Philanthropist Karan Tilani is on a mission to help underprivileged children in Nigeria…
The get-together of rich and famous people for luxury events is undoubtedly a great way to address some of the world’s most dismal human conditions we’re aware of. Also, there is no denying that wherever we live, we’re bound to come upon severe troubling issues with respect to the survival of humanity and how miserably it’s overshadowed by day-to-day tribulations that can be solved if there is a good will to change things on the ground.
Moving with a genuine heart in this direction is Singapore-based billionaire Karan Tilani, who is the director of the World of Diamonds Group. According to him, the superfluous wealth hoarded by a few individuals on the planet should somehow be used to mitigate human miseries.
In an exclusive interview with Horizon & Beyond International,we caught up with him to find out how he came to be part of this diamond business, what it means to him, where the World of Diamonds Group stands with respect to tackling humanitarian crises and much more.
Tilani inherited his sheer passion for diamonds from his aunt, who has been the most influential player in shaping his knowledge regarding it all. “She is a connoisseur of rare diamonds and has vigorously been attending auctions the world over to secure important pieces for a long time now. After all, she knows everything about the trade since she married a diamond magnate who introduced her to this sparkling industry,” he says.
Born into a family of good fortune, he once had the privilege to bring a diamond to school for show-and-tell. “I was quite surprised when everyone seemed captivated by its sparkle. And I felt so good,” he says.
The success enjoyed by the World of Diamonds Group proudly today has largely been possible thanks to Tilani’s constant desire to make new contacts in the industry. “The relationships I cultivate along the way mean a lot to me. I love that the glamour and splendor attracts the upper echelon of society. Therefore, I see this entire circle as an energetic hub where I get to learn from successful businesspeople whilst inspiring them to think about engaging themselves in philanthropic activities,” he says.
His first step toward building the brand popular worldwide
When Tilani made a foray into his Russian billionaire uncle Boris Ivanov’s Diamond Empire, he realized that with its Russian heritage, the Group had a mixed working style extending from cultural norms to language barriers. In his viewpoint, this conservative outlook needed to be done away with as quickly as possible in order to take the business to a new height and garner the attention of the international market as he explains, “Diamond businesses are usually family-run and my uncle strictly abided by this doctrine making him protective of engaging with new clients from different countries. He didn’t believe in marketing initiatives since he viewed them as something totally unnecessary. He was simply happy with a strong foothold the Group had been able to establish back home. But I looked at the entire picture differently and wanted to continue the legacy of my family business and harvest the brand in a contemporary manner.”
Recognized as a highly reputed diamond brand globally
It might come as a surprise to those who don’t have the slightest idea that it’s the World of Diamonds Group, which is behind some of the finest diamonds and jewelry pieces one can ever find. But this is the truth. Besides, the brand supports companies financially that engage in mining operations, polishing and distribution of diamonds. “We don’t allow ourselves to be part of the retail scene because it involves a conflict of interests. Instead, we’ve our own way of doing business in the most productive way through the World’s Most Expensive Series. This way, we’ve been able to curate everlasting experiences that money can’t buy,” he says.
The company’s clientele include the world’s largest jewelry brands like Harry Winston, Chopard, Cartier, Buccellati, Bvglari, Graff, Piaget, Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef & Arpels and Mikimoto all purchase some of their rare diamonds which officially come from the mines financed by it. “We also cater selectively to billionaires and members of royalty,” Tilani says. “Not to mention, we probably have the largest offering for fancy blue diamonds. Blues are rarer than pink diamonds and more desirable than red diamonds. The colored diamonds we offer are of a great saturation and are very rare.”
It’s no wonder that the brand boasts thousands of clients including all the royal families across the Middle East, who are fond of extremely expensive jewelry pieces designed by it and what they stand for; pure elegance and texture.
Championing the cause of underprivileged children
Helping the needy became one of Tilani’s major priorities in life because when he was young, his family exposed him to orphanages, animal shelters and the homes of the disadvantaged senior citizens. This left an indelible influence on his consciousness. “From then on, I started thinking about ways to assist others in need whenever possible. I’m glad I can do so with what I’m blessed with. In essence, I value humanity and humility,” he says.
