A Dubai-based Indian billionaire has become the latest to sign up for Bill Gates’s Giving Pledge, an initiative that encourages the world’s richest people to use their wealth for good causes.
Kerala-born Sunny Varkey is chairman of the GEMS education business and founder of the million-dollar Global Teacher Prize, the ‘Nobel Prize’ for teaching.
Mr Varkey, 58, joins figures such as investor Warren Buffet, Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg, Virgin boss Richard Branson, Star Wars creator George Lucas and more than 130 wealthy individuals in the Giving Pledge, which was set up by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010.
“It is a great honour to join this group of people dedicated to creating a legacy through philanthropy — together we can make a great difference,” Mr Varkey said.
He is also the fifth tycoon of Indian-origin to sign up to the pledge following Manoj Bhargava, the man behind the ‘5-Hour Energy’ drink; Wipro founder Azim Premji; renowned Venture Capitalist Vinod Khosla and US-based investor Dr Romesh Wadhwani.
Mr Varkey, who has a personal fortune of nearly £1.4 billion, is the first education business owner to join one of the world’s largest and most influential philanthropic organizations.
His GEMS education business is the world’s largest operator of nursery to grade 12 schools with 140,000 students in more than 50 schools across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America.
The business began with a single school in Dubai, set up in the 1960’s by Mr Varkey’s teacher parents.
The Giving Pledge took form from conversations between Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett with several other philanthropists, and continues to grow.
Mr Gates’s own foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is one of the biggest signees to the pledge with grants totalling more than £22 billion.