30 Under 30 2024

Give and Tech: India's IT entrepreneurs lead the way

Just as in the bustling US tech sector, India's IT entrepreneurs — from the IT services bellwethers to the more recent digital native billionaires—have carved a niche for themselves by not just donating millions but also by immersing themselves in relatively newer causes like climate change and gender inequality

Brian Carvalho
Published: Jan 30, 2024 11:23:54 AM IST
Updated: Jan 30, 2024 11:57:25 AM IST

Give and Tech: India's IT entrepreneurs lead the way

A surefire sign of advances in philanthropy is when you can slice the giving based on industry. Just as in the bustling US tech sector, India’s IT entrepreneurs —from the IT services bellwethers to the more recent digital native billionaires—have carved a niche for themselves by not just donating millions but also by immersing themselves in relatively newer causes like climate change and gender inequality.

As per the Forbes 2022 list of ‘America’s Top Givers’, Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates were No 2 (behind Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet) with lifetime giving of $33.4 billion on a combined net worth of close to $140 billion. Their major areas of focus have been poverty alleviation and health, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation making $5.8 billion in grants in 2020.  

A year later, according to the Forbes Philanthropy Score 2023, the co-chairs of their eponymous foundation fare better than most other philanthropists. Bill and Melinda are among the few who have given away 20 percent or more of their wealth. Meta co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos have given away 1 percent to 4.99 percent of their wealth, as per the Forbes study.  

Yet, Zuckerberg and Bezos belong to the elite league of tech moguls who have given billions for a range of causes. The Forbes ‘America’s Top Givers 2022’ list pegs Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s lifetime giving at $3 billion—for science, education and criminal justice—on a net worth of $112.8 billion. Bezos debuted on that list by focusing on the environment, education and homelessness, with donations of $2.1 billion on a net worth of $184.8 billion.   

Cut to the tech capital of India, Bengaluru, also now a lively hub of tech philanthropy. From the IT services top tier players to digital ventures to the venture capitalists that fuel these startups, technology entrepreneurs have been at the forefront of giving.

This fortnight’s special package, focussed on India’s tech philanthropists and anchored by Divya Shekhar, has on the cover perhaps the most reclusive of the seven original founders of Infosys. Courtesy of his holding in the IT services giant, K Dinesh’s net worth stood at $2.5 billion as of mid-January. Rewind to the 70s when Dinesh was taking home ₹80 per month as a mail sorter on the Madras platform of the Bangalore City railway station. Fortunes changed when NR Narayana Murthy handpicked Dinesh to join IT company Patni in 1976, and, in 1981, anointed him co-founder of Infosys.

The ‘middle-class’ DNA of Infosys may explain why Dinesh—and most other co-founders, four of whom feature in this edition—are among the country’s most generous philanthropists, writes Divya. For more on how Dinesh, along with wife Asha (also on the cover) and daughters Divya and Deeksha support multiple causes from education and health care to animal welfare and climate change, the anecdote-packed ‘Stronger Together’ is a must read.  

What stands out about the philanthropy of the Infosys founders is the sheer diversity in causes and ambition—from SD Shibulal’s intent to create a classical music ecosystem to S Gopalakrishnan donating hundreds of crores to human brain research. And there’s Nandan Nilekani’s strategic philanthropy using digital tech to improve lives of a billion-plus people. As he puts it:  “Philanthropy can target issues of equity and access, especially in sectors like education and health care, where the market may fail to reach or adequately serve marginalised communities.” For more on Nilekani’s vision, turn to Harichandan Arakali’s ‘Paying it Forward, at Scale’.

Best,
Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Email: Brian.Carvalho@nw18.com
Twitter ID: @Brianc_Ed

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