BANGALORE: Azim Premji has become the first Indian to sign up for the Giving Pledge, an undertaking by large-hearted billionaires to dedicate a majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
The WiproBSE 0.49 % founder and chairman, who has already committed nearly 9,000 crore to the cause of education, will direct more of his charitable giving towards the endowment supporting his philanthropic foundation, Premji wrote in a statement.
“I was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s notion of holding one’s wealth in trusteeship, to be used for the betterment of society and not as if one owned it,” he wrote to the Giving Pledge organisation, whose prime movers have been Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
The Bloomberg Billionaires’ Index estimates Premji’s wealth at $16 billion, or about 87,000 crore, making him the 50th richest man in the world and the third-richest Indian after Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Niwas Mittal of ArcelorMittal.
Premji has been setting an example with his giving while India lurches from one corruption scandal to another. A vocal critic of misgovernance as well as ostentation, the 67-year-old drives a Toyota Corolla, is known to avoid staying in five-star hotels and leads a generally frugal life.
“Azim has been leading from the front in terms of philanthropy in India whether by directly contributing or encouraging others to contribute. I applaud his efforts,” said Kris Gopalakrishnan, executive co-chairman of InfosysBSE -0.27 %.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett (the two of them are together worth over $110 billion) have persuaded dozens of America’s billionaires to sign up for the Giving Pledge and return a majority of their fortunes to charitable causes.
Buffett, the world’s fourth-richest man with a fortune of $53 billion, will give away 99% of his wealth, and Gates, the second-wealthiest man on the planet, will donate at least half his riches in keeping with the pledge. Premji’s letter does not make an explicit commitment of this nature, but the Giving Pledge is clear that a majority of the wealth goes to charity.
The organisation announced on Tuesday that for the first time, wealthy families from outside the US have joined the pledge, taking the total number who have made the commitment to 105. Joining Premji on the international list were Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and David Sainsbury from the founding family of the eponymous British supermarket chain.
Mother My Inspiration: Premji
In India, Premji has been an ardent supporter and promoter of the cause of philanthropy. In June last year, he brought together dozens of India’s wealthiest individuals to discuss philanthropy in the first such gathering of its kind in the country. There were no overt pleas for charitable giving, but the nearly 50 men and women who attended the event were given a glimpse of the crying need for extra help in areas that are vital to India’s development. “I am so proud of him as an Indian. He is a role model,” said VG Sidhartha, founder of the Cafe Coffee Day chain and the biggest investor in software company MindTree.
For Premji, the inspiration has been his mother, who dedicated most of her life to building and running a charitable hospital in Mumbai for children affected by polio and cerebral palsy. “My mother was the most significant influence in my life as I was growing up.”
The Azim Premji Foundation now has 800 people working for it to strengthen the capacity of the institutional structures of education in India. It will have up to 5,000 people in the next five years as it scales up its activities.
Anurag Behar, a close aide of Premji and the chief sustainability officer of Wipro, said the most remarkable thing about the software billionaire is that he is a builder of systems. “The whole approach of his, whether it is the foundation or Wipro, is to have good teams which will build things to last.”
Source: Economic Times