This Idea Called Impact

I first got a glimpse of Roopa Kudva’s professional journey when we did a cover story with N. Vaghul, the former chairman of ICICI Bank, in early 2012. The bank was one of the founding organisations of CRISIL, then a focussed rating agency, which worked towards the cause of building a better landscape for credit and financial services in the country. Kudva, the subject of our cover story this month, has spent over 23 years at CRISIL, seven of these as its CEO. When Vaghul spoke to us about the impact the organisation continues to have on India’s business landscape, I made a mental note to pursue a cover featuring Kudva. Of course, by that time, CRISIL was owned by Standard & Poor’s (S&P), the international rating agency. For some reason, that cover story never materialised, but we’re glad we managed to have Kudva on the cover in her next professional stint as Managing Director at impact investing firm, Omidyar Network India.

Our consulting editor, