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Philanthropy in India

Philanthropy in India

In India, philanthropy may be a recent development but the concept of giving is as old as the country itself. Derived from the Greek work Philanthropos, the term essentially means the love for humanity, thus denoting any selfless action that is intended at serving those in need. Such actions or donations have a completely humanitarian intent with the donors expecting no return rewards whatsoever.

People in India have always been strongly attached and committed to their surroundings and the communities to which they belong. Thus the upliftment and betterment of the same has been a core tradition of families who have enjoyed a much privileged status and financial position in society. In the past, business families have partaken in social good by contributing a part of their earnings to individuals, communities and organizations in need. This kind of giving is usually characteristic to a person’s or family’s cultural and personal value system and has constituted unstructured giving with no statistical tool to measure the social benefits of the activity.

A. Emergence of Philanthropy in India

The key principle of philanthropy is ‘giving for a specific reason’. Such kind of giving is aimed at attacking the root cause of a problem, issue or social concern. Families thus focus on issues such as conservation of environment, education, health, disaster management, unemployment, preservation of heritage etc that may be out of their line of business.

As business families grew, they started formalizing their philanthropic giving, intended primarily at inclusive growth. Family or Corporate Foundations thus emerged giving it an institutionalized form and also ensuring that it stays alive and evolves over succeeding generations.

Family Foundations are set up with a charitable intent and are usually supported by investments and donations made by the family, friends and other partners. Initially managed entirely by the non working and female members of the business families, regardless of the skills they possessed, the Family Foundations are now being run as effectively as corporate organizations by highly trained and skilled professionals.

Corporate philanthropy in India has rapidly grown overtime to become a mainstream activity and concentrates more on the target group and on building its capacities. The new philanthropists are thus treading unexplored terrains of giving that are more aligned to current social realities while seeking to incorporate their company’s mission and philosophy into the program. They are also putting to use a significant part of their resources and time into their chosen philanthropic activities.

B. Corporate Social Responsibility

As businesses grew, the kind of ‘giving for social good’ of corporate organizations also shifted towards being more organized and business related and viewed as strategic investments made to achieve a desired goal. Such organizations have a highly structured and professional CSR division that is responsible for taking decisions, implementing and mapping the company’s CSR initiatives. The dedicated team of experts fulfil the set social prerogatives and objectives of the corporate closely associated with its line of business with prime importance given to improving the quality of life of the workforce and the local stakeholders. The CSR division of such organizations thus have a well defined resource base and a specially allocated budget to ensure such developmental activities can be carried out with least hindrance.

In recent years, corporate philanthropy has developed to include the concerns and expectations of the companies’ stakeholders and communities at large, the results and outcome thus being measured on set parameters. According to the respondents of a survey conducted by McKinsey, companies should utilize the opportunities a family foundation offers to optimize the impact of their social development endeavours.

C. Bharti Foundation – The Philanthropic Arm of Bharti Enterprises

At Bharti, philanthropy is viewed as a “part of the family DNA” of giving back to society. With a strong belief that education is the most powerful tool for social and economic upliftment of the nation, Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal, the Chairman of Bharti Group, set up Bharti Foundation in 2000 to contribute in a significant and meaningful way towards the overall education sector of India. Implementing and supporting programs in the field of primary, secondary and higher education, Bharti Foundation aims to bridge the existing extremities of the education divide in the country that would ‘help underprivileged children and youth of our country realize their potential.’

The Satya Bharti School Program, the flagship end-to-end rural education initiative of Bharti Foundation was thus launched in 2006 to help underprivileged and marginalized children in the rural corners of the country develop into well rounded confident and employable citizens of tomorrow, deeply committed and responsible to their communities and the nation at large. The program delivers free quality education to thousands of underprivileged children in the rural pockets with special focus on the girl child. It also offers special student welfare schemes like free mid-day meals, uniforms, stationery etc. to facilitate education for children. It aims to use the program to develop scalable and sustainable components of ‘quality education’ which may be replicated by state governments and like-minded organizations working in the field of education.

The program envisions 500 primary and 50 senior secondary schools, reaching out to over 2,00,000 children at full capacity. Currently, more than 33,000 students are enrolled across 253 Satya Bharti Schools (236 primary schools, 12 elementary and five senior secondary schools) in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Contributing to the inclusive growth agenda of the country, 48% of students in the Satya Bharti Schools are girls, 0.5-1% of the children have learning disabilities and 76% of our students and 48% of teachers belong to the minority (SC/ST/OBC) communities. The program is also currently in the process of upgrading an additional 50 primary schools to the elementary level in partnership with Google.

Apart from its direct reach, the program also looks at the empowerment of the communities in which it works. Teachers for the Satya Bharti Schools are recruited from base and feeder villages in which the schools are set up. ‘Didis’ for the schools are also chosen from the villages and mid-day meal vendors are often mothers of the children who study in our schools.

Bharti Foundation is also the focal point for all CSR initiatives across the Bharti Group of Companies in India and Africa and drives and facilitates the CSR initiatives of the Group Companies through the CSR Council.