Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warren Buffett in India

The Indian media has been buzzing this week with Warren Buffett's first visit to India. Buffett stated that "he is bit of a retard to come to India so late".

Though the general expectation is that Buffett is here to scout for investment opportunities in India (Berkshire Hathway's only investment in India is currently a small Bangalore based cutting tools company "Taegutec" -, Buffett is actually here on his philantrophic drive "The Giving Pledge", to ask wealthy Indians to pledge money for social causes. He will be joined in this mission by Bill Gates - Wow - the world's second and third richest men in India - and for what - "Sharing their story on why they are giving and asking others to do the same".

My colleague S Max Brown (, in all his keynotes on Real Leadership, talks about being "Other Focused" as one of the principal traits of a good leader - What an example in Warren Buffett and Bill Gates! A few rich Indians have started to follow this path already (to some extent as their contributions are still a portion of their net wealth), the most significant ones being:

1) The Azim Premji Foundation (a grant of Rs. 8000 Cr ~ USD 1800 million by Azim Premji - Wipro's founder and Chairman) - to tackle the problem of basic education by creating a sustainable support system for improving the quality of the teachers at the grassroot level.
2) The GMR Varalaskhmi Foundation - This first generation entrepreneur, Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao, has pretty much given all his wealth (INR 1540 Cr ~ USD 340 million) to this foundation that intends to focus on education and vocational training for the underpriveleged.
3) Reliance (Mukesh Ambani - the world's 9th richest man) has created a foundation (INR 500 Cr ~ USD 110 million) to provide affordable healthcare and rural development.

I am not including the great work the Tatas have been doing over the last 70-80 years in India. I believe that they are one corporate that truly practises sustainable development and inclusive growth - just visit any of the towns where the Tatas have invested and you can see that the quality of life for everyone in that town is a couple of levels above other towns in that area - e.g. Jamshedpur.

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