Azim Premji Foundation to scale up fieldwork, increase grants

Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation
The latest commitment of another $7.5 billion by its sole patron has made the Azim Premji Foundation one of the top philanthropic bodies in the world with fund flows to the charitable entity nearly doubling in the near future.

Top officials of the foundation said with the rise in endowment, it would go into deeper areas in fieldwork, apart from increasing annual grants by four times to other non-profit organisations.

The foundation is planning to open a university campus, which is likely to be functional in three years.

“Our work in the states where we are currently present will be more intensive with scaling up to the tune of two-three times. Grants to NGOs will also increase five times in the next five years,” said Anurag Behar, chief executive officer, Azim Premji Foundation, and vice-chancellor, Azim Premji University.

With more funds committed by Premji, the fund flow to the foundation is likely to aid expansion. “Now, the endowment has the entire Rs 1.45 trillion worth of securities. A lot of that is stock and some of it is other assets that Premji holds. What the foundation gets is the return on this endowment, which is basically the dividend. Also, some of the returns from Premjiinvest come to us," Behar added.

Billionaire Azim Premji, chairman of software giant Wipro, on Wednesday raised his endowment to $21 billion for philanthropic operations.

The money pledged is currently in the form of about 67 per cent shares of Wipro, held by Premji through various intermediaries and the Azim Premji Trust, which supports the foundation.

The foundation provides grants to around 150 NGOs for three- to five-year projects in areas of supporting differently-abled people and orphans, drug abuse control, violence against women, trafficking, among others. Sources said the annual grants given by the foundation were more than Rs 100 crore. 

Azim Premji Foundation was set up in 2001 to deliver sustainable impact towards improving elementary school education in rural clusters in India by training teachers, administrators and educational functionaries. The foundation works through a network of field institutes in over 47 districts in six states, special-focus schools in at least six backward districts, a varsity in Bengaluru, and other non-profit partners. It works in states such as Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, and the union territory of Puducherry. 

“Premji is a business leader who is an inspiration to many and his thoughts and actions are worth emulating. Also, the foundation's field of work in education is quite unique, given the multiplier effect of such interventions on society,” said Shriram Subramanian, founder and managing director of domestic proxy advisory firm, InGovern Research Services. 

“If there is no trusteeship of the wealth, it can be easily destroyed. Also, against popular perception, blood relations are not the only way to manage wealth.”

Some IT veterans said while it was a commendable step, the commitment should be to spend more at present. 

“I applaud Azim Premji for creating a large corpus, which has certainly shown the way for other wealthy individuals to give back more to society,” said Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer at Infosys and an IT industry veteran. He, however, said while building a large corpus for philanthropy was important, it was more critical to spend huge amounts at present to solve problems of society.

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