Giving away shares worth almost $7.6 billion as donations, Azim Premji became the world’s largest contributor (to charity) of the year 2019. He has also been named as Asia’s most generous philanthropist in the year 2019. He topped the Forbes’ list of ‘The Biggest Philanthropic Gifts Of 2019’.
Premji, who is also the chairman of Azim Premji Foundation, had earlier this year announced that he increased his commitment to philanthropy, by irrevocably renouncing 34% of the shares in Wipro, earmarking them to the Endowment, which supports the Foundation's philanthropic activities. The Azim Premji Foundation works directly in education and supports other not-for-profits working in some specific areas through multi-year financial grants.
According to a report in Forbes, with this decision, Premji has also raised his total lifetime giving to $21 billion. “Premji is one of the 30 outstanding altruists we’ve chosen for our 13th annual Heroes of Philanthropy list which honors billionaires, entrepreneurs and celebrities across the region who are committed to solving some of the most pressing issues facing the Asia-Pacific,” Forbes states in its report.
“Premji has also endowed his foundation with stakes in Wipro Enterprises, his privately held consumer goods company, and in his private equity arm, PremjiInvest. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his mother, Premji says that “to whom much has been given, much should be expected,” the report adds.
At current market value, these shares amount up to Rs 52,750 crore ($7.5 billion), held by certain entities controlled by him. This action is in addition to his earlier donations to philanthropy, which included Wipro's shares, as well as other assets owned by him. With this action, the total value of the philanthropic endowment corpus contributed by Premji is Rs 1,45,000 crore ($21 billion), which includes 67% of economic ownership of Wipro Limited.
The Foundation's extensive field work in education has been in some of the most disadvantaged parts of India, to help contribute to the improvement of quality and equity of the public (government) schooling system. All this work has been in close partnership with various State Governments. This field work is currently spread across Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh, along with some work in the north-eastern states of India.
In list of the Biggest Philanthropic Gifts Of 2019, Premji was followed by Warren Buffet who gave away $3.6 billion worth of stock – his largest ever – in July 2019. It went to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (named for his late first wife) and to foundations run by his three children: the Sherwood Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the NoVo Foundation. Forbes estimates that Buffett’s lifetime giving tops $38 billion.
They were followed by California nut and fruit billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick who pledged $750 million in September to the California Institute of Technology, T. Denny Sanford, a credit card billionaire who donated $350 million to National University in San Diego and Phillip “Terry” Ragon and Susan Ragon, who made a $200 million donation to Massachusetts General Hospital to fund a vaccine-research center.