Indian charity at the doorstep

Astha Powar, 21, is a fundraiser with the charity Save the Children in India.

"I am here on a noble cause," Powar begins, as she introduces herself to the president of a travel agency. Five minutes later, he has agreed to her request for a donation of about $25, money she says will be used to help a family in flood-afflicted West Bengal. After some further prodding, he agrees to hand over twice that amount, enough to provide support for two families.

This type of pitch is a relatively new phenomenon in India and underlines the huge new economic force India has become. With the world's second-fastest-growing economy after China, India is full of companies battling to connect with its 300 million middle-class consumers.

Now charitable institutions are angling for business, too: Save the Children, World Vision, Oxfam, Plan India and Care India are looking for donations and, in turn, trying to provide donors with a tax credit, just as in the West. And they are doing well.

Thomas Chandy, who oversees Save the Children's operations in India, says India now has 17 million households that earn at least $17,400 a year – considered middle class there. Individual charitable contributions have climbed to roughly $927 million, from $580 million three years ago. In three or four years, individual giving in India could reach $4.6 billion, Chandy said.

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