W Power 2024

Now-Gen givers are steering philanthropy into a new era marked by innovation: Neera Nundy

The entrepreneurial startup cohort is creating wealth and reimagining philanthropy by investing in diverse sectors as well as establishing centres of excellence, writes the partner and co-founder of Dasra

Published: Feb 14, 2024 05:23:23 PM IST
Updated: Feb 14, 2024 05:36:05 PM IST

Now-Gen givers are steering philanthropy into a new era marked by innovation: Neera Nundy

In the trajectory of India’s economic evolution, technology has evolved from being a mere trendsetter to becoming a foundational pillar. Deloitte’s tech trends for 2023 underscore the significance of the tech industry, as FY22 witnessed an unprecedented 15.5 percent growth, propelling revenue to a historic $227 billion through the synergies of digital innovation.

This surge not only signifies a leap in technological prowess but also manifests as substantial wealth creation. As per the latest Motilal Oswal Wealth Creation Study for 2023, the technology sector emerges as the largest contributor to wealth creation between 2018 and 2023, solidifying its pivotal role in shaping India’s economic growth. 

Leading the Charge

Building on this momentum, technology not only contributed significantly to family net worth but also a noteworthy share of family philanthropy. According to the India Philanthropy Report 2022 published by Dasra and Bain & Company, UHNIs from the technology sector were particularly generous, constituting about 8 percent of the total UHNI wealth in 2021 yet contributing approximately 35 percent to total donations. Similar trends were noted in 2020.  

Tech billionaires have championed and advocated philanthropy, exemplified by their consistent contributions and enduring influence in the sector. This trend reflects similarities with the landscape in the US, showcasing a global pattern of active engagement by tech leaders such as Bill & Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Gordon & Betty Moore in philanthropy.  

India has pioneered global firms like HCL Technologies, Wipro, Infosys, among others, that have set benchmarks on the global stage. Their visionary promoters are not only shaping India’s global position but also contributing significantly to philanthropy. Examples include Shiv Nadar, founder of HCL Group, named the top philanthropist for the third time in five years, making contributions of ₹2,042 crore, marking a 76 percent increase from the previous year, according to EdelGive Hurun India’s Philanthropy List for 2023. Azim Premji, founder chairman of Wipro, contributed ₹1,774 crore towards philanthropic endeavours. Further affirming the industry’s commitment to giving, Nandan Nilekani and three Infosys co-founders secured positions in various categories on the Hurun List.

Also read: Indian philanthropy is growing from tradition to innovation: Neera Nundy

Techpreneurs & Rising Wealth

India has emerged as the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem, experiencing phenomenal growth. The 2023 Hurun India rich list includes 84 startup founders amassing a wealth of ₹4,23,600 crore. These founders, along with key figures in leadership positions within these companies, have accumulated considerable wealth and are keen to engage in philanthropy much earlier in their careers. This upswing in wealth creation within the dynamic and entrepreneurial startup cohort holds promising implications for the philanthropic sector in India.  

We are beginning to see some emerging shifts where Now-Gen givers (first-generation wealth creators) are investing in diverse sectors—education, health care, climate action, livelihoods—as well as establishing centres of excellence by reimagining giving approaches.

Tech-Savvy Now-Gen Givers Now-Gen givers characterised by their tech-friendliness are leveraging data, tech and narrative building to inform their philanthropic decisions and supporting their grantee partners with both financial and advisory/mentorship support. For instance, Rekha and Rizwan Koita, through the Koita Foundation, are using technology as a catalyst to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of NGO interventions. Similarly, Donald Lobo, through the Chintu Gudiya Foundation and Project Tech4Dev, is actively fostering an ecosystem of open-source platforms and services, prioritising responsible technology deployment for the public good.
Openness To Collaborate Now-Gen givers are embracing collaboration with various stakeholders, spanning businesses, government, and companies. Their commitment extends beyond financial contributions, as they use their influence to unlock resources from their peers and networks. Examples include Nikhil Kamath’s Young India Philanthropic Pledge (YIPP), inspiring leaders in the startup ecosystem to commit at least 25 percent of their net worth to philanthropic causes through diverse crowd-fundable projects, fostering engagement among personal networks and fellow entrepreneurs.

Nikhil is one of Zerodha’s co-founders and the youngest philanthropist on EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2023. Another example is ACT Grants, a collaborative effort initiated in 2020, uniting around 50 venture funds, 100 founders, and 25 global foundations to respond to Covid-19. Evolving into a dynamic community, ACT Grants now fosters innovations with the potential to address complex social problems at scale across diverse sectors.

Also read: K Dinesh and family: The generous givers

Systems-Change Mindset

Now-Gen givers are steering philanthropy into a new era marked by innovation and a comprehensive approach to problem-solving. For example, Nithin Kamath, along with Kailash Nadh and the core team at Zerodha, founded the Rainmatter Foundation which focuses on supporting climate action initiatives.

The Foundation is bringing together a coalition of like-minded people, including scientists, researchers, think tanks, non-profits, innovators, investors, youth networks, legislators—to build knowledge banks and help define a systems approach to climate response.

Another example includes Prashanth Prakash’s efforts through the Krishikalpa Foundation to address livelihood challenges, especially in agriculture, ensuring that farming communities experience tangible benefits from technological advancements across the Agri Value Chains—by forging stronger connections between the next generation of farmers/FPOs and startups in the agriculture space.

In this critical decade for India, the ascent of techpreneurs and the substantial wealth they generate not only signifies an economic shift but opens avenues for unlocking substantial philanthropic capital. These forward-thinking individuals are well poised to take riskier bets, leverage learnings and domain expertise to tackle issues at a systemic level and focus on the root causes of complex development issues, rather than solving only for symptoms.  

The potential of tech-driven wealth generation and increasing engagement in philanthropy offers a unique opportunity to catalyse impactful change, setting the stage for a decade of innovation, collaboration, and sustained development for India on the global stage and, reciprocally, contributing to the world’s progress.

(This story appears in the 09 February, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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