As part of this bigger mission, he recently curated the World’s Most Exclusive Dinnerfor US$2 million, which turned out to be fully successful. The luxurious package was purchased by Vincent and Jane Hee, a multimillionaire Singaporean couple living in Malaysia, who too had same philanthropic motives. “This entire thing was aimed at lifting the lid off the weird reality facing children who are superstitiously blamed for the failure of crops, when villagers become ill or when farm animals die in Nigeria just because they’re seen as witches. The second issue we wanted to bring attention to at the same time was child mortality from pneumonia in the country,” Tilani says.
The couple enjoyed their three days like royalty thanks to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Their first day began with an exquisite dinner at the new rooftop concept 1-V: U, followed by an amazing night at The Outpost Hotel, where they were warmly welcomed with 10,000 roses on arrival.
The next day, the Hees were treated to a daytime cruise at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove in Singapore waters on a Ferretti 780 luxury yacht from Hong Seh Marine. Then, they were taken aboard a Bombardier Global 6000 worth over US$50million from OJets, which took them to the skies 40,000 feet above Southeast Asia for an 18-course dinner conceptualized and prepared by Kirk Westaway of Michelin-starred JAAN. The meal was served with vintage wines and champagnes, including Penfolds Grange 14, Dom Pérignon and Krug champagnes.
To make their experience memorable, they were presented with two pairs of diamond-encrusted chopsticks worth $17,000 each during the dinner, together with the Jane Seymour ring, a rose-gold plated platinum ring set with a rare 2.08-carat cushion-cut fancy vivid blue diamond. They spent the second night at the Presidential Suite of the newly restored Raffles Singapore. Throughout this incredible journey, they were chauffeured in a convertible Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead.
The proceeds raised by this initiative were donated to DINNødhjælp, a Danish NGO entity and African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation (ACAEDF) who are playing an active role in eradicating the stigmatization of witch children as well as child mortality caused by pneumonia.
Its role in resolving humanitarian crises
Tilani also makes it clear that as an organization, the group fully implements its policy of zero tolerance regarding child labor and blood diamonds. “We abstain from doing businesses in countries which lack transparency in terms of operations. We’re a family-owned business and most of our non-profit projects are done privately by the different family members since each of us have something close to our hearts,” he says. “In addition, we’re quite strict about ensuring that our company follows respectable employment practices.”
It’s no secret that love for philanthropy runs in Tilani’s blood. He passionately believes in the philosophy of giving as it makes him happy and he feels a real sense of belonging when he helps others. “Inspired by this way of thinking, I opened the Karan Tilani Children’s Hospital in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria last year to look after the medical needs of ostracized children in the community,” he says.
The extent to which Karan is determined to make the future of these children brighter can be gauged by the fact that he has established another organization ‘Children Philanthropy’, a platform to raise awareness of the fate of witch children in Nigeria.
“All in all, the overall purpose of what I’m doing is to reintegrate the ‘witch children’ back to their communities and eventually eradicate the superstition. When we bring back a child to their family who had once ostracized that child, and now this child looks well- nourished, educated and is employed with a decent income, the family’s perception of the child immediately changes. They believe that we had given their children an antidote to rid them of witchcraft,” he says. “Once these two challenges are completely overcome, our long-term focus would be on education.”
What’s noteworthy is that in the past, Tilani has personally supported many non-profit initiatives close to home and some through the World of Diamonds Group. These initiatives include the Sarah-Grace Sarcoma Foundation which raises funds for research in pediatric tumors, CRIB which supports women entrepreneurs, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Say No to the Oppression of Women, a UN initiative and many more.
Tilani’s diverse interests and future plans for the group
The idea of being occupied with one type of work doesn’t appeal to him at all. Rather he likes to delve into many things at a time in order to make his life more entertaining. “I enjoy diversifying to rare assets including vintage cars and wine, exceptional art and investment-grade diamonds. It’s an inelastic market that is recession-proof and when I use this vehicle to generate profits, I mean I can save more children. Through my personal investments, I get to meet like-minded individuals and I inspire them to embrace philanthropy too,” he says.
Tilani believes the World of Diamonds Group will continue to be behind the ‘World’s Most Expensive Series’ that can generate opportunities for people like him and others to do greater good for the underprivileged. “For me, wealth is a responsibility through I can bring smiles to a dark world out there,” he says.
Mostly importantly, prominent figures such as Michelle Obama, Prince Charles and Princess Anne have all appreciated Tilani for his philanthropic work.