Tej Kohli is an Indian entrepreneur with a net worth of $6 billion who believes that his teenaged son will live to be somewhere between 125 and 150. That isn't his only "out there" belief. He also plans to heal half the world's blind.
Kohli grew up in Delhi. His mother was a diplomat and his father was a journalist. He moved to the U.S. when his mother's job posted her there. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology. For the past 13 years Kohli has been splitting his time between London and Costa Rica. His business interests include Grafix Softech, which is a payment gateway company. Kohli Ventures is invested in robotics, artificial intelligence, and genomics.
There are 39 million blind people in the world. There are 285 million people with visual impairment. India has 12-14 million blind people. Kohli feels that the tragedy here is that most blindness is avoidable – especially 75% of corneal disease sufferers. But there is often a barrier to treatment and that barrier is money. Kohli has said:
"I have money luckily but what can one do with it? How many cars can one buy? How many airplanes can I have?"
Of course, work is already being done to help the blind. The LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, India has performed more than one million eye surgeries, including the most cornea transplants since the center was founded in 1987. LVPEI also runs the largest eye bank in India. They harvest roughly 5,000 corneas a year. The institute is also a global resource center of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, whose Global Vision 2020 Right to Sight campaign is striving to end needless blindness across the globe by 2020.
Nearly 20 million blind people suffer from cataracts. Corneal diseases blind another 4.9 million. None of these people need to be blind. There are medical procedures that can preserve or restore their vision. That's where Kohli comes in. The 57-year-old entrepreneur set up the Tej Kohli Foundation alongside his wife Wendy in 2005. He also formed the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in collaboration with LVPEI.
Kohli's mission is to control and reduce the number of cases of avoidable blindness by 2030. Kohli believes he can make a difference with his money. He is funding the research and development of initiatives that would benefit those with corneal disease.
Kohli's other pet project is to extend human life. He isn't alone in this. PayPal founder Peter Thiel has often stated that he is going to live to be 125-130 years old. Kohli isn't so sure about that, but he does think his children and future grandchildren will have the ability to live to be 125-150 years old.
Kohli explained this thinking by comparing DNA to software. It can be reprogrammed to extend life.
Kohli feels a duty to give back: "I have all of that so now I feel I have a duty to give back. It's easy to give money. It's much harder to make that money work for you. Charity is a lot more about work than it is about money. And we have to make this work."
It is a noble cause, indeed. From healing the blind to extending human life, we very much hope Tej Kohli succeeds in his missions.