India’s rich keen to give back to society: Buffet, Gates

March 25th, 2011 - 12:19 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) India’s rich, with at least 50 dollar-billionaires, are more than willing to give back to the society in philanthropy, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and legendary investor Warren Buffett said here Thursday.

Having endowed around $60 billion between them, Gates and Buffett said there is considerable enthusiasm among the rich and the famous Indians they met here to share their wealth with the less fortunate.

“There were 70 people and without exception it was clear that there was plenty of enthusiasm, plenty of interest,” Buffet said at a joint press conference with Gates, and Wipro chief Azim Premji, after an exclusive dinner to woo people towards philanthropy.

“We met a number of first class people tonight. There was a level of candour, a level of participation that was dramatic,” the Berkshire Hathway chief executive told the 150-odd journalists clamouring to get a sound byte.

While Gates, along with his wife Melinda arrived here from Bihar, where they reviewed the progress of their non-profit foundation’s health initiatives, their mentor Buffett, on his maiden visit to India, landed from Bangalore after a series of meetings.

Among Buffet’s engagements are meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some of his cabinet colleagues, apart from addressing policy holders of insurance schemes launched by the $60-billion financial services firm Berkshire Hathway.

Their visit, has one common thread: Getting India’s rich to pledge a decent portion of their wealth toward philanthropy on the lines of what they have themselves done. Last year, they had undertaken a visit to China with the same objective.

Gates and Buffett have coined a phrase for this initiative — Giving Pledge — and hope to get a keen ear from not just the 50 Indians figuring in the latest world’s rich list of Forbes magazine but other wealthy people as well.

The Forbes list has placed Gates, 55, the second on its list with a net worth of $56 billion, while Buffett, 80, was ranked next with $50 billion.

On being asked how the top Indian corporate and elite class reacted to Gates and Buffett’s call to give more towards philanthropic activities, the Microsoft co-founder said, “Increasing philanthropy is one of the great things that happens as a nation gets richer. We see the opportunity to help encourage that.”

“But we are sure it will be somewhat different than what it is in the United States.”

On the notion that Indian businessmen who to a big extent consist of first-generation entrepreneurs prefer to keep their wealth for their children, Melinda Gates said,” We actually heard just the opposite tonight about first generation wealth.”

“We heard it from a lot of people that they made the money and that they are very interested in giving it back to society.”

“Our experience world-wide is that first generation wealth is actually more generous than dynastic wealth,” added Bill Gates.

Premji, in his address, said: “Today’s gathering of Indian business leaders has been an excellent opportunity for us to discuss the part we can all play in contributing to equitable and sustainable development of the country. I am committed to supporting the larger ambition of catalysing social change that builds a better society.”

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