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Tech tycoon Azim Premji just cemented his position as one of the world’s most large-hearted billionaires. The billionaire announced last week that he has donated $21 billion to his education-focused charitable arm, the Azim Premji Foundation, The donation includes a 67% stake in his IT outsourcer, Wipro, worth $15 billion, plus assets including his stakes in consumer business Wipro Enterprises and PremjiInvest, his family office.
Premji had recently hinted to Forbes that he was planning to give away more, saying “ To whom much has been given, much should be expected.” After today’s announcement, Premji’s fortune, which was $22.6 billion, placing him at No.36 among the world’s billionaires, has reduced by 80% to $4.4 billion. Along with his family, he now owns a 7% stake in Wipro.
“ It’s an awesome gesture, “ says biotech billionaire Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Premji’s close friend and fellow Bangalore resident. “Azim has taken Indian philanthropy to another level. ” Mazumdar-Shaw, who's donated $30 million to date, has committed to giving away much more; like Premji, she's signed the Giving Pledge and has pledged to donate 75% of her wealth.
Anu Aga, another billionaire noted for her charitable activities, calls Premji “ a role model for all of us. I wish more people would follow his example.”
As per Bain & Company’s recently released India Philanthropy Report 2019, while private philanthropic capital has grown 15% between 2014 and 2018, it’s still “punching below its full potential” and the ultra-rich in India need to step up more.
Premji, who has often said that he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, as well as his mother’s decades-long involvement with a children’s charitable hospital in Mumbai, began his philanthropic journey in 2001, when he set up his eponymous foundation with an initial endowment of Wipro shares worth $125 million. He followed that up with subsequent donations of more than $4 billion. His latest gift will help the foundation scale up its activities several-fold, discloses its CEO Anurag Behar, a Wipro veteran who took charge in 2010.
The foundation-funded Azim Premji University, which today has 1,300 students, who are being trained to work mainly in the social sector, is set to expand with a bigger campus and another university in Madhya Pradesh state. Another core program is the foundation’s involvement with more than 200,000 public schools across several states, which Behar says will be expanded to several others. While the foundation doesn’t run any schools, it deploys a 1,600-strong field force to help them upgrade their curriculum, train teachers and the like.
In 2014, the foundation widened its scope when it began giving multi-year grants to non-profits engaged in tackling a range of societal issues such as women who face domestic violence, malnourishment in children and suicides among marginal farmers. Behar envisages a five-fold increase in such grants over the next 5 years.