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Two private billionaires’ meetings on Giving Pledge

July 29, 2012

Oh, what we wouldn’t give to be flies on the wall at two recent meetings of billionaires on philanthropy!  Part of the Buffett/Gates ‘Giving Pledge’ movement, the first meeting took place at Santa Barbara’s Bacara Resort and the other took place in Bangalore, India. 

The Economist has put together an interesting multimedia feature about the first event, including video interviews with some of the 35 billionaires who attended the Santa Barbara retreat hosted by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  This excerpt contains a great Buffett quote, which I hope shows how philanthropy has changed since the Gilded Era of Carnegies, Rockefellers, etc.:

[W]hereas [Andrew] Carnegie’s philanthropic message was driven in part by his belief that giving could help protect capitalism from socialism, this thought is not even hinted at in most of the Giving Pledge letters. “I do not see any of the philanthropic activity I run into motivated by the idea that this is going to calm the masses,” explains Mr Buffett, who confesses that “it is amazing to me the degree of inequality that exists without people really getting upset.”

And in Bangalore, India, 45 philanthropists came together for a four-hour discussion led by Azim Premji, Ratan Tata, and Bill Gates.  While the quotes from Gates in the Times of India read awkwardly, the article overall is quite interesting.  The group discussed the importance of collaboration in solving some of India’s most fundamental problems – like water, sanitation, and women’s health.  They heard from philanthropists about case studies in making an impact on different issues, and reiterated the need to cultivate a culture of giving in India.  (H/T Foundation Center)

Strangely, the organizers would not release an official list with the names of all the attendees.  I would think that a “culture of giving” should start by being open and transparent about philanthropy role models!  The Times article contains the names of some Indian philanthropists who were in attendance: 

The Bangalore billionaire contingent was in full attendance led by the Infosys brigade in Kris Gopalakrishnan and his wife Sudha, Infosys co-founder and chairman of Unique Identification Authority Nandan Nilekani and his wife Rohini, Biocon head Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and her husband John Shaw, Dr Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya, V G Siddharth of the Cafe Coffee Day chain, and G Mallikarjun Rao, chairman of the GMR Group. Premji’s sons, Rishad and Tariq, were also present.

Mobile czar Sunil Mittal, industrialist and MP Navin Jindal, Hyderabad-based billionaire GVK Reddy, Ajay Pirmal, chairman, Piramal Group and Thermax director, Anu Aga, Rajashree Birla (mother of Aditya Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla), prominent investor Rakesh Jhunjunwala, Cyrus Poonawalla and his wife, flew down to Bangalore for the occasion.

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