IT tycoon becomes India's greatest philanthropist
Published 03/12/2010 | 14:15
An Indian IT tycoon has become the country's greatest philanthropist after giving $2bn (€1.5bn) of his personal fortune to build primary schools in some of its poorest areas.
Azim Premji, the founder of Wipro, a software and call centre to cooking oil empire, is India's second wealthiest man, and one of the world's richest 50 tycoons with a personal fortune of $18bn.
The donation means he will succeed the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has given $1.6bn to charitable projects in India, as the country's largest individual donor.
The announcement of his gift came amid criticism that too few of India's growing number of millionaires and global billionaires take philanthropy seriously or give enough of their wealth to charitable causes.
The Prince of Wales sought to bridge the gap in charitable giving on the Indian subcontinent when he hosted a dinner for some of the regions wealthiest businessmen and sought to persuade them to set an example by giving to well-run charities. He invited Ratan Tata, owner of Jaguar Land Rover, steel baron Lakshmi Mittal, property magnate K.P Singh and Mukesh Ambani, the world's richest Indian, to launch the British Asian Trust to encourage Asian billionaires to give more.
The trust last night welcomed Mr Premji's donation and said it hoped others would follow his lead. "It's encouraging that Mr Premji has put his funds to such use because we are trying to encourage philanthropists to consider long term sustainable development when giving their funds. There are lots of people doing incredible work in India and this will encourage others to do the same," said trust director Hitan Mehta.
Wipro, the company Mr Premji transformed from a cooking fat firm to one of the world's largest computer hardware, software and call centre companies, announced he will transfer 213 million of his shares in the company to his Azim Premji Foundation and that the money will be spent on elementary education in rural India, including the Azim Premji University it plans to build in Karnataka for India's underprivileged.
"Good education is crucial to building a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. All our efforts, including the University that we are setting up, are focused on the underprivileged and disadvantaged sections of our society," he said.
Since it was formed in 2001, the trust has supported 25,000 schools and more than 25 million children.