India’s new rich prove reluctant philanthropists

NEW DELHI, December 30, 2010 (AFP) – A huge charity gift by a high-tech tycoon has shone a harsh light on the philanthropic track record of India’s established and emerging billionaires. Azim Premji, who transformed a family-owned cooking oil firm into the software giant Wipro, announced earlier this month that he was giving two billion dollars to fund rural education.

The 100 wealthiest Indians have a net worth equal to 25 percent of India’s GDP and Premji’s donation — by far the largest ever made by an individual — was seen as a challenge to others in the ultra-rich club.

While charitable giving by the wealthy is widespread in countries like the United States, it is far less established in developing nations such as India and China.

Arpan Sheth, author of an overview of philanthropy in India by global consultancy Bain, says the charitable potential of the world’s second-fastest-growing major economy is huge.

“Should individuals (in India), particularly the well off, be giving more? And can they afford to make more and larger donations? The answer to both questions is, ‘Absolutely yes’,” Sheth said.

India’s booming economy — expected to grow 8.5 perce