Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Heroes of Philanthropy 2019: Azim Premji is Asia's biggest giver

The list honours individuals tackling a diverse set of issues across the Asia-Pacific, and includes Jack Ma, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Atul Nishar

Published: Jan 18, 2020 08:51:45 AM IST
Updated: Jan 18, 2020 03:46:40 PM IST

Heroes of Philanthropy 2019: Azim Premji is Asia's biggest giverFrom left: Bill Gates, Azim Premji, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2011
Image: Qamar Sibtain / The India Today Group via Getty
Azim Premji made history in 2019 as Asia’s most generous philanthropist by donating $7.6 billion worth of Wipro shares to his education-centred foundation, raising his total lifetime giving to $21 billion. Established in 2000, his eponymous foundation now works with more than 200,000 public schools across India to train teachers and provide better curriculums, among other initiatives. “A role model for all of us. I wish more people would follow his example,” says Anu Aga (a 2010 honouree). 

Premji is one of the 30 outstanding altruists we’ve chosen for our 13th annual Heroes of Philanthropy list which honours billionaires, entrepreneurs and celebrities across the region who are committed to solving some of the most pressing issues facing the Asia-Pacific.

2019’s members are devoted to a range of endeavours. Among them: Angel Locsin, one of the Philippines’ most famous actors, supports causes aiding victims of violence, natural disasters and the conflict in Mindanao. Australian billionaire Judith Neilson, set up an institute to support independent journalism. And then there’s Jack Ma from China, who recently received the Malcolm S Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award after stepping down as chairman of Alibaba to devote more time to philanthropy. Other honourees are working to protect wildlife, improve access to health care and aid the elderly.

To choose these honourees, we sifted through dozens of candidates, reviewing their monetary contributions, the depth of their involvement and the reach of their philanthropic efforts. Our aim is to highlight those giving their own money, not their company’s (unless they are the majority owners of a privately-held firm). We also don’t include those who are full-time fundraisers or foundation heads, unless they’ve personally given the bulk of funds to start a charitable organisation. All are citizens of countries or territories in the Asia-Pacific or have long resided in the region. The focus is on individuals who provide the capital and are personally committed to achieving a long-term vision. As always, we have focussed on new names, unless there was a significant development in a previous honouree’s philanthropy that justified relisting them. The final selection is unranked—all are considered equally honoured on this list.

(This story appears in the 31 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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