Alumnus gives portion of wealth to Northeastern

Alumnus gives portion of wealth to Northeastern
Alumnus Ramesh Motwane donated 40 percent of his wealth to Northeastern./ Photo by Max Schochet

By Max Schochet, news staff

Hundreds of people piled into the Westin ballroom in Waltham for a night of celebration to honor the top Indian-American achievers in New England. Festive energy permeated the air as guests, clad in black-tie and traditional Indian attire, chatted and dined while waiting for the host to kick things off.

Nearing the end of the night, one last distinguished honoree walked on stage. His name, Ramesh Motwane: a Northeastern University alumnus, Massachusetts-based entrepreneur and angel investor, or individual who provides capital for a business start-up. He received the philanthropy award for donating an astounding 40 percent of his wealth to Northeastern and another 40 percent to his alma mater in India.

“I feel excellent, excellent — very honored to have this award and to receive this once in-a-lifetime award,” Motwane said.

The Friday night gala was the second annual New England Choice Awards, or NECA. The ceremony recognized what they called “ten shining stars” in the Indian community who have made outstanding contributions in academics, business, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, entertainment, health care and youth leadership.


Hundreds gathered Friday to honor distinguished members of the Indian-American community.

“This is the one place where the communities celebrate all of the achievements together,” said Anu Chitrapu, senior vice president at Bank of America and co-host of NECA.

Despite his current success, Motwane started from humble beginnings. He left his homeland in India, seeking a position in Kuwait as a resident engineer. He had recently obtained an associate degree in civil engineering from the Gandhidham Civil Engineering Institute — now known as TolaniPG Polytechnic in the Indian state of Gujarat — and was seeking a chance in this foreign country.

But four years later, he wanted a better life; so, he left for America with only $8 in his pocket and arrived in Boston. However, being a recent immigrant, he struggled to obtain jobs at construction sites because local employers, he said, wanted “local experience and local education.”

“I came to the United States, but I had no job,” said Motwane. “I tried and tried and all I could find was machinist or odd jobs, including working at McDonald’s.”

Two years into his stay, Motwane considered immigrating back to India, citing dismal career prospects. Instead, he tried his luck at education after noticing an ad that a local Boston school was having an open house. Within four weeks, he was admitted.

“I had started everything from scratch,” said Motwane, who studied civil engineering at Northeastern University.  “Northeastern gave me admission for a five-year course. I did in it in three and a half years, non-stop.”

After graduating from the university in 1978 with a bachelor of science in civil engineering, Motwane entered the workforce again, quickly accumulating financial success. Within two years of graduation, he had set up a company called Eastern Contractors, taking it swiftly to a half-billion dollar enterprise. In 2006, the company was among the New India Times Top 100 privately held business owned by Indians in the United States and remained on the list for four years.

“Immediately, everything I touched turned into gold,” Motwane said. “I saw that I had a lot of money and time came that I wanted to pay back to my college in India and to Northeastern.”

And when that moment arrived, Motwane decided to go big with his pecuniary giving.

“Northeastern has given me enough knowledge to be successful in life,” Motwane said. “I had to donate somewhere and instead of donating to my children or my family, or my wife or my other siblings, I decided that nothing is like education.”

His generous gift is what lead the NECA judges to select Motwane for the 2017 award for philanthropy.

“When you donate to educational institutions, you are going to make a tremendous impact on generations to come,” said Upendra Mishra, co-founder of INE Multi Media, the Waltham-based company that organized NECA in collaboration with India New England News, the region’s oldest and largest online, print and video magazine serving the South Asian Community.

Before NECA, there was no Indian-American award show in New England, particularly ones designed to honor Indian-Americans who made a substantial impact in the community.

“There are so many achievers. Look at academia — the Dean of Harvard Business School is of Indian American origins. We felt doing an award show would not only recognize them, but also be an inspiration for others, too,” said Dr. Manju Sheth, the co-founder of INE Multi Media, creator of NECA and a judge on the committee that picked Motwane for the award. She and Mishra said that Ramesh’s contribution stood out.

“Using 80 percent of your life earnings is absolutely a fantastic example of philanthropy,” Mishra said.

Motwane has a non-profit organization called the Motwane Foundation, which he uses as the vessel for his donations. Motwane — who through the foundation makes donation almost exclusively for education — said the university can decide how they use his gift.

“That’s up to them, that’s not me telling them what to do,” he said. “But mostly I’m giving them tuition for the students.”

Motwane got inspiration for his generosity from two other famous and wealthy businessmen who decided to give their fortunes away for the betterment of others.

“The [idea] came to me 20 years ago when I saw the interview of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates,” Motwane said. “I was thinking, and thinking and thinking. It took too long to say what should I do.”

Motwane continues to help others outside of his ventures with the Motwane Foundation. As an angel investor with The Indus Entrepreneurs Boston branch, known as TiE-Boston, Motwane connects with students — supporting, mentoring and funding entrepreneurs. These recent college graduates from schools such as Northeastern are given information on how to navigate the business world and reach business success.

“We come into this world with nothing. And we leave with nothing,” said Motwane. “It is when we are here, during our life, that we should make use of what we have.”


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