Philanthropy can’t be dictated, say Buffett, Gopalakrishnan

Philanthropy can’t be dictated, say Buffett, Gopalakrishnan

Bangalore: While India’s ministry of corporate affairs, or MCA, is keen to make social contribution mandatory for companies, American billionaire Warren Buffett, who has pledged nearly all his wealth to charity, and S. Gopalakrishnan, chief executive of Infosys Technologies Ltd, say philanthropy cannot be dictated.

The ministry last year proposed a law to make companies of a certain size spend 2% of their three-year average net profit on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

“We can (instead) give examples of people like Warren Buffet… we have examples in India as well," Gopalakrishnan said after a meeting of industry leaders with Buffett on Wednesday.

“We are not out to preach people, they are entitled to make their own judgement," Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., told reporters. “Most of those who are in a stage to give away will do it, I think. In India, we can share our learnings and it’s up to the people of the country."

The iconic 80-year-old investor is on a visit to India along with Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gatesto inspire the country’s wealthy to part with some of their riches for philanthropic causes, as part of the duo’s “The Giving Pledge" campaign that they started in the US last year. So far, 59 wealthy US citizens have taken the pledge.

In the US, a number of people are opening up to the idea that once they have what they need, any surplus could be put to use for the betterment of others, said Buffett.

India, growing at about 9% a year, has 55 billionaires with an average net worth of $4.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine, making the country the third-largest pool of billionaires after the US and China. On the other hand, nearly 42% of Indians live on less than 60 a day, according to the World Bank.

India’s rich have been gradually showing an interest towards organized philanthropy. On Tuesday, G.M. Rao, chairman of GMR Group, pledged his entire stake in the infrastructure-to-airports business to create a 1,540 crore endowment that will fund activities of his firm’s corporate social responsibility arm.

In December, Wipro Ltd’s chairman Azim Premji transferred 213 million shares valued at 8,846 crore to a trust as an endowment to fund the development activities of the Azim Premji Foundation.