Where Philanthropy In India Stands Today

Philanthropy is nothing new in India; in fact, you could say that it’s been deeply ingrained in Indian culture since ancient times. Once upon a time in Kerala, the last question that every feudal landlord would ask before closing the main gate was, “Is there anyone left without supper?”. Although such incidents are quite uncommon in our present times, there are still many who constantly strive to give back to society.

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According to the India Giving Report published in November, 2012, as many as 836 million Indians—nearly 84% of the population—donate to charitable causes at least once a year. The same report found that philanthropy in India had the potential to soar in the next few decades. The 2013 CSR mandate has increased corporate contribution in the arena of social development, and today, a truly astonishing number of Indian companies are actively engaged in promoting causes.

In light of all these facts, you might be keen to know more about the present state of Indian philanthropy. Let’s dig right in.

Young Entrepreneurs Slowly Take Centre Stage

In India, corporate philanthropy has traditionally been the forte of super-rich business families. The Tatas, for instance, established the JN Tata Endowment Scheme in 1892, which even today remains the foundation for the family’s philanthropic activities. But in recent years, an increasing number of entrepreneurs have taken up the reins and are today steadily promoting a variety of social causes.

Naveen Tewari, the founder of InMobi, had a brilliant plan about 10 years ago; with the help of 100 alumni from his alma mater, the Harvard Business School, he raised about ₹32 lakhs in funding for a village near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. A decade later, the village now has 3 schools, electricity and improved accessibility.

Another formidable example is Atul Satija, a colleague of Mr. Tiwari who quit InMobi to launch a nonprofit organisation called Nudge Foundation. He set up this organisation by using ₹1.27 crore of his own money because he passionately believed in a cause. Nudge Foundation works with unprivileged Indians to helps them find employment. Mr. Satija intends to nudge people out of the cycle of unemployment by imparting useful life skills that can get them jobs.

High-Profile Philanthropists Try To Bridge The Economic Gap

The 2014 CSFB Global Wealth Databook states that 10% of Indians control nearly 75% of the country’s economy. In the midst of this staggering economic disparity, a few wealthy individuals have made incredibly large contributions that have raised eyebrows all over the world.

Azim Premji, the Wipro Chairman, was recently listed as the ‘most charitable man in India’ by the Hurun Research Institute for the second year in a row. This stalwart has taken a giant leap of faith by transferring 12.5% of his holding in Wipro—worth $2.2 billion—to his nonprofit, the Azim Premji Foundation. This organisation is dedicated towards raising the quality and equity of education in India.

Amit Chandra, the Managing Director of Bain Capital, understands the importance of tackling capacity challenges in the nonprofit sector. Today, all his donations are designated for this particular cause. He recently developed an array of viability support strategies for a skills-training centre that he’d sponsored. Anand Mahindra of the Mahindra Group also believes that poverty can’t be solved by simply giving away money; that’s why his philanthropic capital is set aside exclusively to help social enterprises scale up.

Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of the Tata group, is known for his philanthropic efforts. His approach is go straight to the root cause of India’s development issues. The Tatas have a number of nonprofit trusts that are constantly engaged in social welfare programs.

Increased Foreign Contribution

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But it’s not just Indians who are proactively involved in national social reform. Many foreign organisations have made their contribution as well, chief amongst them being the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This organisation began its work more than a decade ago in India with an initiative to battle the spread of HIV. Since then, the Gates Foundation has expanded its scope to deal with maternal and child health, sanitation and agricultural development. Other foreign business powerhouses like HP have created innovative CSR programs such as the one that promotes e-learning solutions in rural India.

Corporate philanthropy in India has improved by leaps and bounds after the CSR Act in 2013. Even small to medium-sized companies are making their collective efforts to bring about effective change. Although there’s a lot left to be done, India today stands as a shining example to the rest of the world when it comes to philanthropy.