Vivian Reddy: The Philanthropist who makes South Africa ready for social cohesion

Vivian Reddy Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

Vivian Reddy Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 30, 2023



“The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose.” – Gandhi

As the old Chinese saying goes, “A butcher becomes a Buddha the moment he drops his cleaver.”

There is an old Korean proverb that takes a stab at power, influence, and the distinction between the two: “Power lasts 10 years; influence not more than a hundred.”

There is one person though whose power and influence are not time-bound.

His name is Vivian Reddy, the always effervescent and ever smiling savvy business magnate and philanthropist.

Reddy is cherished by his admirers for his wit, common sense, the elegance of his prose, and the way he shuns high ambition in favour of modest goals. There is something about the persona Reddy projects that makes it seem wrong to call him anything else.

I call him Mr Benevolence, and whose work is always suffused with amazing kindness.

It is more difficult when one has a golden heart. It is difficult when one is genuinely an unpretentious man, lacking in any sense of self-importance. One has become tired of the vainglorious boast of personal infallibility of the nouveau riche.

Reddy believes that if one wants to make the best knives in the world, one must buy the finest steel. He also believes that nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm. The thing that has made him the most distinguished magnate is his humility. The candour of the man comes through, as well as his lack of self-importance.

Reddy has touched the lives of countless people through his unwavering support. He is a true gentleman, a term that sometimes gets used too loosely. A gentleman is one that cares, shows respect, has a huge heart and is always thinking of the other individual.

All the money he has made has not made him selfish nor arrogant and indifferent to the fate of his compatriots. He has implemented a remarkable and unique entrepreneurial vision along with the family commitment to the bedrock values of ‘integrity, respect, excellence, and teamwork. In political circles, Reddy is considered highly dependable, knowledgeable, and a discreet source of information. He has wielded political influence and power in the in the realm of politics for more than thirty years, endorsing and funding political candidates and shaping the debate over the shape our economy must take.

In his book The Power of Economic Ideas: The Origins of Keynesian Macroeconomic Management in Interwar Australia 1929-39, Alex J Millmow, argues that economic ideas are not always powerful enough to change the course of events or shape economic policy.

These are very deep and sophisticated economic debates that Reddy is acutely aware of and follows with the patience of angel.

Reddy (born Vathasallum Reddy) is a South African Indian of South Indian descent and the founder of the Edison Group. Reddy is the son of a teacher and the youngest of nine children. He was chosen as South Africa's first representative to the Boy Scouts Jamboree in Japan. It was there that he met his inspiration, Neil Armstrong. Born in Durban, he has created a business empire with interests in energy, casinos, healthcare, financial services, and property development.

Reddy is involved in several South African charity initiatives.

Reddy’s formative experiences did more than teach him about business. His family and community instilled in him values he carried throughout his life: perseverance, faith, family, and freedom. Those values could be seen in his remarkable philanthropy. Competition is cut throat in the world of property business. But for Reddy, it seems, the rewards continue to outweigh the risks.

Reddy, the business magnate, is a tough leader. Mr Reddy is always on the go, facing countless deadlines, and attending an endless number of meetings.

Reddy’s detractors are quick to point out that Reddy has been gobbling up government’s contracts. If that is true, they, however, conveniently do not point out that, at least with Reddy, instead of him lining up his pockets, he creates job opportunities for his fellow South Africans.

To his credit, Reddy ingeniously avoids active politics. This makes him to be held in great reverence by all and sundry. He is simply not fixated by the limelight of politics. For Reddy, it seems the rewards continue to outweigh the risks; a no small feat indeed. What is so reassuring and gratifying about Reddy’s wealth is that there is no organized crime lurking behind it. Reddy’s business acumen however has turned him into a highly sought after advisor and investor young entrepreneurs.

Enterprise Philanthropy – A Social Responsibility

Philanthropy was modernized by Sir Francis Bacon in the 1600s, who is credited in great part with preventing the word from being owned by horticulture. Bacon considered philanthrôpía to be synonymous with "goodness", correlated with the Aristotelian conception of virtue, as consciously instilled habits of good behaviour.

In fact, Reddy’s philanthropy is conspicuously geared towards creating sustainable job opportunities for his fellow compatriots.

Positive feedback encourages more enterprises to act. South Africa’s charity “marketing” needs to do more to recognize and laud givers like Vivian Reddy. We should applaud and encourage enterprises’ philanthropic acts such as those performed by Reddy. Society should always harbour a cheerful outlook toward enterprises that do charity work.

I have no doubt that Reddy must have read Delivering Happiness by [Zappos CEO] Tony Hsieh. He must have learned from Tony, especially the Human Resource nuts and bolts.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh explains how mega online shoe retailer Zappos built a unique company culture and customer experience worth remembering, which turned it into a billion-dollar business.

I sign off with the words of Bindu Dalmia when she recalls her exuberant experience with Yogi Ashwini in the year 2010:

“Some fragrance always lingers in the hand that gives roses...”

Gurus since time immemorial are the sacred representatives of God in their animate avatar. The living energy of a surreal form.

There is a marked contrast in how billionaires in the West bequeath to their offspring, leaving the rest for charitable causes, as compared to Indians who mostly will their profits to their progeny. They learned to decipher between need and greed!

Dr Vusi Shongwe is former head of the Department of the KwaZulu-Natal Royal Household and chief director for heritage in the Office of the Premier. He is the chief director of the Heritage Resource Services in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture. He writes in his personal capacity.

Dr Vusi Shongwe

Daily News