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August 25, 2013
livemint.com
Cordelia Jenkins


Around 60 prospective philanthropists attended the ‘First Givers Club’ summit in Delhi, where some of them shared their experiences in giving

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Participants at the First Givers Club summit in New Delhi organized by the online philanthropic donation forum GiveIndia.

New Delhi: On Friday, around 60 prospective philanthropists attended the “First Givers Club” summit in Delhi run by the online philanthropic donation forum GiveIndia. While the club has existed in Mumbai since 2010, said Dhaval Udani, GiveIndia’s CEO, this was their first foray into the capital city. Mint was the media partner of the event.

“With this club, we wanted to create a platform for like-minded individuals to build a community of donors who share knowledge and vision; it will also help to facilitate giving effectively,” Udani told his audience. “Our aim is to help you get more exposure and awareness of the different aspects of philanthropy; over the last three years this club has helped channel more than Rs.18 crore to the lives of more than 10,000 underprivileged in India.”

Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises, along with speakers Anu Aga of Thermax and Amit Chandra of Bain Capital gave their perspectives on how and where to give effectively and on the future of Indian philanthropy. Edited excerpts:

Rakesh Mittal set up the Satya Bharti school programmes in 2006. The aim was to set up 500 primary and 50 secondary schools of its own with a corpus of Rs.200 crore. After that, state governments began reaching out and Bharti began adopting government schools, creating a public-private partnership in delivering quality education to rural children.

“Given the new companies Bill, which has been passed by Parliament, I assume within the next two three months the rules will be finalized; there is going to be a mad rush for seeking funding. Already, I get a letter every other day for supporting a cause...If I see corporates have been very powerful instruments and drivers of philanthropy, this comes from the wider wealth creation and management role which they do in their businesses. Today they are looking at doing more beyond business, not because the government is forcing them, but because we cannot have islands of wealth. You cannot take this country forward if we are just worried about what I have and what I need for me and my family, and the ecosystem and the society around is crumbling. This country will not move forward.”

“If I go back a few centuries giving had been a very rich tradition; it used to be that 10% of your income would be kept aside for a cause. During those times more money went into either building temples or temples of learning, which are the schools and colleges. Pre-1990, Indian corporates were not giving that much, including the individuals, and there was a reason because we did not have sustainable wealth creation opportunities, either for ourselves, our families, or our large stakeholders as we were running the companies.

“This all changed in the post-1991 year of liberalization. In the last two decades, more and more, new age economies moved this country to prosperous economic growth and suddenly you saw people wanting to give back to society because now you have a model which was creating sustainable wealth for yourself.”

“There are individuals who may give money and their time, but there are also entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs who produce products which are low in cost but make a huge impact for the people who use it. This is the brief India is looking at in the landscape today and this will be a stepping stone for the future.”

“Giving at Bharti has always been part of our DNA, it was always our endeavour to make a difference. At the beginning, in the mid-70s, we were more interested in creating businesses which could impact society at large. If I look at telecom, retail, agri and food processing we wanted to make a difference and not a buck. In 2000 we set up Bharti Foundation with the sole objective of supporting the youth of India and enabling the underprivileged to come and compete with anyone.

“We started writing cheques and one day I felt that was not the purpose, the fact is there are 320 million children in the age of 6-16, we talk of demographic dividend—absolutely yes, if we nurture this potential, but if we don’t do justice to these children there is a disaster which is waiting to happen.

“The way things are going I am not feeling very positive. I am a born optimist; we are spending billions of dollars but is that being delivered efficiently? The answer is no, all of us know that, and that’s why we keep going back to the government; public-private–partnerships is going to be the key to move forward, you have the resources we have the management expertise let’s join hands. And it has started moving.”

Anu Aga led Thermax Ltd from 1996-2004, after retirement she remains on the company’s board of directors. The chairperson of TFI (Teach For India) was nominated to Rajya Sabha in 2012.

“My giving actually started when I lost my son, who was 25 and died in a car accident. Having studied abroad, poverty really bothered him. We who live in India, we become quite insensitive to seeing poor people, but he kept saying a substantial part of our wealth has to go to charity.”

“It started in a very small way, it’s not as if I gave away crores and crores at once. It started with me getting personally involved and I like that model very much, I’m not very happy with just writing a cheque and not getting involved. I was involved with Akansksha and then I was invited to join their board—it ran centres for slum children and I brought it to Pune.

“We have six schools, now this is done by the CSR wing of Thermax, but Shaheen (Mistry) then started Teach For India, which personally I support.

“From the family wealth, it’s my daughter and I who decide on things. The bulk of our giving is to Teach For India and Akanksha, but we also give to an institute called Parivaar in Calcutta, which is for the poorest of the poor. In Bihar we are giving to a school run by an ex-police officer for the rat-eating tribe. The main underlining thing is credibility. Giving without being involved does give me that little fear, but at the same time I would rather make a few mistakes than mistrust everybody.

“There is a lovely body called Caring Friends in Bombay, where a few hundred people meet informally. It’s not an NGO, the two people who started it incubate NGOs which are new from their own money, and after a few years when they become credible, bring it to the others and ask for money from them.”

Amit Chandra is managing director of Bain Capital and responsible for the firm’s India initiative. He is also chairperson of the Akanksha Foundation that works in the field of education for less privileged children.

“Even though I came from a lower middle class family, we were always taught as children to give and share whatever we had. For me the big inflection points were as I was working at DSP Merrill Lynch and I rose through the ranks, I got success relatively early. I was running the firm before I was 35 but there was still a sense of unease that I had with everything I saw around me. I think the unease was on two counts, one was that by virtue of running what was the largest investment bank at that time I got to work with a lot of families and I realized that wealth did not necessarily translate into happiness when you really got to know a lot of these people individually.

“In fact, wealth built a sense of entitlement amongst the next generation, it built a sense of extreme bitterness amongst siblings, and it often was a source of great degree of unhappiness. And another thing, having had the opportunity to study in the West, I realized that when you look at leaders with legacy, a very vast percentage of leaders who had any degree of legacy where the ones who had given back to society. These issues were beginning to bother me.

“My wife and I were inspired by what Chuck Feeney (Irish-American businessman and philanthropist and the founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies) did. We decided to cap the amount of wealth we wanted to have as a family, and so my wife and I walked into a lawyer’s office, and I transferred how much she thought was needed for her, my daughter, and to support my living, and we said from this day onwards everything else basically goes to charity.

“What that did for us was actually incredible because our constraint after that point in time was to find good causes that could be scaled up. That’s where the GiveIndia team came in extremely handy because we’ve set a budget every year for ourselves which is higher than the previous year with the objective really being to effectively give away all our income every year.

“I think giving your time is critical to being able to scale up giving your money. The two things have to go hand in hand. There is no substitute to actually giving time and approaching it the same way you would approach businesses and investments. The biggest network we use is the GiveIndia network. Working with their team allows us to screen and monitor, before that we were able to support a handful of NGOs. Now we have a reasonable portfolio across all the areas we are interested in. I don’t think that scale up would be able to happen if we hadn’t leveraged the GiveIndia team.”

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