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India next stop on Gates/Buffet Pledge tour

February 23, 2011

We knew it was coming.  We’ve seen more and more individuals, corporate entities and their foundation counterparts giving  back in significant ways… and hearing about it – especially to education both in the US and in India.  (See previous posts about Prabhakant Sinha,  Bharti Enterprises/Sunil MittalAzim Premji Foundation, Ratan TataAnand Mahindra, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Lakshmi Mittal (ArcelorMittal), Anand Julka.)

Next month, Giving Pledge founders Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet are headed to India to encourage wealthy business leaders and families to make a public commitment to pledge half their wealth to philanthropy.

In an open letter (see post below) published yesterday in the Times of India, they write:

…[W]e come not as preachers, but more like cheerleaders. And first and foremost, listeners. It will be an honor to meet with those families who will be able to join us next month in Delhi, to hear about their own thinking and to speak of the deep satisfaction we have derived from our work in philanthropy.

Their hope – to add the first of South Asian philanthropists to the current list of almost 60 of the world’s wealthiest individuals who have pledged to give the majority of their wealth to charity.

According to a March 2010 study conducted by Bain & Co., only 10% of charitable giving in India comes from individuals or companies, compared to 75% in the United States. India’s biggest donor is the government, mostly in the form of disaster relief.  The study found Indians collectively donate 0.6% of their country’s GDP to charity. It’s higher than other emerging markets like Brazil (0.3%) and China (0.1%), but quite below Western nations like Canada (1.3%) and the U.S. (2.2%).   Meanwhile, it’s been reported that India is home to at least 70 billionaires.

South Asia has a rich history of philanthropy, it’s just not as openly documented as a sector as in other regions.  Noted challenges include a lack of established avenues to give back in a meaningful way, great mistrust and corruption around how dollars are spent, as well as a view that wealth is meant to raise one’s own social status, something that not necessarily will come from philanthropy (not yet anyway).

Will India’s wealthy pledge half their wealth?    And what about South Asians elsewhere…?  What do you think?

Read more:
Giving back to society enriches us all – The Times of India
Will an Indian Billionaire Take the Pledge?
INDIA: Charity not beginning at home for universities
India’s Richest Men
Mukesh Ambani on Philanthropist Billionaires
The Joy of Giving

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