Ananda Krishnan is the Chairman of Usaha Tegas. Born in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, he had a middle-class upbringing as the son of a civil servant of Sri Lankan
origin. When it came time for college, he received a scholarship to study at Melbourne
University. The award was obtained as part of the Colombo Plan, an effort launched in
1950 to develop human resources in South Asia. He earned a degree in political science
then went on to earn a Master of Business Administration at Harvard in 1964.
Following graduation, Ananda became an entrepreneur. He founded Exoil Trading, a
firm that dealt in oil trading concessions. The effort was a triumph, and the money he
made from it enabled him to pursue more ventures; these included gambling, a cartoon
studio, and stud farming. Afterwards, he developed an interest in multimedia initiatives.
In the mid-1980s, he helped Bob Geldof organize the famed Live Aid concert. In the
1990s, he purchased shares of Maxis Communications from various companies, raising
his stake to 70%. The firm is Malaysia’s top cell phone service provider, boasting a 40%
market share, over 11 million subscribers, and $8.9 billion in revenues. He also owns
shares of SES World Skies and MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems, a company that
owns and operates four communications satellites in Southeast Asia and India.
Ananda has significantly diversified his portfolio over time. His specific business
interests include media (Astro, Johnston Press Plc), satellite (MEASAT), oil and gas
(Bumi Armada, Pexco), telecommunications (Maxis, Aircel, Axis, Sri Lanka Telecom).
He also owns stakes in Tanjong Public Limited Company, an investment holding
company with subsidiaries involved in power generation (Powertek), gaming (Pan
Malaysian Pools), leisure (Tropical Islands, TGV Cinemas) and property (Overseas
Union Enterprise, a listed property and hotel group, in a joint venture with Indonesian
billionaire Riady family of Lippo Group).
The aforementioned Astro is Malaysia’s largest TV business, broadcasting more than 100
TV channels across Malaysia and Brunei. In an agreement formed between the company
and India’s Sun Network, Ananda plans to produce TV channels targeted at the Indian
market, particularly Tamil people in areas such as CIS and Western Europe. He also
plans to offer TV services featuring Web-based interactivity. He is helped by the fact
that he owns stakes in TVB.com and the Shaw Brothers movie archives.
Ananda’s business success has led him to accrue a net worth of $7.4 billion, according to
Forbes; this makes him the second-richest man in Malaysia. Telecom assets account for
more than half his wealth, led by his controlling stake in Maxis. Despite this pedigree, he
is known to maintain a low profile. He is also known for his love of real estate, with a
multi-million dollar 1,800-hectare property near the town of Scone, as well as other
properties in London, Kuala Lumpur and France. He enjoys his wealth, but he is also a
generous philanthropist who has given generously to various causes.
Ananda Krishnan is heavily invested in charitable efforts. The Live Aid concert he co-
organized in 1985 helped raise $240 million around the world for African famine relief.
Since then he has donated tens of millions to education, sports, arts, and humanitarian
causes in Malaysia through Usaha Tegas, its subsidiaries, and various foundations.
Despite this broad scope, most of the focus is on developing talent, particularly through
university scholarships, school programs, and other forms of support. This is important
because in 1996 the Malaysian government began to rely more on the private sector to
fund higher education.
Below is a summary of available information about the charitable activities of Usaha
Tegas and its various entities:
In 2003 Usaha Tegas founded Harapan Nusantara, an education fund focused on
Malays, using 300 million shares of Maxis, worth $26 million at the time, and
endowing it with another $26 million in cash contributed by Astro, Maxis and
Tanjong. Since 2004 the fund has sponsored 100 students a year to attend twinning
programs at private Malaysian universities, which are curriculums run together with
universities abroad. Harapan Nusantara got another $1.3 million that year to send
Malay managers to attend executive programs at Harvard Business School.
In 2003 Usaha Tegas started the Yu Cai Education Foundation, focused on ethnic
Chinese groups, with a grant of $6.6 million. That year the foundation spent $1.3
million to set up a Chinese traditional studies department at Universiti Tunku Abdul
Rahman, a private university with campuses in Petaling Jaya and elsewhere.
In 2008 Usaha Tegas presided over the opening of the Montfort Girls Centre, a
counterpart to Selangor’s Montfort Boys Town; the $2 million complex includes a
dormitory and training center where girls can learn baking, computer repair, graphic
design, and other vocations. Two wings were named in memory of Krishnan’s
mother and grandmother. Josie Fernandez, the founding director of Philanthropy
Asia, says: “I think Krishnan’s giving has been progressive in that he’s donated to a
women’s cause like this, which has not been a popular form of giving in Malaysia.
It’s for girls who are not academically inclined but who need vocational skills. It’s
giving opportunities to those who would never have them, not just to the gifted who
would find opportunities anyway.”
Usaha Tegas has formed additional foundations that focus on ethnic groups. Yayasan
DayaDiri (YDD) supports bumiputra causes in the areas of education and community
development. Malaysian Community and Education Foundation (MCEF) primarily
focuses on the educational needs and welfare of the Malaysian Indian community.
Usaha Tegas’s subsidiaries have their own areas of focus for giving. Astro aims its
philanthropy at industry education and the arts. Since 2006 it has awarded annual
scholarships ranging from $2,300 to $44,000 to Malaysian media and broadcasting
students, in tandem with offers of job placements at the company. A special
scholarship caters to students in the performing arts and humanities. The firm also
sponsors courses in acting, directing, and screenwriting for 48 students a year.
Tanjong spends much of its funds on education, particularly undergraduate
scholarships in Malaysia. Other funds go to health care groups focused on life-
It is difficult to find a dollar figure representing Ananda’s total giving amount. This is
partly because Usaha Tegas releases minimal information. That said, industry experts
believe he is among Malaysia’s biggest givers. Josie Fernandez of Philanthropy Asia
says: “Krishnan is contributing to the nation, building a pool of talented, skilled
Malaysians, including ones who will be able to manage the new kinds of companies he
has established.” Because of his generosity, in 2010 he was recognized by Forbes Asia
as one of its “Heroes of Philanthropy.”