Indu Jain, chairperson of the Times Group, lifelong spiritual seeker, pioneering philanthropist, distinguished patron of the arts, and passionate proponent of women’s rights, passed away on Thursday at 9.35pm due to Covid-related complications. She was 84.
As tributes poured in for her from statesmen, captains of industry and spiritual masters — among many others — friends and admirers spoke fondly of her unquenched youthful spirit, zest for life, and determination to make the world a better place.
The first thing that people usually noticed about Indu Jain was her radiant complexion and childlike, mischievous smile — both an external manifestation of her deep immersion in spirituality. Well versed in ancient scriptures and belief systems, she wore her erudition lightly and her conversation was peppered with witty remarks and delighted laughter. After becoming chairman of the Times Group in 1999 she evolved a distinctive leadership style, characterised by compassion and inclusiveness, that helped propel the group to new heights.
She set up The Times Foundation in 2000, with sustainable development and transformational change as its key goals. One of India’s most respected non-profits, it provides community services and runs the Times Relief Fund to offer assistance during cyclones, earthquakes, floods, epidemics and other crises.
She was the founder president of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), established in 1983 to promote entrepreneurship and professional excellence among women in India. From 1999, she also served as chairperson of Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust, founded in 1944 by Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain, her father-in-law, to promote literature in Indian languages. The Jnanpith Award, conferred by the Trust annually, is acknowledged to be the most prestigious honour for authors writing in Indian languages.
She was also the guiding force behind the Oneness Forum, launched in 2003 to promote unity in the world. The Mahavira-Mahatma award was instituted under the aegis of forum to promote Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of ahimsa (non-violence).
A lifelong philanthropist, one of her last wishes was to donate her organs. Sadly, the complications caused by Covid-19 meant that it could not be fulflled.
In the course of a rich and fulfilling life, she received many honours, including the Padma Bhushan in January 2016. She was conferred a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India in 2019, an award for Lifetime Contribution to Media by the All India Management Association in 2018, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Congress of Women In the year 2000, she also addressed the United Nations at the Millennium World Peace Summit.
Indu Jain once said, “Living in the present means not having regrets for the past, not worrying for the future. Life is what is now. I was born a seeker. I was very inquisitive and curious to explore. I don’t see a choice between ‘being happy’ and ‘having a purpose’. The alternatives that seem different may just turn out to be the same. Life is an incredible adventure, and you should give it your best.” She certainly did.