Charities target India's newly rich in global slump

Mon Mar 2, 2009 1:59pm EST
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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - As charities around the world grapple with scarce funding amid the global economic meltdown, aid agencies in India are targeting what has until now been an untapped resource: the middle class.

India's rapid economic boom in recent years has given rise to a large middle-class population who has the income to holiday abroad, buy branded products and dine in expensive restaurants.

Estimates vary on the size of this community, but it is believed to number some 200 million in a country with a total population of 1.2 billion.

Aid agencies, which have traditionally relied on governmental donors to sponsor development and emergency relief projects, say they are now waking up to this new source of funds.

"There is a large Indian middle class and they have probably not been giving much because we have not been engaging them directly," said Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children India.

Chandy said his organization is raising about one million rupees ($20,000) every month from speaking to people on the street in India's bustling business hub Mumbai.

In Delhi's Connaught Place commercial district, outside the stores selling Levis clothing and Nike sports goods, a man carrying a clipboard with the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) logo joins the shoe cleaners and street children who are vying for the attention of shoppers and office workers.

And unlike the beggars, people seem more than happy to stop and listen to the UNICEF worker's pitch.   Continued...

<p>Villagers react to the camera from outside the new luxury train, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels (RROW), on the outskirts of the historic town of Jodhpur in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan January 14, 2009. REUTERS/Vijay Mathur</p>