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At The Heart Of Manohar Chatlani

Manu Chatlani of FS is our pick for Bangalore’s favourite man because he has a heart. And if you need one, he’ll get it for you at 50% off… provided you can’t pay for it yourself.

If you’ve been living in Bangalore, even for just a year, there’s little chance of you missing the big black and red FS sign that says ‘50 % off.’ The FS sale is a hugely awaited event in the city. People in fact queue up early in the morning to get their hands on the merchandise at half price.

But there’s way more to Manohar Chatlani, the man behind the FS (Favourite Shop) than making money and making Bangaloreans happy with discounted merchandise. He is a philanthropist and the founding member of ‘Have a Heart Foundation’ that’s been doing charity work for the last 15 years.

I met the favourite man at his FS Cox Town head office. The place was buzzing with activity, truckloads of stock coming in and going out, a team of people across various departments making sure everything rolled smoothly.
It was an orderly chaos. While attending to phone calls and giving instructions to his staff,  Chatlani greeted us warmly. He’s clearly a very busy man and at that moment I didn’t think I’d really be able to understand the psyche of this large-hearted businessman by asking him questions about his philanthropic side on that busy afternoon. But was I wrong. Maybe it was just the subject or his passion towards it that reflected a sweet and genuine emotion in all his responses.

I started by sharing something I heard about him, that he apparently gave away a portion of everything, including his earnings and his time to charity. “I give 10% of all my time to charity,” he confirmed.  Here’s what he had to say:
What was the first charitable contribution that you made? What is your motivation?
I don’t really remember that. Although there are a couple of cases which of course, are very memorable. Like there was this one-year-old kid, whose surgery we undertook. When we started specialising in heart surgeries six years back, we used to pay Rs 60,000 per surgery. Now with the costs going up, we pay Rs 1 lakh. So, in the case of this kid, the parents paid Rs 30,000 and we paid Rs 30,000. The normal cost at that time was Rs 90,000 at Narayana Hrudayalaya. So what happened was, after this kid was operated, his parents told his 8 year old sister that some people in Bangalore helped save her brother’s life.

Now this girl would walk 5kms everyday to school and her father would give her 50p for lunch. In these small villages, you could only get idli or something of that nature for that much.

After a couple of weeks, she handed a bag of sweets to her father, asking him to send those sweets to the people in Bangalore who helped save her brother’s life. When her father enquired about how she got the money to buy the sweets, she replied saying that she didn’t have lunch for 2 weeks.

He brought the child to Bangalore and asked her to give us the sweets herself, and then he told us where the sweets had come from. It’s things like these, which inspire us.

What is the reason that led you towards this path of philanthropy?
See basically what happens is, when these people in need of treatment find out that they have to pay a lakh and a half for the surgery, they give up hope. When they’re told that somebody will help, a little hope comes into their lives.

Everybody wants to save their kid, wife, father, husband or whatever. And they come to us saying that they can afford Rs 20,000 or 40,000 or even 70,000. So what we feel is, by paying Rs 40,000 on an average, if you can save a human life, it’s money very well spent.

Can you share some details about ‘Have a Heart Foundation?’
It was started about 15 years ago. We started a clinic on St. John’s Road with specialisation in HIV. Over the last 6 years we’ve been specialising in heart surgeries. We’re tied up with different hospitals and we get the surgeries done for the poor. What happens is that the normal cost of this surgery is a lakh and a half in Narayana Hrudayalaya, they do it for us for a lakh of rupees. Out of this one lakh whatever the patient can afford he / she pays and we pay the balance.

How can more people get involved with Have a Heart Foundation?
It’s not a very big organization. There are four trustees and my staff handles the accounts. If people are interested in giving donations, they are welcome to come and see what happens in our interviews, because it is in the interview where we decide how much to sanction for each patient. If we feel that the patient is really deserving, and will not be able to afford a surgery, we sanction the amount. If we feel that they can afford it on their own then either we don’t pay at all or we ask them to pay a major part.

So the patient can pay anything from 0 to Rs 70,000. On an average we pay about Rs 40,000 per surgery. If anybody wants to get involved, first thing they should do is come and attend the interview, see what happens and then decide how they want to take it forward.

In how many cities is this foundation active?
We’re in Bangalore, Calcutta and Jaipur. We’ve just started in Mumbai and Ludhiana. Calcutta is very active; we’re doing it regularly for 2.5 years now. And in 2.5 years, we’ve done about 1100-1200 surgeries.