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A Blessing and a Curse: India’s Growing Number of Billionaires

July 27, 2011

Today’s New York Times has an article on the growing number of Indian billionaires.  The article highlights the nuances behind this statistic: a growing economy with tremendous potential alongside an ineffective political system and unfettered politicians, neither of which are faced with any checks or balances.  This has led to an environment where very few are able to obtain very much.  Additionally, the article drives home the point that success for one person or one family doesn’t necessarily create massive ripples of growth for the region or the country.

The question for us is what does this mean for philanthropy in India.  The easy answer is that these billionaires (or “robber-barrons” as they are compared with in the article)  have an even greater responsibility to donate their resources to the social ills that many of their actions exacerbate. (Philanthrocapitalism anyone?)  The harder question how do we (or anyone or anything) create incentives to inspire such behavior?  We have yet to see these Indian giants commit to anything beyond their own greed in any significant way.  Perhaps they will leave their legacy in years to come – like many did in the United States.  Hopefully, it won’t be too late.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laav P permalink
    August 1, 2011 10:38 am

    Hi Venu –

    I read the NYT article and gasped as well, but was not entirely surprised. I do wonder though how much of this is rooted in how South Asian culture is? Whether it is in South
    Asia or the South Asian diaspora, I see come common values emerge in how we behave :
    insularity, classism,and fixation on material wealth. There is also no accountability for dishonest behavior. South Asian values appear to be successful at the individual level and in helping their own family or respective caste or ethnolinguistic group. But the buck stops there. At the collective level, there is no commitment to civic engagement or philanthropy and we are so fiercely competitive with each other. One only has to look at the Indian American community in the US. Even as this economy tanks, many Indian Americans are prospering financially. But what are we doing beyond that? I can think there is a connection to how Indians both in India and that of the diaspora behave.


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