Home >Companies >People >Azim Premji tops India philanthropy listing: Hurun

Bengaluru: Wipro Ltd chairman Azim Hashim Premji, unsurprisingly, was ranked the most generous Indian for the third year in a row on the Hurun India Philanthropy List 2015 released on Friday.

Premji, in fact, contributed about 80% of total donations made by 36 Indian philanthropists who together gave away nearly 35,000 crore.

Premji, 70, donated 27,514 crore for education through the eponymous Azim Premji Foundation, more than twice the amount he gave in 2014. The foundation works in eight states and has more than 350,000 schools.

China-based Hurun, a leading luxury-lifestyle publisher targeting billionaires, studied 300 rich Indian entrepreneurs and identified those who gave over 10 crore to charity. Hurun compiled the list on the basis of cash and cash equivalents they pledged in the 12 months from 1 November 2014 to 31 October 2015.

The donations also included a share of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending of companies in which an individual has a significant stake; this was calculated as a percentage of CSR spending equivalent to the size of an individual’s holding in the company.

Premji’s donation helped improve the average size of donation to 900 crore from 300 crore in last year’s list. But the number of philanthropists itself fell to 36 from 50 in 2014, said the report.

According to Charities Aid Foundation UK, as per the World Giving Index, India came down in the rankings from 93 in 2013 to 106 in 2014, demonstrating an overall reduction in Indian philanthropy.

“From our perspective, we are seeing more people coming forward to give. But in 2015, what could have made a dent is the CSR rule. It could have made people pause and think about their giving and understand the implications of the rule," said Neera Nundy, co-founder of Dasra, a philanthropic organization that advises people on how to give strategically.

CSR rules took effect in 2014, mandating that companies with a net worth of 500 crore or revenue of 1,000 crore or net profit of 5 crore should spend 2% of their average profit in the last three years on social development-related activities.

Infosys Ltd’s co-founder Nandan Nilekani and his wife Rohini Nilekani donated 2,404 crore, primarily towards the causes of urban governance, public policy and education, making them the second most generous.

N.R. Narayana Murthy, another Infosys founder, ranked third, giving away 1,322 crore during the year. In fact, six of the 36 philanthropists were from Infosys; their contribution totalled 5,051 crore.

“Infosys was not just a company, but an attempt to create something bigger than all of us. I think the values we had are being reflected in this," said Rohini Nilekani.

The Nilekanis support over a dozen non-governmental organizations and in 2015 they took up two new projects. The couple set up a social venture called EkStep to address learning challenges in primary education using technology. In addition, Rohini Nilekani, along with Premji, pledged to fund and support Independent and Public Spirited Media Trust to fund independent media outfits that provide socially relevant content.

“These are multiple-year commitments and will see a significant focus from us in the coming years," said Rohini Nilekani.

Murthy’s son Rohan Murty emerged as the youngest giver among the 36, donating 35 crore. He founded the Murty Classical Library of India, which aims to make available the great literary works of India from the past two millennia.

The contribution by Reliance Industries Ltd’s chairman Mukesh Ambani, who topped the Hurun India Rich list 2015, dropped. He gave 345 crore in 2015 towards healthcare, down from 603 crore in the year ago.

Nita Ambani, wife of Mukesh Ambani, figured at the 32nd place in the list. Her contribution was pegged at 12 crore and is under social development, which includes multiple causes including rural development and sanitation.

Unlike most philanthropists who have been grouped with family, Nita and Mukesh Ambani have been ranked separately because they support different causes. Similarly Rohan Murty’s efforts differ from that of his parents, and hence he is listed separately, explained Anas Rahman Junaid, business head, Hurun Report India.

“Despite weak corporate earnings in 2015 compared to last year, the increasing speed of wealth creation seems to promise a bright future for Indian philanthropy", added Junaid.

Non-resident Indian businessman Ravi Pillai was one of the philanthropists who supported a distinct cause. He spent 13 crore for conducting mass weddings, creating a whole new category called wedding philanthropy. In 2014, he supported healthcare.

Mumbai and Bengaluru had the most number of philanthropists; 19 of the 36 philanthropists were from these two cities. And Bengaluru accounted for over 90% of the money that was donated by the 36; both Wipro and Infosys are based in the city.

Education continued to be the top cause espoused by Indian philanthropists, with about 50% of people supporting it.

Philanthropists are looking to take education beyond just providing access to schools and looking at different layers of education like skills and job creation, said Nundy of Dasra.

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