Will Buffett, Gates’ giving pledge convince rich Indians?
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are on a week-long trip to India, primarily to encourage the rich to give away a portion of their wealth to charity.
The visit follows a similar one made by the duo to China, the country with the most number of billionaires after the United States, where they urged the wealthy to sign up for their Giving Pledge campaign.
India’s rich are not really known for sharing their wealth. Big, family-run businesses are often inherited and set up with the help of ancestral wealth, and few have shown any willingness to part with it.
The number of wealthy Indians has been rising fast over the last decade, but they’re not ready yet to let go of their cash, even for charity, according to a study last year by business consultancy Bain & Co.
Despite billions of dollars in donations by software czar Azim Premji and telecom tycoon Sunil Mittal to set up charitable foundations, and by Vineet Nayyar, head of software firm Tech Mahindra, things haven’t changed much.
The Indian media on Tuesday said the attempt by Gates and Buffett could go in vain, as the rich plan to “turn up at the event to hear the wit and wisdom of the Oracle of Omaha – but may send him back with empty pockets.”
India currently has 55 billionaires and their average net worth is $4.5 billion versus $2.5 billion for a Chinese billionaire, according to Forbes.
Gates, on Tuesday, promoted his charity organisation in a newspaper column that quoted Buffett and Mahatma Gandhi, and highlighted how funds are used at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“For me, philanthropy is a responsibility, a passion, and an honour. And so far as I can tell — after being a parent — it’s the most gratifying job on earth,” Gates wrote.
How far Gates and Buffett succeed in convincing the fast growing Indian rich to part with a portion of the money they hold so close to their heart is yet to be seen. But if they do, it will surely reflect a significant change in the Indian mindset.
Will India’s billionaires be interested in following in the footsteps of Buffett and Gates footsteps? Share your thoughts.