Forty-five of India’s richest were engaged for four hours in an intense discussion with Bill GatesAzim Premji and Ratan Tata not only on philanthropy but also on a critical question: “How do you figure how much you and the next generation need before deciding to give away your wealth to charitable causes”. The refrain was: cultivate a culture of giving.

Gates, who has pledged $26 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the audience to “keep it for the need”, and give the rest away.

“You should not leave behind for your next generation more than what they require. Historically, such a thing has proven to be not good and, therefore, it is important to give things for charity.” He also said it is “important for all those who have succeeded in life to do philanthropy”.

The co-hosts of the event emphasized the need for partnering, and teaming up to help improve the quality of education, water, healthcare and sanitation.

The Bangalore billionaire contingent was in full attendance led by the Infosys brigade in Kris Gopalakrishnan and his wife Sudha, Infosys co-founder and chairman of Unique Identification Authority Nandan Nilekani and his wife Rohini, Biocon head Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and her husband John Shaw, Dr Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya, V G Siddharth of the Cafe Coffee Day chain, and G Mallikarjun Rao, chairman of the GMR Group. Premji’s sons, Rishad and Tariq, were also present.

Mobile czar Sunil Mittal, industrialist and MP Navin Jindal, Hyderabad-based billionaire GVK Reddy, Ajay Pirmal, chairman, Piramal Group and Thermax director, Anu Aga, Rajashree Birla (mother of Aditya Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla), prominent investor Rakesh Jhunjunwala, Cyrus Poonawalla and his wife, flew down to Bangalore for the occasion.

The co-hosts, who spoke first, were peppered with questions. Later, the discussion was mainly on what can be done in healthcare, public sanitation, primary education and agriculture in India. Many spoke of their personal experiences in philanthropy. Rohini Nilekani spoke on agriculture, water management and sanitation. Ajay Piramal talked of how out of every 14 women in the 25-32 age group who walk into a Delhi hospital, one has cancer. Sunil Mittal said the schools started by the Bharti Foundation, now concentrated in the north, plans to go national. The event ended at 7.30pm and was followed by dinner.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put out a statement saying: “This is a private discussion of philanthropy and social service in India. It is an opportunity for a great group of philanthropists to share ideas and experiences about giving with each other. Out of respect for their privacy, we will not be sharing the names of attendees.”

Azim Premji Foundation said the group noted “that India has its own significant tradition of philanthropy and social service; the group reaffirmed the view that there is vibrant thinking and action on philanthropy in India.” And that “the group expressed belief that philanthropy and social service are integral to the development of any society.”

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