Over the last 25 years, there has been increasing recognition of the role of philanthropy in India and its contribution to the country’s development. The vast majority of foundations and trusts set up by India’s current generation of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) were started after 1990. As the number of wealthy individuals has grown, so too has giving. UHNWIs have thrown their weight behind mobilizing their peers to give, the Indian middle class has stepped up, and small gifts have grown even faster. In 2014, India was 69th in the World Giving Index, up from 134th in 2010.
This raises the more difficult question of the influence of philanthropy on public discourse and government policy. Philanthropists have relatively easy access to decision makers in India, so we should be extremely careful to use this influence for the interests of the people on whose behalf we are working rather than to further our own. At Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI), for example, we have chosen to focus on supporting partners with a diversity of perspectives and enabling their voices rather than ours to be heard.
'Philanthropists have relatively easy access to decision makers in India, so we should be extremely careful to use this influence for the interests of the people on whose behalf we are working rather than to further our own.'
For example, a consortium of 10 funders anchored by APPI came together to promote the Independent Public Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF). By design, the funders do not have control over the decision-making of the IPSMF so that its grantmaking is truly independent of corporate/private interests.