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The World's Greatest Philanthropists

Giving it all
A handful of business titans have taken giving to a whole new level

N Mahalakshmi

My father is the type of person who spouts quotes and proverbs at the drop of a hat. One that I remember quite distinctly — and which he still keeps parroting — goes like this: “Our ingress in this world is naked and bare; our progress in this world is wicked and bad; our egress from this world nobody knows where; so be good, do good and good will happen, whatever that good may be.”

Some time ago, I discovered that this is a hijacked version of comedian John Edwin’s quote, which in its original reads, “A man’s ingress into the world is naked and bare, his progress through the world is trouble and care. And lastly, his egress out of the world, is nobody knows where,” and ends thus, “If we do well here, we shall do well there. I can tell you no more if I preach a whole year”. 

But I like my father’s version more as it sounds even more truthful. The world we live in defines success as great material wealth and our greed for riches means that the actions of a great many are often self-serving. Yet, there are thousands — perhaps millions — of ordinary people around the world, including my parents, who in their own modest way have kept giving throughout their lives without expecting anything in return. A handful of business titans, however, have taken giving to a whole new level and stand out for their extraordinary gesture of giving away the bulk of their wealth for the betterment of society. Their magnanimity is the focus of this very special issue of Outlook Business.

One thing common to these givers is that they all drew inspiration from their parents. Warren Buffett and David Rockefeller Jr. speak of their fathers, while Chuck Feeney, Bill Gates and Azim Premji were greatly influenced by their mothers. It’s the same for most of us. My role models, certainly, have always been my parents, especially my mother. And as you grow older, you want to be even more like them: more tolerant, more empathetic and more giving. This issue is dedicated to the mothers and fathers who, very early on, influence and define the destiny of their children and the world we live in. I hope you enjoy reading our 8th Anniversary Issue.

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