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An Indian Spring?

India’s wealthy gave Bill Gates and Warren Buffett a somewhat mixed reception last year when they visited the country last year to spread the gospel of philanthropy. Mukesh Ambani, one of India’s most prominent tycoons, let it be known that he preferred watching cricket to dining with the American philanthrovangelists, whilst the 70 or so rich Indians who did meet them spoke with enthusiasm and what Mr Buffett called “candour.” We are told that meant saying repeatedly that there is no way that extended Indian families would tolerate the 50% or more donation of wealth required by the Buffett-Gates Giving Pledge – even though there is no evidence that any effort was made to get them to sign the pledge, and the visiting megadonors were rightly respectful of India’s long tradition of philanthropy.

As we write in our book, Indian businesses have a long philanthropic tradition, with donors such as JRD Tata championing the cause of education, for example. His descendants have continuedthat tradition, and been joined in giving by some of the country’s new rich, such as the outsourcing entrepreneurs of Infosys and Wipro (the Azim Premji Foundation is profiled in the book). As Matthew explained in a speech to the Indian Philanthropy Forum, hosted this week by Dasra, India has the potential to become a leader in the global philanthrocapitalism movement: “I would not be surprised if in 10 years, India will be seen as the great innovation centre, not just for the low-cost consumer products, but also in terms of inventive solutions to social problems.”

Dasra itself is an encouraging sign that philanthrocapitalism is taking root in India. Founded by the husband and wife team of Deval Sanghavi and Neera Nundy, it is committed to catalysing social change by promoting strategic philanthropy. Dasra runs giving circles for newcomers to philanthropy, an impressive seven month training course for social entrepreneurs, and the increasingly well-attended annual philanthropy forum, now in its third year.

This year’s forum included the launch of the third annual survey of Indian philanthropy by Bain, which makes mostly encouraging reading. Among the headlines, more than a third of the wealthy Indians who turned to philanthropy last year were aged under 30, whilst 69% of the philanthropic families surveyed said they had a youngster spearheading or shaping the family’s charity decisions. That certainly bodes well for the future.