Are India's rich charitable? Not very, study shows

Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:33am EDT
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - The number of wealthy Indians has been rising fast over the last decade, but they're not ready yet to let go of their hard-earned cash, even for charity, according to a study by business consultancy Bain & Co.

The number of so-called "high net worth individuals" in India has grown at about 11 percent every year since 2000, possibly the fastest pace in the world, to more than 115,000 now.

Two industrialists, Reliance Industries' Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal, are among the five wealthiest individuals in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

But when it comes to giving away money, India's rich are not very keen on loosening their purse-strings.

Charitable giving in India probably totaled about $7.5 billion in 2009, according to the study by Bain & Co, equivalent to about 0.6 percent of the country's GDP.

That percentage is higher than Brazil's 0.3 percent and rival China's 0.1 percent, but it falls way short of the 2.2 percent in the United States, and 1.3 percent in Britain, the report said.

Most Indians have no qualms about giving cash to family, friends, household staff and religious institutions, but given the scale of poverty -- an estimated 40 percent of India's 1.1-billion population lives on less than $1.25 a day -- Indians need to become way more generous, said Bain partner Arpan Sheth.

"Should individuals, particularly the well-off, be giving more? Can they afford to make larger donations? The answer to both these questions is absolutely yes," Sheth said at the first Indian Philanthropy Forum in Mumbai, the country's financial hub.   Continued...

<p>Mukesh Ambani, chairman of India's biggest private sector company, Reliance Industries, smiles during a conference on "Partnership between Business and Law" in New Delhi, August 21, 2006. REUTERS/Kamal Kishore</p>