For SPS Oberoi, philanthropy is a way of life. So much so that Oxford University had bestowed an honorary doctorate on him for it. The 59-year-old businessman, a native of India’s Punjab and is based in Dubai, is in the news again for depositing blood money to save 10 Indians from his home state who faced the death sentence for the murder of a Pakistani man in the UAE.
He puts his annual charity bill at Rs 36 crore, and is known as a saviour not only of Punjabis but of whoever approaches him, particularly in the Middle East or West Asia.
He deposited Rs 60 lakh (200,000 dirham) with a UAE court last week and the 10 youths from Punjab would soon be released as the murder victim’s father has agreed to a pardon. He says he has saved 88 people so far.
Oberoi is expected to bring ten youths back to their homes and give them jobs in the district offices of his social organisation, Sarbat Da Bhala Trust.
Into construction business in Dubai, Oberoi had moved there in 1992 and later came back to help his family settle in Patiala.
His philanthropy is expanding from Punjab — where he runs offices that give out pension and help in getting jobs — into Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, where he plans to open dialysis units and crèches, and donating computers for jail inmates.
He is known as an astute businessman, who has the Harnam brand of food products. He also dewaters spaces — even parts of the sea — to help construction of buildings in Dubai, including Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. “My business is booming. And the more charity I do the more business profits I earn,” he said over the phone.
He said he got into philanthropy after seeing conditions of a village in Punjab. “Many people have no money for food, medicines, or for education of their children. I am doing very little,” he said.