Prominent Indian Investor Pledges 25 Percent of Fortune to Charity

Five months after Bill Gates and Warren Buffett met with many of India's wealthiest citizens to discuss directing more of their wealth to charitable causes, the country's most famous investor, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, has pledged to give 25 percent of his fortune to charity during his lifetime, the Economic Times reports.

While Jhunjhunwala was coy about which issues he plans to support — as well as the size of his fortune, which was reported by Forbes magazine in 2008 to be about $1 billion — he did reveal to the Times that his philanthropy will be managed through the R. Jhunjhunwala Foundation and that he has set a 2020 corpus target of $1 billion. He also said he plans to staff up the currently inactive foundation.

Jhunjhunwala's pledge comes on the heels of an announcement from GMR Group founder GM Rao that he will commit 12.5 percent of his company stock, valued at about $340 million, to philanthropy. In December, before the Gates-Buffett visit, Wipro chairman Azim Premji also committed 8.7 percent of his Wipro shares, worth about $2 billion, to his foundation, which supports education causes.

According to a report from Kotak Wealth Management, the combined wealth of India's fifty-five billionaires is more than $246 billion. The same report found that India has over 60,000 high-net-worth households — a figure that is expected to jump to 219,000 by 2016. Many of the country's wealthiest individuals still only give a small percentage of their fortunes to charity.

"Giving [in India] has a long way to go," said N Vaghul, chairman of Give India, an online donation portal for the country's nongovernmental organizations. "People have more disposable income now, but they are not giving a fraction of that."