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From investors in startups to donating in charity: Billionaire Nilekanis pledge


Creating wealth and investing, where it is required, are two different things. While first requires you to be a fast mover and executor of ground-breaking plan, the second calls for a real responsibility to invest for greater good.

Infosys co-founder and tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani, hailed for Aadhaar, one of India’s most successful social transformation projects and his wife Rohini Nilekani have estimated wealth of $1.70 billion. Both of them are of views to support startups and do charity works.

Over the years, Nilekani has invested in almost more than a dozen early-stage ventures such as Logistics venture Fortigom, Telecom company Mubble, Sedemac Mechatronics, publishing start-up Juggernaut, media venture The Print and e-commerce start-up 10i Commerce Services. Nilekani has been vocal about supporting start-ups.

In July this year Nandan Nilekani teamed up with venture capital investor Sanjeev Aggarwal to launch $100 million, which could increase to $200 million, fund called The Fundamentum.

Nilekani is currently chairman of EkStep, a non-profit literacy and numeracy platform. EkStep looks at solving the ‘learning problem’ by creating a technology-led platform to help children in improving their ‘learning outcomes’.

On philanthropy side, this week Nilekanis joined The Giving Pledge, an elite network of the world’s wealthiest individuals committing half their wealth to philanthropy. After Wipro chairman Azim Premji, Biocon chairman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Sobha Developers chairman emeritus PNC Menon, Nilekanis became fourth to support the cause, which has as many as 171 wealthy philanthropists across the world.

The Giving Pledge site put out Nilekanis’ letter signing up for the cause and Bill Gates welcomed the couple to the collective through Twitter.

As a collaborative philanthropy, it will invest USD 500 million in three critical areas— health, education, and economic opportunity—to improve the lives of undeserved populations across the developing world. Appreciating Nilekanis move, Bill Gates, who has been doing philanthropy for last 20 years, said, “Because of people like Nandan and Rohini, we hope to strengthen this idea in India and involve a high percentage of very successful people and then create platforms for an even broad philanthropy.”

“Wealth comes with huge responsibility and is best deployed for the larger public interest. We see the young and the restless in this interconnected globe, unsure of their future, wanting more but anticipating less. We see a growing politics of polarisation, of divisions, of brinksmanship. It is as if the world holds its breath. What should we do at this time? That is a question every citizen must ask. Those of us who have wealth beyond all our wants must ask that very sharply,” the Nilekanis said while signing The Giving Pledge.

According to the latest Hurun India Philanthropy Ranking that was released on Friday, Rohini and Nandan Nilekani stood second, with disclosed contributions of Rs 2,404 crore. Whereas Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy & family claimed the third spot with donation of Rs 1,322 crore for encouraging entrepreneurship, social development and education.

In the country of billion people, where 65 percent of them are youths, maybe we need more such progressive businessmen who can guide as well as support eco-system through philanthropy.  If wealth can help innovate, collaborate, demonstrate, and play a role of enabler then it can certainly play role in shaping the economy in its own way.

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