The Hari Putar Dialogues - 11
(Business Standard, New Delhi, June 25th
For the 33 years of its existence, Microsoft has been identified primarily with one charismatic person ' Bill Gates, or William Gates III. From next week, though, the 52-year-old Gates will focus on philanthropy as he gives up his title as 'Executive Chairman' of the $58 billion company, and switches to plain 'Chairman'. He will work only one day a week with the firm that he founded as a Harvard dropout.)
Putar: According to a story carried in the Business Standard today Bill Gates is leaving Microsoft next week.
Hari: That's right, putar.
Putar: And from now onwards he is going to focus on charity work.
Hari: That is correct, putar.
Putar: Microsoft may not have it so soft anymore. Without Bill Gates it may be in for some hard times ahead.
Hari: That is to be expected, putar. They will miss his business acumen and guidance.
Putar: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in health care and education.
Hari: There is so much to be done in the world, putar. You have to prioritize. The aim is ultimately to help the poor of the world.
Putar: Does this mean the Foundation will provide loans for the poor as well?
Hari: Their agenda certainly includes providing scholarships to poor students from ethnic minorities, putar.
Putar: So will this be a case of Bill Gates moving from Micro Soft to Micro Credit?
Hari: That's more in the line of Mohammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Bangladesh. With Bill Gates it's likely to be macro credit and not micro credit.
Putar: Beyond a certain point, it becomes meaningless to think of making more money. And Bill Gates came to that realization.
Hari: That's probably true, putar.
Putar: He decided to leave Microsoft because he needed a fresh and bigger challenge.
Hari: That is right, putar. And the challenge is nothing less than to target and find solutions to major global problems.
Putar: Is it more difficult to earn money than to spend it wisely?
Hari: That's a difficult one, putar. Of course it's much easier to spend money than to earn it, but to spend it wisely so that you transform the lives of millions of people in a positive way, that could be much more difficult.
Putar: Exactly right, Papaji. It's true though that this Foundation has much more money than most charities. 36 billion dollars, I hear. The other thing that's special is that it will have Bill Gates heading it.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: There are many cases of businessmen in the world who start doing charity work, but quite often charity is something that they do as an extra activity. Sometimes they do it to save taxes, and sometimes to improve public good will towards their businesses, which helps them make more profit.
Hari: That's also true, putar.
Putar: But even those businessmen who do real charitable work, normally end up spending much more of their time and energy trying to make money than on the charity work.
Hari: I guess so, putar. But there are exceptions, like Bill Gates, and our own S. Narayan Murthy, who set up INFOSYS, but now focuses on philanthropy. And there are many charitable foundations.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: Billions have been spent in development aid. There are thousands of charities working in the world, but in general global problems are looming larger, not disappearing. It remains to be seen how far he will succeed, but Bill Gates has taken an extraordinary decision.
Hari: I think so, putar.
Putar: He has embarked on a new, more difficult journey. He must have thought a great deal about what to do with the rest of his life and then he suddenly saw this completely new and unfamiliar territory requiring a different kind of knowledge and understanding.
Hari: That's true, putar.
Putar: Was this because he was always looking out of Windows?
Hari: I don't know, putar.