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Leading philanthropy in New Zealand, Rahul Watson Govindan

Welcoming Rahul Watson Govindan, CEO of Philanthropy New Zealand, to Purposely where he shares his organisation's mission to inspire generosity and grow and celebrate effective giving across New Zealand.

A membership organisation representing philanthropists and foundations, they bring people together to learn and to collaborate with each other.


Rahul's journey to New Zealand began with what he calls "the scam that brought me to New Zealand." Born in Kerala, India, Rahul spent his early years traveling the world due to his father's job with a multinational corporate. At age four, he faced the prospect of taking a scholarship exam for an English-medium school in India, which would have set him on a path for international opportunities. However, just as he passed the exam, his father was transferred to New Zealand. Initially reluctant to leave, young Rahul's mind was changed by a postcard showcasing New Zealand's natural beauty and the promise of seeing the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra perform in a golden glow amidst emerald green native bush. This idealised image sparked his excitement for the move, though he notes that to this day, he has yet to see the orchestra perform in such a setting!


After initially settling in Whanganui, Rahul's family moved to Wellington, where he attended Victoria University, completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. His early years in 1980s New Zealand were challenging as he adjusted to the cultural differences, but he remains acutely aware of the privileges this move afforded him compared to the poverty many of his family members in India experienced.


With nearly three decades of global work experience, Rahul has worked with Fortune 500 companies, SMEs, public sector organisations, and Not-For-Profits. He is the co-founder of five companies in three different countries and is a globally recognized strategy and governance professional.


In his role at Philanthropy New Zealand, Rahul is inspired by the volume, depth, and breadth of amazing work being done in New Zealand communities by everyday citizens.

Rahul envisions a future where the various missions of philanthropic organisations are united to create a comprehensive vision for Aotearoa. This vision encompasses areas such as sustainable food production, environmental conservation, healthcare, education, and the arts. He aims to inspire hope and positivity by showcasing the collective impact of the $4 billion annually invested in these initiatives.


Ultimately, Rahul's goal is to participate in creating a future for New Zealand that everyone can be proud of and aspire to, one that he can proudly hand over to his two sons. With a touch of humour and humility, he reminds us that while individuals may not be special, the collective work we do can be truly impactful and transformative.

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