New Delhi: Former Wipro chairman Azim Premji topped the list of Indian philanthropists for the financial year 2019-20, with donations of Rs 7,904 crore, or Rs 22 crore daily, according to EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2020.
HCL Technologies’ Shiv Nadar, and Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, followed him on the list.
On Wednesday, Premji’s son, Rishad, who is now the chairman of Wipro, said in a tweet, “My father has always believed that he was a trustee of his wealth and never it’s owner. Being part of the communities in which we live and work is also a core part of Wipro (sic).”
My father has always believed that he was a trustee of his wealth and never it’s owner. Being part of the communities in which we live and work is also a core part of Wipro. pic.twitter.com/TiDL58S23M
— Rishad Premji (@RishadPremji) November 11, 2020
Here’s a look at the 75-year-old’s philanthropic works.
Foundation and philanthropic initiatives
Azim Premji was 21 when he took charge of Wipro after the demise of his father. The company was then involved in hydrogenated oil manufacturing. But in the early 1980s, Premji pivoted to the technology sector by manufacturing computer hardware and software.
As the company rode the IT wave in India, his philanthropic work began in 2000 with government schools in rural areas, focussing on the elementary education systems.
In 2001, the Azim Premji Foundation was officially registered. The foundation began by implementing various programmes to improve the quality of education in the country. For long-term impact, it started collaborating with local government structures and set up district institutes in several field locations.
At present, it has institutes in over 40 districts across Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry.
The foundation has collaborated with several state governments across the country focussing on curriculum reform, school textbook development, capacity development of teachers and education functionaries.
The ex-Wipro chairman also started Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, which works with vulnerable groups aiming to “facilitate a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society”. Its focus is on poor communities facing everyday discrimination, prejudice and economic and social deprivation.
Its efforts include working with adolescent girls who drop out of school and are married off before the age of 18. The body conducts counselling and peer interaction for these girls, imparts life skills and knowledge about reproductive rights, and encourages them to stay in school.
The initiative also works with homeless persons, small and marginal farmers, persons with disabilities, street children and survivors of domestic violence.
When floods ravaged Uttarakhand in 2013, the Azim Premji Foundation was among the charitable organisations that helped mobilise relief efforts.
In 2015, Premji gave away an additional 18 per cent of his stake in Wipro for charity, thus designating 39 per cent of his stake (nearly Rs 53,284 crore) towards philanthropy.
Influenced by Gandhi
This is not the first time Azim Premji has been recognised for his philanthropic work. In 2019, Forbes Asia named him ‘Asia’s most generous philanthropist’.
He was the first Indian to sign the Giving Pledge in 2013, a campaign led by billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates under which the world’s wealthiest donate a majority of their wealth to charity.
At the time, Premji said, “I was deeply influenced by (Mahatma) Gandhi’s notion of holding one’s wealth in trusteeship, to be used for the betterment of society and not as if one owned it.”
In early 2020, Forbes announced that Azim Premji was the world’s third largest donor to Covid-19 relief work. Wipro, Wipro Enterprises and the Azim Premji Foundation combined donated Rs 1,125 crore towards relief work.
His work as a philanthropist has earned him praise from his peers in the Indian industry. In 2019, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said Premji had taken “philanthropy to the next level”.
“Azim Premji is an exemplary philanthropist — someone who has inspired us and we are proud of what he has done. I think he is a true nation builder,” said Shaw.