Jamsetji Tata’s social impact makes him the most generous person in the world



“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”
– Andy Warhol

The most generous person in the world, according to a new report, was an Indian industrialist.

Jamsetji Tata gave away more in the last century than Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, or anyone else for that matter. So says Hurun and EdelGive Foundation, about which more later.

The assessment is described as follows: “The ranking is based on Total Philanthropic Value, calculated as the value of the assets today together with the sum of gifts or distributions to date. For example, the Total Philanthropic Value of George Soros is the sum of current endowment of value of The Open Society Foundations (US$18bn) together with donations to date of US$16.8bn, ie a total of US$34.8bn. The Giving Pledges have not considered due to their non-binding nature.”

There’s lots to occupy us in the elevation of Jamsetji Tata to the world’s most giving person in the 20th century.

First, because it’s not about what Tata did in his lifetime, but the continuing impact of his actions. This is interesting in terms of examining long-term social impact rather than the moment of giving. Tata died in 1904, so in real terms he was more of the 19th century than the 20th. But the Indian multinational conglomerate he founded, which manufactures automobiles, airplanes and other products, has long been engaged in real, community-based endeavours as well as the business of capitalism.

The Hurun Edelgive report puts it as follows: “With total donations value estimated at US$102.4bn, Mumbai-based Jamsetji Tata (1839-1904), was the world’s biggest philanthropist of the last century. The total philanthropic value of Tata is made up of 66% of Tata Sons, estimated at US$100bn, solely based on the value of listed entities. Tata made his fortune in the 1870s after floating Central India Spinning Weaving and Manufacturing Company and set up the JN Tata Endowment in 1892 for higher education, which was the beginning of Tata Trusts. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, often mentioned him as the ‘One Man Planning Commission’.”

The EdelGive Foundation describes itself as “a grant-making organization, helping build and expand philanthropy in India by funding and supporting the growth of small to mid-sized grassroots NGOs committed to empowering vulnerable children, women, and communities.”

Hurun is the Chinese name of a British national, Rupert Hoogewerf, who runs Hurun Report, a research, media and investments business. It is known for the Hurun Rich List (for China), the first of which was compiled in 1999, and now, for ranking philanthropic endeavours in India.