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An Indian Billionaire Just Gave Shares Worth $7.5 Billion to Charity

Saritha Rai
An Indian Billionaire Just Gave Shares Worth $7.5 Billion to Charity

(Bloomberg) -- Azim Premji, the billionaire chairman of Indian conglomerate Wipro Ltd., will gift an extra $7.5 billion of the company’s shares to support philanthropic activities, making it the most generous donation in the nation’s history.

About 34 percent of shares held by companies controlled by Premji have been irrevocably renounced and earmarked to the Azim Premji Foundation, according to a statement Wednesday.

With the latest move, Premji, who turned a small maker of vegetable oil into a software behemoth, has donated $21 billion of his fortune to charity. Premji’s philanthropy may prompt the rich in a nation where ultra-high net worth population is expected to surge 39 percent by 2023 donate more to charity, and help pull millions out of poverty.

“There are a growing number of billionaires in India but it’s early days and we still don’t see the commitments of the kind American billionaires make of giving away up to 80 percent of their wealth during their lifetime,” said Govind Sankaranarayanan, a former managing director of Social Finance. “Azim Premji and the Tata Trusts are the two shining lights of philanthropy in this country so far.”

Premji’s Foundation will have 67 percent of Wipro’s economic ownership of Wipro, according to the statement.

His foundation works directly in education and supports over 150 other non-profits serving under-privileged and marginalized Indians through financial grants. The foundation set up the Azim Premji University to develop professionals in education and related human development domains, offer degree and education programs, and conduct research.

The foundation will scale up significantly in the coming years, it said in the statement. The team working in education will scale from the current 1,600 people and grant-making activities will triple. The Bengaluru-based university will expand to 5,000 students with over 400 faculty members. The foundation intends to set up another university in northern India.

The 73-year-old Bengaluru-based billionaire is India’s second-richest man and ranks 51 in Bloomberg’s list of global billionaires.

“The visibly wealthly and the newly wealthy in India are clearly not as generous as the wealthy in, say, America,” says Anurag Behar, chief sustainability officer at Wipro and chief executive officer of the Azim Premji Foundation. “But India also has a substantial culture of philanthropy that is not conspicuous.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Saritha Rai in Bangalore at srai33@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Arijit Ghosh, Ravil Shirodkar

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