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Azim Premji raises philanthropy bar with $21 billion total pledge

By Livemint

March 14, 2019

Azim Premji, India’s second-richest man, on Wednesday gave away 34% of his shares in Wipro Ltd to charitable causes, confirming his status as the most philanthropic Indian.

The shares given away by Premji—a man known for his frugal ways—are valued at about $7.5 billion.

With the latest contribution, the total value of funds committed by the billionaire to Azim Premji Foundation’s philanthropic activities is ₹1.45 trillion ($21 billion). This includes a 67% economic ownership of Wipro, the foundation said on Wednesday.

Premji inherited his father’s vegetable oil company and transformed it into a global software powerhouse. One of the world’s richest men, Premji still flies economy class, avoids costly cars and ostentatious displays of wealth.

In terms of philanthropic contributions in the country, Premji is ahead of others by a distance. Although India has seen a rise in individual donations of late, contributions of ₹10 crore or more account for more than half of individual philanthropy and Premji’s donations alone account for more than 80% of this.

The Premji foundation, set up in 2001, works to improve access to primary education in India, including some of its most disadvantaged parts. Premji’s philanthropic initiatives also help in improving the lives of street children and the disabled. The foundation also runs the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.

“Azim Premji’s philanthropic activities have an overarching vision to contribute to developing a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society in India. To enable this vision, the Azim Premji Foundation works directly in education and supports other not-for-profits working in some specific areas through multi-year financial grants," the foundation said in a press statement.

India’s super wealthy households, or those with a net worth of over $50 million in India, are expected to double in both volume and wealth from 160,600 households with a total net worth of ₹1.53 trillion in 2017, to 330,400 households with a combined net worth of ₹3.52 trillion in 2022. But a vast majority of them inherit their wealth and prefer to leave their money to family.

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