25 Aug 2021

Looking ahead: Supporting the future through education and sustainable agriculture

Amrita and Ashok Mahbubani’s journey to Huntsville started nearly 9,000 miles away in their country of birth, India. They met in the early seventies, in a city then called Madras, where Amrita’s father, an Army General, was on a regional command posting. After graduating in business, Ashok had started a career in Electronics, in the export wing of a manufacturing & marketing company.

In the early eighties, Amrita’s brother launched an entrepreneurial venture in Toronto, Canada. The products and technologies aligned remarkably well with Ashok’s experience. He decided to accept an invitation to join his brother-in-law’s new automotive electronics startup. In 1983, the couple took the leap and moved to Canada with their two young children.

After four good years building the business in Canada, the Mahbubanis were presented a new opportunity to serve the emerging needs of Chrysler’s advanced automotive electronics plants in Huntsville, AL. In 1987 they co-founded a company and moved here. Over the next 31 years, the Multitronics Group became a preferred supplier of contract manufacturing and supply chain management services, supporting Chrysler, Ford, GM and Toyota.

Leveraging success for social impact

In 2009, the Mahbubanis established a private family foundation for targeted philanthropy, initially focused on Haiti, the poorest country in this Hemisphere. They multiplied their impact through catalytic grant funding of carefully curated projects with competent partners in the field.

In the ensuing years, they broadened their horizons and, as they told us, “The core principle of the EKTA Foundation became the enhancement of human dignity through education”. In 2018, the Mahbubanis decided to focus all their time and work on their Foundation. They pledged to adapt all the practical hands-on experience they had gained over their years in business to make a lasting impact on education and impact entrepreneurship.

“We’ve both had the honor of engaging with the largest student-driven social enterprise development platform in the world, working with teams of young, aspiring entrepreneurs, committed to creating sustainable for-good, for-profit businesses,” they shared. In more recent times, EKTA has also supported nature-based climate solutions for environmental restoration.

Inspired by biotechnology

About four years ago, the Mahbubani’s neighbor invited them to take a tour at HudsonAlpha. Amrita remembers how impressed they were by the Institute’s work in biotechnology, including the commitment to Education Outreach and how thoughtfully it was executed.

In 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the world, HudsonAlpha’s role in helping people with factual analysis and information also caught the Mahbubani’s attention, through Dr. Neil Lamb’s educational video series, Shareable Science: Beyond the Blog.

In 2021, recognizing the biotech roots of mRNA vaccines, they decided to engage directly with the Institute. “We’ve followed HudsonAlpha’s progress since it was founded,” they said. “Our interest was revived with the phenomenal impact biotech has had in this pandemic. We want to continue to support causes that make our world a better place.”

HudsonAlpha broke ground on a new state-of-the-art laboratory and greenhouse space for HudsonAlpha’s Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture in May of 2021. With their mission of supporting causes in education and sustainability, the Mahbubanis made a gift to HudsonAlpha and are now members of the Institute’s Genome Circle and Visionary Circle of Giving.

Half of their gift will support education programs while the other half will support sustainable agriculture research. A room in the new greenhouse will be named for The EKTA Foundation.

“Getting to know the Mahbubanis has been a delight and we are grateful for philanthropists like them who are dedicated to supporting causes that will impact our future for generations to come,” said Elizabeth Herrin, Director of External Relations for the HudsonAlpha Foundation.

To learn more about naming opportunities on campus or about joining the Genome Circle visit www.hudsonalphafoundation.org.