Most people think of charity and giving away their wealth when they’re nearing retirement, but one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs has started at the age of 35.
Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath has pledged to give away half his wealth to charity. Kamath has signed the “Giving Pledge”, the philanthropic initiative started by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010. Notably, Kamath had recently met Bill Gates two months ago when he was on his India visit. Nikhil Kamath is worth an estimated $1.75 billion (Rs. 15,000 crore), so his charitable donation could be worth as much as Rs. 7,500 crore.
Kamath has become the fourth Indian to sign the Giving Pledge. Other signatories include former Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, Biocon CEO Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani. Nikhil Kamath though becomes the youngest Indian on the list.
“As a young philanthropist, I am writing to express my gratitude whilst joining the Giving Pledge,” Kamath said. “Despite my age, I am committed to positively impacting the world and believe that the foundation’s mission of creating a more equitable society aligns with my values and aspirations,” he added. Kamath says he will contribute towards areas including climate change, education and health care.
Nikhil Kamath has been previously giving away money to charity as well. He runs a foundation named Young Indian Philanthropic Pledge (YIPP), which works with entrepreneurs to donate at least 25% of their net worth to charitable causes. In 2022, Nikhil Kamath with his breather Nithin Kamath had given away Rs. 100 crore in charity, which was a 300% increase over the previous year.
Not many people give away Rs. 7,500 crore at the age of 35, but Nikhil Kamath has had a pretty incredible life story. He’d shown an entrepreneurial streak early — he’s started selling phones at the age of 14, which earned him the ire of his mother who flushed his phones down the toilet. Nikhil wasn’t interested in academics, and his school didn’t allow him to sit for his Class X exams. Nikhil then dropped out of school, and began working at a call center making Rs. 8000 a month.
But Kamath wasn’t just content working at a call center. He began trading the stock markets, and found plenty of success. “I worked from 4 PM to 1 AM at the call center, and in the mornings, I tried my hand at trading. I learnt a lot; when you move away from the family ecosystem and the judgement of relatives, you get down to the real stuff,” he says.
With their savings, Nikhil and his elder brother started Zerodha in 2010. The stock broking company differentiated itself from the competition by charging much lower fees than bigger brokers like ICICI Direct and HDFC. The model worked, and with minimal marketing, the company quickly found customers.
Zerodha is today India’s largest stock broker. It has never needed to raise external funding, and unlike most startups, it’s profitable — Zerodha reported profits of Rs. 2,094 crore in FY22. The Kamath brothers are together worth $3.45 billion (Rs. 30,000 crore), but, even at their young ages, seem to giving away much of their wealth to charity. Capitalism might have its critics, but this story of two self-made brothers, who’ve become fabulously wealthy thanks to creating a product that users love, and then giving away half their wealth, shows how pursuing self-interest in business can end up benefiting society as a whole.