Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani pledges $1.7 billion for philanthropy

01 December 2017 Authored

Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of Indian IT consultancy giant Infosys, has become the latest billionaire in the world to join the elite ‘Giving Pledge’, a global network of wealthy individuals who pledge to donate half of their wealth for philanthropic purposes. 

Having grown up in Bangalore – also known as the “Silicon Valley of India” – Nandan Nilekani has devoted his life to information technology (IT) and software. After completing a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, Nilekani began his professional career at Patni Computer Systems, one of the leading IT services companies in India at the time.
At Patni, Nilekani met with N. R. Narayanamurthy, who would become his future business partner. In 1981, Nilekani and Narayanamurthy left Patni, along with five other engineers, with an initial capital of $250 (Rs. 16,000), to form their own IT 
consulting firm by the name of Infosys. In its latest financial year, Infosys generated revenues of $10.2 billion (Rs.66,000 crore), and counted more than 200,000 employees across the world.
Nilekani himself began at the firm as Managing Director, ascending through the ranks of President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Executive Officer, before becoming co-chairman of the Board of Directors in 2007. Today, Nilekani is worth $1.76 billion (Rs. 13,000 crore), after having made the decision to pledge half his wealth to charity.

Bill Gates, Nandan Nilekani & Rohini Nilekani

The Giving Pledge

The pledge made by Nilekani and his wife, Rohini Nilekani, places him amongst an elite global group of billionaires known as ‘The Giving Pledge,’ each of whom has committed half of their wealth to philanthropy. The Giving Pledge was started in 2010 by billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, in partnership with fellow billionaire Warren Buffet, and has since accumulated 158 signatories.

According to a recent study by PwC and UBS, the globe has over 600 billionaires, cumulatively controlling $6 trillion of the world’s wealth, up nearly a trillion from the $5.1 trillion the previous year. India currently has around 100 billionaires.  

Nilekani and his wife are the fourth signatories from India, following in the footsteps of Wipro founder Azim Premji, Biocon Chairman Kiran Mazumdar, and Chairman Emeritus of Sobha Developers P. N. C. Menon. The couple’s philanthropic efforts are channeled through the EkStep Foundation, a not-for-for profit learning initiative that the two co-founded. The foundation’s focus lies on using innovation in both the technological and the educational spheres to provide universal and improved education across India. The pledge amounts to approximately $1.7 billion.
Commenting on the decision to sign the pledge, Nilekani said, “We thank Bill and Melinda for creating this unique opportunity to realise a moral aspiration inspired by the Bhagwad Gita. We have a right to do our duty, but no automatic right to the fruits from the doing. It is critical that we do not slip into inaction fearing that we may not be able to reap direct reward. It is to this ideal that we pledge.”
On EkStep’s efforts, Nilekani said, “We are excited by our initial experimentation with societal platforms in early education and see immense potential for scaling up diverse solutions.” Meanwhile, in a tweet after the pledge, Bill Gates commented, “I'm amazed by how Nandan Nilekani has lent his entrepreneurial passion to philanthropy. I'm delighted to welcome him and his wife Rohini to the Giving Pledge.”
Nilekani’s Infosys has been particularly active in this new era of digital disruption, particularly in the FinTech arena. Infosys FInacle, a subsidiary of the firm, recently partnered with local startup Tonetag
 with the objective of creating transaction mechanisms based on sound waves. The firm has also been in expansion mode over recent years, having acquired a total of ten firms between 2012 and 2015, the second most in the country.