Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw becomes second Indian to take the Giving Pledge

Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw took the pledge along with Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia


A file photo of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder of Biocon. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
A file photo of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder of Biocon. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: Ever since Bill Gates and Warren Buffet came up with the Giving Pledge in 2010, the one where billionaires take an informal vow to give away half of their wealth, only one Indian, information technology czar Azim Premji, was part of this billionaire group of givers. On Wednesday, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw became the second.

The 63-year old Shaw, founder of Biocon Ltd, took the pledge along with other billionaires including Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com Inc, and Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb.

P.N.C. Menon, chairman and founder of Sobha Group, who is of Indian origin, also took the pledge.

“This new group joining the Giving Pledge is incredibly thoughtful about their desire to give back and help solve the world’s toughest challenges through philanthropy,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Some have been giving for decades and others are just starting out after building successful businesses, but they all see the value of giving in a bold and effective way.”

The Giving Pledge was initially launched with 40 families in the US to address society’s most pressing problems, by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy either during their lifetime or in their will.

Seventeen new signatories, who had signed the pledges during the course of 2015, were inducted to be part of this group on Wednesday. Shaw had committed to being part of the pledge late last year.

Totally, 154 signatories from 16 countries have so far vowed to part with their wealth, and only two of them are Indian residents. Coincidentally, both Premji and Shaw are from Bengaluru.

Mumbai and Bengaluru are counted as the philanthropic capitals of the country and Bengaluru accounted for over 90% of the money that was donated by the billionaires in India, according to China-based leading luxury-lifestyle publisher Hurun’s India Philanthropy List for 2015.

Even though India does not boast of as many philanthropists as the US does, the country is seeing this group grow.

Bain & Co.’s Philanthropic report 2015 said the country has added more than 100 million donors since 2009. And from just 14% of the adult population that donated cash in 2009, by 2013 the proportion doubled. In fact, more than a third of current donors expect their donations to increase in the next five years, said the report.

Amit Chandra, managing director, Bain Capital Advisors and a philanthropist, said people are quiet because the scale of their giving is disproportionately small to their wealth, while there are others who believe it’s best kept quiet for spiritual or cultural reasons.

“Society also celebrates and respects those who are using their wealth for good, while coming down hard on those who splurge the first time they falter. All this will create the environment for much more openness about one’s giving in the coming years,” says Chandra.

Shaw, for one, who was among the eight Indian women in Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen 2016 list, released by Forbes in April, and also part of Forbes’ top philanthropists in Asia Pacific for 2013, has been quite vocal about giving.

The first-generation entrepreneur has been using her wealth to help people combat cancer and it was the loss of a close friend to the disease, which got her started on this journey.

Ever since Shaw took her company public in 2004, she has been ploughing back the money her company makes towards this cause. Since 2005, she’s donated over $33 million towards philanthropic causes, especially in diagnosing and researching the disease, according to the Forbes report.

She built a 1,400-bed Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Centre in 2009 in Bangalore, specializing in head and neck, breast and blood-related cancers.

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