November 2015 \ Publications \ Philanthropy and Books
Investment for Social Change

By Arun Kumar
  • Ms Lata Krishnan

Citing the example of American India Foundation (AIF), dedicated to catalysing social and economic change in India, an Indian-American business and philanthropy leader has advised donors to treat philanthropy as an investment. If one wants to do philanthropy "properly," one has "to treat it like an investment requiring thorough due diligence and regular goals and metrics tracking and assessment," AIF Chair Lata Krishnan said in an event.

AIF has more than 200 people in India who "source and screen" projects, monitor them while they are being implemented and deliver values to "investors," she said delivering the second American Bazaar Philanthropy Lecture. The essence of philanthropy is listening to those in need, she said. "It isn't about what we want to get done," said Ms Krishnan. "It is about those who are underprivileged and in need; (and finding out) what do they want, and how can we best deliver that." Ms Krishnan, who co-founded two enormously successful companies with her husband Mr Ajay Shah, stressed the need for bringing business-oriented values to philanthropy, which, she said, is one of the two core things AIF focuses on.

Ms Krishnan and Mr Shah along with a friend, bootstrapped SMART Modular Technologies "with only USD 110,000 in angel funding" in the early 1990s. By 1995, when the duo took the company public, the firm had more than USD 1 billion in revenue. They sold the company in 2002. Currently, Ms Krishnan is the chief financial officer of Shah Capital Partners, which invests in technology companies.


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