Poverty is rife in the slums of Mumbai and wealthy Indians seem overwhelmed by it. (Danish Siddiqui / Reuters)
Poverty is rife in the slums of Mumbai and wealthy Indians seem overwhelmed by it. (Danish Siddiqui / Reuters)

For wealthy Indians, generosity is yet to become a way of life



A recent survey has found that India’s rich are stingy. India ranked 106th in a survey of 145 countries and last among the eight countries included from South Asia, according to the World Giving Index, a study based on surveys carried out by Gallup.

India is poor but so is Mynamar, which ranked the highest in the world for generosity. The US is second, New Zealand third, Canada fourth and Australia fifth. The next five most generous countries are the UK, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Ireland and Malaysia.

The ranking sits badly with the fact that a record 90 Indians with a combined net worth of $295 billion (Dh1.08tn) featured in the 2015 Forbes Billionaires List.

The miserliness of India’s wealthy when it comes to charitable donations is nothing new. A report by consultancy Bain & Co in 2011 found that Indians with high net wealth gave an average of 3.1 per cent of their income to charity – about a third of what wealthy Americans give away each year.

It is no surprise that India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has not signed The Giving Pledge, launched in 2010 by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to charitable causes. As of August 2015, 137 billionaires had signed up.

Only one Indian, Wipro’s Azim Premji, has signed up. Mr Premji said: “I strongly believe that those of us who are privileged to have wealth should contribute significantly to try to create a better world for the millions who are far less privileged.”

These words are rarely heard coming out of the mouths of a rich Indian, honourable exceptions such as investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala notwithstanding. He is known as “India’s Warren Buffett” and he has pledged to give 25 per cent of his fortune to charity in his lifetime.

The reasons why rich Indians are so tight-fisted vary, but they can probably be put into three broad categories.

One is that the majority of Indians are Hindu and Hinduism is not a congregational religion where people come together to worship. Prayer is an individual affair, either at home or in a small temple that you visit alone. There is no opportunity for Hindu religious leaders to address a congregation and instil in them the awareness of the need to give to the poor.

Secondly, much of this wealth (though by no means all), is first-generation wealth. Having only recently made their money and having only emerged from proximity to poverty, business families still feel insecure. One wrong step or a stroke of bad fortune and their wealth could disappear, they fear. In a country that is, for much of the world, synonymous with poverty, a primordial fear of falling into poverty is widespread among those who are not poor. By contrast, many families in the West have been wealthy for generations and that helps the younger progeny to feel secure about giving money away.

Thirdly, the sheer immensity of India’s poverty can deter even the most well-meaning. The unending landscape of millions and millions living in hovels with two sets of clothes, no money in the bank, no money for medical treatment, stunted physiques and terrible diets can make you feel it’s hopeless. What good can one donation do when the scale of the problem is beyond comprehension?

Nonetheless, many rich Indians could easily do much more but they are selfish and care only for their own. This is a flaw in society. Your family is important but not your fellow Indians. Your concern extends only to you and yours.

This explains why Mr Ambani could build his 27-storey home at a cost of $1 billion in Mumbai without realising the insensitivity of such a palace in a city where 60 per cent of the residents live in slums. The desire to help strangers or those not related to you is weak.

It’s also a fact that many affluent Indians like to give only when it is going to be publicly acknowledged – in the papers, in photographs, by public gratitude. They love being praised while simulating embarrassment.

While defending actor Salman Khan in a hit-and-run case this year, his lawyer spoke in great detail about the star’s donations to charity. Few are like Shah Rukh Khan, the King of Bollywood, who gives handsomely but never talks about it.

As the survey shows, the culture of philanthropy has yet to take root in India. It will be some time before you stop hearing about weddings that cost as much as sending a mission to Mars and hear instead about charity balls or fund-raising dinners that raised huge amounts.

Amrit Dhillon is a freelance journalist in New Delhi

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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Islay Robinson, group chief executive of mortgage broker Enness Global, offers his advice on buying property in today's market.

While many have been quick to call a market collapse, this simply isn’t what we’re seeing on the ground. Many pockets of the global property market, including London and the UAE, continue to be compelling locations to invest in real estate.

While an air of uncertainty remains, the outlook is far better than anyone could have predicted. However, it is still important to consider the wider threat posed by Covid-19 when buying bricks and mortar. 

Anything with outside space, gardens and private entrances is a must and these property features will see your investment keep its value should the pandemic drag on. In contrast, flats and particularly high-rise developments are falling in popularity and investors should avoid them at all costs.

Attractive investment property can be hard to find amid strong demand and heightened buyer activity. When you do find one, be prepared to move hard and fast to secure it. If you have your finances in order, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Lenders continue to lend and rates remain at an all-time low, so utilise this. There is no point in tying up cash when you can keep this liquidity to maximise other opportunities. 

Keep your head and, as always when investing, take the long-term view. External factors such as coronavirus or Brexit will present challenges in the short-term, but the long-term outlook remains strong. 

Finally, keep an eye on your currency. Whenever currency fluctuations favour foreign buyers, you can bet that demand will increase, as they act to secure what is essentially a discounted property.

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Exhchange traded funds are bought and sold like shares, but operate as index-tracking funds, passively following their chosen indices, such as the S&P 500, FTSE 100 and the FTSE All World, plus a vast range of smaller exchanges and commodities, such as gold, silver, copper sugar, coffee and oil.

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There are thousands to choose from, with the five biggest providers BlackRock’s iShares range, Vanguard, State Street Global Advisors SPDR ETFs, Deutsche Bank AWM X-trackers and Invesco PowerShares.

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Name: Xpanceo

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Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

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Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Common OCD symptoms and how they manifest

Checking: the obsession or thoughts focus on some harm coming from things not being as they should, which usually centre around the theme of safety. For example, the obsession is “the building will burn down”, therefore the compulsion is checking that the oven is switched off.

Contamination: the obsession is focused on the presence of germs, dirt or harmful bacteria and how this will impact the person and/or their loved ones. For example, the obsession is “the floor is dirty; me and my family will get sick and die”, the compulsion is repetitive cleaning.

Orderliness: the obsession is a fear of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, or to prevent harm coming to oneself or others. Objectively there appears to be no logical link between the obsession and compulsion. For example,” I won’t feel right if the jars aren’t lined up” or “harm will come to my family if I don’t line up all the jars”, so the compulsion is therefore lining up the jars.

Intrusive thoughts: the intrusive thought is usually highly distressing and repetitive. Common examples may include thoughts of perpetrating violence towards others, harming others, or questions over one’s character or deeds, usually in conflict with the person’s true values. An example would be: “I think I might hurt my family”, which in turn leads to the compulsion of avoiding social gatherings.

Hoarding: the intrusive thought is the overvaluing of objects or possessions, while the compulsion is stashing or hoarding these items and refusing to let them go. For example, “this newspaper may come in useful one day”, therefore, the compulsion is hoarding newspapers instead of discarding them the next day.

Source: Dr Robert Chandler, clinical psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia

Who are the Soroptimists?

The first Soroptimists club was founded in Oakland, California in 1921. The name comes from the Latin word soror which means sister, combined with optima, meaning the best.

The organisation said its name is best interpreted as ‘the best for women’.

Since then the group has grown exponentially around the world and is officially affiliated with the United Nations. The organisation also counts Queen Mathilde of Belgium among its ranks.