Model Millionaires of India by Shukti Sarma

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If one is to recall the most famous businessman-philanthropist today, the names that promptly some to mind are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. While Indian businessmen may not be bathing in limelight for their contribution to the society, it is wrong to categorise them in that way. Most companies carry out significant work under corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

The indispensible hand

Rahul Bajaj, head of Bajaj Group and probably the most outspoken business tycoon in India, has said that just because Indian businessmen do not follow the Buffet-Gates model, it doesn’t mean that they do not give. A philanthropist himself, Mr Bajaj is well aware of the sizeable amount of work India’s businessmen do.

Some of India’s most prominent businessmen donate a sizeable portion of their income to charities and are carrying on laudable work across the spectrum. In fact, it is difficult to imagine certain things without their contribution.

For example, the Tatas. Their philanthropic activities need no introduction, and the group was awarded the Crnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2007. Tata Memorial Hospital is today counted among the best institutions to deal with cancer and oncology, and a classic example of private philanthropy augmented by government support.

Tata Group has set up various other insititutes: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Science, National Centre for Performing Arts and The Energy and Research Institute. All of these are respected globally, and rank among India’s finest.  The Tata Group also carries on a lot of other work through the Tata Trusts, which contributes to several charities and undertake many projects related to upliftment of rural people, their own factory workers and natural calamity affected regions.

Giving it back to the society

While Ratan Tata has earned the name ‘Corporate Gandhi’ , other prominent businessmen are not behind. Azim Premji, the head of Wipro, is probably the most respected Indian philanthropist. He has donated almost $2 billion for education in India~ which is the largest contribution any Indian has made for charity. Azim Premji Foundation is doing commendable work in the field of universal education, especially elementary education in rural India.

The foundation supports government schools, which are in bad shape and suffer due to lack of funds and proper management. In 2010, Azim Premji University was established in Karnataka. For his outstanding philanthropic work, Dr Premji was awarded with an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Similarly, there are people like Shiv Nadar, chairman of HCL and Harsh Goenka, head of RPG Enterprises, are known for their many philanthropic projects. Mr Nadar has donated Rs580 crore (than he earned after selling his 2.5% stake in HCL) to the Shiv Nadar Foundation, which has undertaken education initiatives across the country.

RPG Group offers free computer classes for below poverty line workers in some cities, and also runs a free library for the underprivileged in Pune. Additionally, the company runs the popular Akshar programme in municipality schools pan-India, which is an educational intervention programme for improving spoken English among the students. The company also plans to start a technical education programme in 2012 called Saksham.

Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys,  set up Infosys Foundation in 1996. It collaborates with several NGOs to help underprivileged rural communities in India in the areas of health care, education, culture, care for the destitute and rural development. For his work, Mr Murthy has got the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.

Twenty five percent of the shares of the highly diversified Godrej Group is held by Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, where the main philanthropic activity is aimed at education, healthcare and environment. Cipla, one of the most respected global names in pharmaceuticals, run the Dr K A Hamied Institute for Education and Research in Palliative Care Science and Cipla Palliative Care and Training Centre~ where patients get all medicines and services for free.

Green and beyond

Apart from such activities, most companies undertake green initiatives. Conglomerates like ITC, Tata, Mahindra and Godrej have several environmental initiatives to their credit. Most companies today understand the importance of preserving the natural environment, and so, they also contribute to many environmental charities.

While Indian companies may not have undertaken the ‘Giving Pledge’ that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg took, they have developed their own models for giving back to the society. They may not court publicity for their work, but their contribution is invaluable.

 (Article First Published in http://www.businessreviewindia.in)

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