Philanthropy in India has reached an inflection point, with two powerful forces converging. Domestic philanthropic funding streams are expanding rapidly, largely driven by the growth in individual and corporate philanthropy. At the same time, more and more donors are focusing their philanthropy on the nation’s most vexing social challenges, deploying strategies that are focused on demonstrably improving people’s lives. The result: India’s philanthropists have the opportunity—and the wherewithal—to think and act boldly.
India’s philanthropic funding is accelerating across a range of sectors, such as education, healthcare, and rural livelihoods. From 2011 to 2016, total social-sector funding in India grew at an annual rate of 9 percent, from INR 145,960 crores (USD 22.5 billion) to INR 218,968 crores (USD 33.7 billion). 1 Domestic individual philanthropy expanded at a swift 44 percent annual rate and as of 2016 was the second largest source of social-sector funding in India (17 percent of the total) after government spending. Also abetting the upward trend: the CSR requirement in the Companies Act, 2013,2 which mandates that corporations in India with revenues of more than INR 1,000 crores (USD 146 million) give at least 2 percent of their profits to specified social causes.
Accompanying this surge is a transformation in philanthropists’ approach to giving. Many philanthropists in India are pivoting from “checkbook giving”—investing mostly in infrastructure projects (such as building schools or hospitals)—to thinking strategically about how to achieve better outcomes in society. They are defining clear goals, selecting the right grantees, and measuring progress. And they are dedicating larger amounts of their resources, over longer periods of time, on fewer areas of focus. Some have ventured even further, taking on entrenched social challenges in high-need areas and deploying their resources as risk capital aimed at catalyzing population-level change. They are, in short, pursuing what we call “bold philanthropy.”
“Philanthropy has gathered a lot of momentum over the past 10 years in India,” says Amit Chandra, a leading philanthropist and managing director at Bain Capital Private Equity. “Many philanthropists are spending their time making their giving more outcomeoriented, and their efforts will start feeding off each other. That will, over time, get some to make bigger, bolder bets.”