The cumulative wealth of the richest people in India has grown considerably in the past decade, with a new billionaire being added to the Forbes list almost every month since 2010. At the same time, philanthropic funds in India are estimated to have grown by more than four times between 2010 and 2018.1 Giving by the ultra-rich—also termed UHNWI for Ultra High-Net-Worth Individuals2—has become more professionalised, more structured, and gradually more diverse than it was three decades ago. Moreover, as younger generation philanthropists enter this space, the approaches and perspectives on giving have also changed.

What has not been a part of the discourse on giving however, is whether big philanthropy might also have some adverse impacts on society; and, if the planning of large-scale initiatives with huge investment of philanthropic resources considers unintended and second-order consequences.

To explore this in greater detail, India Philanthropy Initiative—an informal group of Indian philanthropists interested in strengthening giving by India’s wealthy—commissioned a study by VikasAnvesh Foundation, an initiative of the Tata Trusts. This study sought to understand and present the risks and opportunities for big philanthropy in India. It was carried out over the course of 15 months, starting in 2019, during which time the team held consultations with close to 40 philanthropists, civil society organisations, foundations, independent experts, and researchers across the country, to get diverse perspectives on the subject.

On the need for such a study, Mr Azim Premji said, “For philanthropy to maximise its potential contribution to society, it is important that we understand the implicit risks and possible pitfalls of our philanthropic impulses and actions. What are these risks and pitfalls? For example, philanthropists may have an implicit assumption that their success in business means that they have the expertise to judge and make decisions in almost any other sector. This is a flawed assumption, though it seems to be not so uncommon.” The study, he said, “Is an attempt to explore systematically these issues and then put them in a framework which can both educate us and inform our actions.”

This study is therefore aimed at philanthropists and foundations already supporting social causes in India, those that are in the process of refining, reviewing, or expanding their philanthropic work, as well as families and institutions who are contemplating new philanthropic interventions.

Read the full article about philanthropy in India by Tanaya Jagtiani at India Development Review (IDR)