Bill Gates in bid to boost charity amongst India's rich

Microsoft's technology advisor Bill Gates (left) speaks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) during their meeting in New Delhi on Sept 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Microsoft's technology advisor Bill Gates (left) speaks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) during their meeting in New Delhi on Sept 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - US billionaire Bill Gates will dine with some of India's wealthiest people this weekend in a bid to encourage them to give more to charity, in a country where the rich are still seen as relatively tight-fisted.

The gathering will be hosted by tycoon Azim Premji, founder of Bangalore-based software giant Wipro and one of India's biggest donors, an executive close to the businessman told AFP on Saturday.

"They will be meeting privately to allow them to speak freely" about philanthropy, the executive told AFP.

The meeting comes amid disquiet in India about a yawning divide between the burgeoning wealthy class and hundreds of millions still living in deep poverty.

India has 100 billionaires - the sixth biggest number globally, according to a report this week by Swiss bank UBS and Wealth X, a firm which tracks "ultra-high net worth" individuals.

But like other emerging economies such as China, India's charitable giving still lags markedly behind that in the West where the tradition of wealthy businessmen donating chunks of their fortunes is much more deeply ingrained.

Rich Indians gave an average 3.1 percent of their income to charitable causes in 2011 - up from 2010 but far behind the 9.1 percent average in the United States, according to consultancy Bain & Company.

Premji was the first Indian to join Microsoft co-founder Gates and US billionaire investor Warren Buffet's Giving Pledge club which encourages the world's wealthiest to donate at least half their fortunes to charity.

Gates is the world's wealthiest man, worth an estimated US$76 billion (S$96 billion), according to a 2014 Forbes list.

The tech tycoon, who is on a trip to India with his wife Melinda, said this week in New Delhi he did not believe it was a good idea for the rich to leave a lot of money to their children.

"A lot of (people with) first-generation fortunes now don't believe in aristocratic dynasties - they don't want to destroy their children's experience of making it on their own," Gates said in a public talk Thursday.

He said he believed "that (feeling) is increasing" among the world's wealthy.

He and his wife have already declared that they have no intention of leaving their entire fortune to their three children, saying they needed to "have a sense that their own work is meaningful".

Their Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given away billions of dollars to global health and development.

Gates attended a similar event hosted by Premji in 2012. The latest event's guest list was not divulged but Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chief of pharmaceutical company Biocon, said its aim was "to tell other wealthy to share".