Nilekanis’ signature of Giving Pledge shows determination to shake up Indian philanthropy


Andrew Milner


Nandan and Rohini Nilekani have become the fourth Indians to sign up to the Giving Pledge.

Under the Pledge, begun by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010, the Nilekanis have committed to giving half of their wealth – around $1.7bn according to the Times of India – to philanthropy.

The move reflects the couple’s determination to set a public example to fellow wealthy Indians. Though the money comes from IT billionaire and co-founder of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, it has been Rohini who has been the driving force behind the couple’s philanthropy – he tweeted that ‘our philanthropic journey of two decades has been led by Rohini’s passion and commitment.’

In a TV interview following the announcement on 20 Nov 2017, Rohini Nilekani said ‘If you are super-wealthy, you are going to have to be super-generous, too’ and that Indian traditions which discouraged publicity around giving had to change.

In an interview later the same week, she spoke about the need for Indian donors to support human rights work saying ‘You can’t escape deep political issues while doing philanthropy or you won’t get very far.’

Ms Nilekani was also sceptical of the effects of India’s recent CSR legislation: ‘The real corporate social responsibility we need from all companies is that they follow laws relating to labour, social justice, taxation, pollution, basically all laws.’ CSR, she said, should be ‘about big companies helping smaller companies achieve good corporate governance, and ensuring they don’t put the cost of doing business on society.’

For more, see Alliance’s conversation with Rohini Nilekani in our September 2016 issue.

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