When she found herself suddenly wealthy, the Indian philanthropist founded Pratham Books, a nonprofit publisher that uses innovative ways to put low-cost books in the hands of millions of kids.
"Nilekani's own journey is something of a fairy tale. She has gone from being a middle-class journalist (something of an "activist," she says) to being a wealthy philanthropist. In 1981, when just 20 years old, Nilekani invested 10,000 rupees (about $180) – all the money she had – into a company cofounded by her husband, Nandan Nilekani, along with six close friends. That company grew into Infosys Ltd., India's second-largest technology company, with a net profit of $1.72 billion in the last financial year.
Nilekani, who owns 1.41 percent of the stock, is now one of India's richest women. She calls herself an "accidental philanthropist" because of her accidental wealth.
"I felt very uncomfortable when I became wealthy," she says. "One of my ways of dealing with it was to give it forward right away. I believe that any society that allows the creation of legitimate wealth expects that the wealth be used for its benefit."
Early on she used her profits from Infosys to set up a charitable foundation. She soon developed a reputation for philanthropy, and in 2010 Forbes magazine chose her as one of its "48 heroes of philanthropy." "