Tej Kohli, the Indian billionaire philanthropist aiming to halve the number of people with corneal blindness, has a new ambition.
The entrepreneur and philanthropist has a mission to control and reduce the magnitude of avoidable corneal blindness worldwide by 2030.
Through his Kohli Ventures arm, he is also an investor in Zynergy Group, a company pioneering solar water pumps which Kohli believes can cost-effectively meet the challenge of feeding India’s growing population and help tackle global poverty.
Now Kohli has committed to becoming one of Britain’s leading investors in artificial intelligence and robotics, the technology wave commonly referred to as the fourth societal revolution, after those concerning agriculture, industry and the internet.
The Indian billionaire is backing Rewired, a robotics-focused venture studio and fund that believes that improving sensory capabilities will unlock the next-generation of smart robotics and is investing in applied science and technologies that advance machine perception.
Based in Switzerland, the nation referred to as the Silicon Valley of robotics, Rewired is committed to helping develop technologies that enable robots to cope with real-world environments, make good decisions in real time, and help humans do more with less.
It plans to use its European base in Lausanne to expand into East Asia and the U.S.
Rewired is investing $100m in applied science and technologies that advance machine perception on the thesis that improving machine perception will unlock the next generation of smart robotics.
It is focusing on the sensors, software, and systems that help autonomous machines to interact with unpredictable environments and collaborate with humans.
“Our strategy is to invest for the long term in core technologies that lay the foundation for smart robotics,” says Rewired venture partner Santiago Tenorio.
“Real-world environments are highly unpredictable, unlike controlled ones like warehouses and factories. The next generation of smart robots must be able to gather diverse data about their surroundings and holistically interpret it in order to model the world and productively interact with it,”
“The robotics-focused studio we’re building is a global hub for interdisciplinary innovation that will generate new forms of human-machine collaboration across an increasingly broad spectrum of activities.”
Kohli is investing in Rewired through Cascade Global, a multi-family office.
He believes that advancements in robotics will not only power the next industrial revolution but also create a massive opportunity for doing good and will improve the quality of human life in unprecedented ways.
“I am deeply committed to helping shape these technologies towards outcomes that are clearly immensely valuable to society and I have full confidence that Rewired will achieve their lofty goals,” he says.
“What I like about Rewired is that it is driven by a more humanitarian notion of robotics and artificial intelligence.”
An engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kohli grew up in Delhi with his Indian diplomat mother and journalist father, moving to the US when his mother was posted there.
He has been living between London and Costa Rica for the last 14 years, with business interests including payment gateways firm Grafix Softech and offices in London’s Berkeley Square.
Kohli’s diverse interests stem from his conviction that emergent technologies have the power to transform and improve the lives of people across the globe.
His work on blindness, undertaken by his Tej Kohli Foundation, set up with his wife Wendy in 2005, is conducted through the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, a collaboration with the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, which has carried out more than one million eye surgical procedures, including performing the world's highest number of cornea transplants, since being set up in 1987.
LVPE operates the largest eye bank in India, harvesting up to 5,000 corneas a year.
Cataracts are responsible for nearly 20m of the world’s 46m blind, with corneal diseases blinding another 4.9m.
Kohli’s ambition to halve this total number is partly focused on funding the development of ways of synthesizing cornea from yeast and peptides.
Kohli says his overall aim is to combat adverse effects from globalisation, demographic change, automation and world indebtedness.
“We’re aware of the need to counter these massive headwinds,” he comments. “Some of them scare us to death but we’re going to try and do what we want anyway. How you tackle these issues will make or break you.”