Corporate foundations in India are not a new phenomenon. The wealthy of the pre-independence era, prompted by the traditions of their community or encouraged by the Gandhian principle of Trusteeship, were generous in giving back to the society. Their philanthropic contributions were not limited to donating to the poor; some philanthropists were also involved in setting up some of the most famous institutions in the country – for example: contributions of
- Jagannath Shankarshet (1803–65),
- Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, or ‘J J’ (1783–1859),
- Sir Jamsetji Tata (1839 -1904) and
- G D Birla (1894 – 1983)
towards setting up of institutions such Elphinstone College, JJ School of Art and Mahim Causeway, Indian Institute of Science and Birla Institute of Technology respectively.
Over the years, foundations established by companies in India have assumed various forms in terms of their legal status, focus, funding, operations and activities. But the stated focus remains the same: social development, and empowerment of the poor and disadvantaged, in many cases, in the areas where the companies operate. Several companies have their foundations as the social arm of the company to undertake their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and programmes.