneal transplant and could see again. This is when Tej Kohli decided that eliminating corneal blindness would be his calling.

In 2015 the Tej Kohli Foundation substantially expanded its efforts to tackle corneal blindness in poor and underserved communities with the launch the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in Hyderabad. Between January 2016 and November 2019 the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute welcomed more than 223,404 outpatients and completed more than 43,255 surgical procedures.

Mr Tej Kohli has also funded the pursuit of a ‘universal treatment’ for corneal blindness through his Foundation’s ‘Applied Research’ program, a longstanding scientific collaboration between researchers in Montreal Canada, and Moorfields Eye Hospital, UK. In January 2020 the ‘Applied Research’ program announced that it had moved one step closer in its mission to invest an affordable, accessible and scalable universal cure for corneal blindness through the regeneration of corneal tissue. In 2019 Tej also funded the Tej Kohli Cornea Program at Massachusetts Eye And Ear in Boston with an initial donation of $2m.

Tej Kohli is a strong believer in the power of technology to improve human life, and in 2019 he was proud to launch the Tej Kohli Foundation’s first project in the United Kingdom: the ‘Future Bionics’ program. The program funds the purchase and fitting of 3D-printed bionic ‘Hero Arms’ for young people with limb difference in the UK; and highlights how technology can substantially improve the lives and confidence of younger people living with disability.

Mr. Tej Kohli strongly believes that philanthropy and business can be intertwined and need not be disconnected. He continues to seek to back innovative and ground-breaking ideas that may have a long-lasting global impact on the economy and the society. In February 2020 the Tej Kohli Foundation set up a new incubator to back commercial and non-commercial projects that are pursuing new technologies to can help eliminate corneal blindness in the poor rural communities where it is the most pervasive by 2035.

Many of the team who started their journey with Tej Kohli have gone on to build their own successful global businesses, and Tej is proud of his mentorship of these entrepreneurs. This mentorship philosophy continues through the investments of Kohli Ventures, where Tej Kohli continues to back entrepreneurs as they build ground breaking technology businesses.

 


 

IIT Kanpur

 

 

 

 

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