Hero Mahindra on Giving in India

Anand MahindraAnand Mahindra, born in 1955, was appointed chairman of the family conglomerate in August 2012 and has been managing director since 1997. He has been able to progress the business magnificently mainly through a succession of inspired mergers and acquisitions.

Mahindra is a notable Indian philanthropist with strong views about the importance of giving but takes up a position that is in some opposition to the Billionaire’s Club. In 2010, he donated $10 million to Harvard (he was class of 77) to encourage ‘cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary exchange of ideas in an international setting’. We are all in favour of that and further applaud Mahindra as a regular giver to a variety of good causes at home as well as abroad.

Our Hero is against the trend of billionaires promoting philanthropy by circling the globe and calling on their own. As Mahindra says, ‘Why wait for people to become billionaires before they become philanthropists?’ He goes on to comment that, ‘While it is nice to get large sums from billionaires, perhaps the real challenge is getting five million people to donate one hundred rupees each year. To me, philanthropy is not a matter of a one-off donation. It’s a matter of an inner urge and a culture. And to be sustainable, philanthropy needs to become a part of everyone’s value system and of everyone’s culture.’

“The culture of individual giving does seem to have become somewhat diluted in India in this era of ‘I, me, myself’. In the World Giving Index created by the Charities Aid Foundation, India ranks a lowly 134th out of 153 nations in terms of the percentage of population that gave to charity… So, although we come from a culture where wandering sadhus and bhikshus could once live entirely on the charity of the people to meet their needs, the rise in incomes could well be leading to a drop in generosity towards others.”

Mahindra set up the Nanhi Kali Foundation in the 1980s when a modest financial donation could sponsor the education and wellbeing of a child for an entire year. This experience taught him that it is not the desire to give that is lacking: what is required is proven good governance and organisations that people can trust to use their money effectively and honestly. We agree wholeheartedly with that analysis. And, as Mahindra says, ‘Donors rarely abandon a child they have helped set on the road to a brighter future’.

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