There is no denying the global phenomena of growing income disparity and this is true for India as well. A 2014 study by Oxfam showed that the world’s top 80 billionaires had a cumulative wealth of over $1.9 trillion, which is more than the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet. What’s more, the richest 20 per cent in the world own more than 90 per cent of global wealth.
With the rich become richer and the poor poorer by the day, corporate philanthropy in India has the opportunity to play a leading role in helping to tackle some of its burning issues and challenges. This, especially in areas of education and skills development, job creation, community development and health which affect majority of the Indian masses and have been traditionally ignored by public institutions.
With India slated to be among the top five economies of the world, its corporates today are well equipped in terms of resources to create large-scale impact in critical sectors of the economy and play a vital role in economic growth. Annually, leading philanthropists across the globe spend between 2 and 5 per cent of their net worth in philanthropy, while in India as per the list of Biggest Givers in 2014, the average giving range across some of the biggest philanthropists is between 0.4 to 1.7 per cent.
Also, just two out of the top 10 richest Indians find a spot in the ‘Top 10 Philanthropists’ list. Hence, philanthropy in India has the room to upgrade and upscale. India’s wealthy can definitely afford to be more charitable. Bill Gates during his round table with leading Indian philanthropists in 2011 clearly hit the nail on its head when he opined that “a key factor holding [Indian] people back from being even more generous is finding philanthropic endeavours that make them feel like they are having a significant and unique impact”.
The way forward is to have professional guidance, teams and structure for optimal use of the philanthropic grants. “High impact and sustained philanthropy can change the face of India” says leading philanthropist, Dr Romesh Wadhwani.
Indian philanthropy has to catch up to Western standards and overcome impediments
for grant-giving organisations like debilitating societal inequalities and weakness of the charitable sector.
There are thousands of NGOs in India. Dearth of regulation and proper accounting procedures are real-time hurdles. The need of the hour for Indian philanthropy is to have a long-term sustainable approach to development, back innovative ideas and programmes for large scale-impact, and promote policy analysis and advocacy.
But there are encouraging precedents in India by those who want to make a difference in their own areas of belief. Subramanian Ramadorai, post his tenure at Tata Consultancy Services, raised over Rs 85 crore to build a paediatric hospital in Mumbai, one of the country’s largest. Rajashree Birla of the Aditya Birla Group, has over the years, raised in excess of Rs 93 crore for polio eradication alone.
Nimesh Sumati and Rajesh Kacholia, both Mumbai businessmen, have catalysed Caring Friends – an eclectic, informal and expanding giving group of people who fraternise and raise over Rs 25 crore each year into high-impact NGOs. Anand Mahindra is a co-founder of Naandi-Danone, a partnership with the French multinational that pioneered the social business model in Bangladesh as propounded by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.
However, there are first signs of the changing face of philanthropy led by a strong economy, increased wealth and growing global stature. As per ‘Bain’s India Philanthropy Report 2015’, the country has added more than 100 million donors since 2009 giving philanthropy a much higher public profile and that philanthropic donations are ahead of donations in other developing countries.
The report adds that India is now ranked 69 on the World Giving Index, up from its earlier rank of 134 in 2010. So, in a short period, India has moved from the bottom to the middle of the pack.
No doubt, there is enormous potential for donors and non-profits to effect change in India. But this will need to gather pace otherwise India will continue to have a stratified philanthropy space with a short-term approach as opposed to interventions that are required build capacity at scale.