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'Agarwal, Premji among Asia's top altruists'

business Updated: Feb 28, 2008 22:37 IST

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Five Indian-origin people, including LSE-listed Vedanta group's billionaire chief Anil Agarwal and Wipro's Azim Premji, have been named among Asia's top philanthropists by Forbes magazine.

The list named "48 Asian Altruists", also includes Bangalore-based biotechnology major Biocon's Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw as well as Rohini Nilekani, wife of IT major Infosys' co-founder and former CEO Nandan Nilekani.

Besides, Nishita Shaw, a resident of Thailand but with origins in India, has also made it to the list published on Forbes Asia website.

"Great fortunes are being made in Asia, and those fortunes are increasingly earmarked for philanthropy. Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing has pledged to leave one-third of his $ 32 dollars fortune to charity. Anil Agarwal has committed $ 1 billion toward creating a new university in India. Yang Huiyan, China's richest person, and her father, Yeung Kwok Keung, donated $ 32 million to charities last year, making them the country's biggest givers," the report said.


Agarwal pledged $ 1 billion in 2006 from his Anil Agarwal Foundation to set up Vedanta University, to be built on a 6,000-acre with capacity to accommodate 100,000 students.

Nilekani, a former journalist, pledged $ 25 million in 2005 to Arghyam, which helps India's rural poor get better access to water and sanitation services and chairs the Akshara Foundation, which focuses on elementary education, and Pratham Books, a publisher of children's books, the report noted. Recently, she donated another $ 12.5 million , mainly to Arghyam, it added.

Wipro Chairman and MD started the Azim Premji Foundation in 2001, earmarking Wipro shares worth $ 125 million. The foundation is focused on improving government-run primary schools in rural India by "training teachers and upgrading the curriculum."

"It says 20,000 schools, with 2.7 million children, have been helped so far. Also, it works to reform the country's examination system," the report said.

Biocon CMD set up the Biocon Foundation in 2005 and she donates half of annual dividends earned by her. Besides, she has also donated over $ 10 million to projects aimed at providing drugs and health care to the poor of the country.

Shaw is the biggest shareholder of Thailand's Precious Shipping and heads its parent company GP Group in his capacity of Managing Director.

"After the 2004 tsunami, she made a long-term commitment to a hard-hit fishing village, Baan Talay Nok, promising to help it recover and to cover the educational costs through university for children who lost one or both parents, roughly 20 in all."

In another accompanying report, Forbes said that China was behind other nations in terms of philanthropy. "Its citizens gave the equivalent of 0.05 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2005, according to a McKinsey study of China's non-profits published in August 2006. For India, the figure was 0.09 per cent, while South Koreans gave 0.18 per cent and Singaporeans 0.29 per cent," it said.

According to McKinsey study, the figure stood at 1.85 per cent in the US, followed by 0.84 per cent in the UK, 0.69 per cent in Australia, 0.32 per cent in France, 0.29 per cent in Singapore and 0.18 per cent in South Korea.