Start small, commit your time, is the advice of one of India’s premier philanthropists and IT entrepreneur, Azim Premji, to other budding philanthropists.
Azim Hashim Premji, Chairman, Wipro Ltd., was recently in the limelight when in the largest act of philanthropy by an Indian, he gave away $2 bn (Rs. 8,846 cr.) to improve school education in India.
Premji, India's third richest man with a net worth of $18 billion, will transfer 213 million equity shares of Wipro Ltd, held by a few entities controlled by him, to the Azim Premji Trust. It will fund educational activities of the Azim Premji Foundation (APF) which works mainly with schools in rural India. He had previously transferred over Rs 700 crore to the APF.
Mr. Premji’s background is well known but is interesting to recount in light of his philanthropic initiative. He was studying Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, USA when due to the sudden demise of his father, he was called upon to handle the family business. Azim Premji took over the reins of family business in 1966 at the age of 21.
At the first annual general meeting of the company attended by Azim Premji, a shareholder doubted Premji's ability to handle business at such a young age and publicly advised him to sell his shareholding and give it to a more mature management. This spurred Azim Premji and made him all the more determined to make Wipro a success story.
Under Azim Premji's leadership Wipro has metamorphosed from a Rs. 7 cr. company in hydrogenated cooking fats to a Rs. 7000 cr. pioneer in providing integrated business, technology and process solutions on a global delivery platform. In 2005, the Government of India honored Azim Premji with a Padma Bhushan.
And now having earned it all from wealth to glory to fame, he decided to give it back. Mr Premji has never been vocal about his giving but having donated away more than 10% of his wealth so far we think he will give most of it away in his own lifetime. Just like the challenge he faced after the death of his father, he faces plenty of challenges in his philanthropy, the learnings of which he recounted in an excellent article in the Mint newspaper:
- Start Small, Commit Time – Getting personally engaged in one’s own giving gives one the confidence and learning to try and do more.
- Be Democratic, not Autocractic - Legitimacy of social purposes and directions can only come through the democratic process. Well-respected people and large organizations, may have a disproportionate influence on these purposes and directions, without having any real democratic and social accountability.
- Be Patient - Things do not change and improve quickly, and when they do, they can unwind for unknowable reasons. One must not lose the sense of urgency, but one must be prepared for this reality.
- Understand the complexity – Unlike the business world with well-defined metrics of success and defined areas of work, the social sector works with multiple interdependent parameters to influence communities. For example, if the water conditions are poor, it leads to a poor health situation in the village, which in turn affects attendance in school, which in turn affects learning outcomes.
- Adapt your skills to the context - Methods and learning from the corporate world have limited application and use in the social sector and that too after modification to suit the ground realities. But be prepared that it will certainly not have the same kind of effect as in the corporate world.
Do you agree with this approach? Do you have any more guiding principles to add for philanthropists to follow? Also do you think Mr. Premji is doing the right thing by not leaving much for his children and giving it all away? Can you think of doing the same?
Posted By Blogger to GiveIndia.org - Spreading a giving culture at 1/20/2011 05:03:00 PM