“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” Mahesh Buxani says, quoting the late Mahatma Gandhi, when I ask him the life lesson he would like to pass on to his children.

It’s an ethos that the executive director of M.Bux International subscribes to. The vegetarian meditates daily and constantly gives back to the community. We chatted with Buxani about his approach to charity and his decision to join Food from the Heart (FFTH) as a board member.

(Related: Kevin Tan, CEO and co-founder of Tri-Sector Associates on giving back with skills)

When and why did you decide to be part of FFTH?

After moving to Singapore in 2018, I got to know about FFTH through a friend; I was invited to attend its annual Passion Ball fundraiser as a guest. The story they shared that evening was about a single mother of five children doing her best to make ends meet. I was both inspired and touched by how Food from the Heart’s food distribution programme, combined with the beneficiary’s industriousness, resilience and positive attitude, helped her provide for her family.

I used to be a volunteer at another food charity in Hong Kong and had wanted to continue serving the cause, so joining FFTH was a natural progression.

When I first got involved, I donated cakes towards welfare homes. Many people may not be aware that, beyond the food support programmes to elderly and needy families, FFTH supports over 100 welfare homes and halfway houses.

Mahesh Buxani with his daughter-in-law Karina Buxani (middle) and wife Naina Buxani (right).
Mahesh Buxani with his daughter-in-law Karina Buxani (middle) and wife Naina Buxani (right).

As a businessperson, how do you think charitable organisations can incorporate best business practices?

After I took over as treasurer in Jun 2021, looking at the numbers every other day has helped me to understand how FFTH exercises governance and good stewardship. As a charity feeding over 53,000 beneficiaries a year, it must ensure its efforts and operations remain sustainable, consistent and reliable; not much different from a business, except with high touch points for compassion and heart.

There are many individuals and corporations that wish to do good, each with their own agenda and expectations. I hope there can be more fruitful partnerships and collaborations that can benefit the people we serve. That is a common goal.

A few business leaders I’ve met have shared that the values of capitalism are incongruent with the values of charity, giving back and doing good. I wanted to get your thoughts on that and whether you agree or disagree.

Everything requires balance. I believe it is how capitalism is managed that matters the most. Capitalism, governed by good ethics, creates value.

Giving back and doing good together can also strengthen a team. For example, a team that takes a break from their regular job duties to volunteer at FFTH can gain new perspectives and bond with their colleagues.

I believe that giving by serving with ethics will always produce positive outputs.

(Related: Four prominent personalities in the community on leaving behind a legacy of giving)

What is the key to happiness?

It sounds cliched, but I truly believe that the key to happiness is through giving.

The highest form of self is when one embraces spirituality, which is acknowledging that there is something greater than oneself. By serving a greater good sincerely, we achieve happiness and contentment at a high level.

I have been giving live talks in Hong Kong and Singapore under an organisation called Science of the Soul to raise awareness of spirituality, and I find it deeply fulfilling. What I give returns to me, too.

Giving does not always have to be through charitable acts. Be kinder and more compassionate to those who are dear to you and you will reap the rewards manifold.

Food from the Heart is organising its annual charity golf tournament on 12 November 2021 at Singapore Island Country Club. Details here.

The cover image was taken at the 2019 Passion Ball.