Azim Premji Trust: The Endowment Model in an Emerging Market
The Azim Premji Trust, among the largest philanthropic trusts in India, had its origins in 2001, when Azim Premji transferred Wipro shares worth US$ 125 million to the trust. As of March 31, 2017, the trust had a corpus fund of US$ 9 billion. The trust's goal was to support Premji's philanthropic pursuits through two organizations -- the Azim Premji Foundation and Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives. Both beneficiaries had distinct, ambitious philanthropic objectives that required large, ongoing funding. The trust's Chief Endowment Officer, K. R. Lakshminarayana, had been given the responsibility of planning the future of one of India's first endowments. The endowment was tasked with maximizing total return over a long horizon. Therefore, the trust had deliberately been created as a taxable entity to allow it the freedom to make large investments in equities and alternatives. The case describes the challenges Lakshminarayana, widely known as Lan, faced in arriving at a strategic asset allocation model in an emerging market with limited investment talent and investment firms and constraints on the trust's ability to invest outside India.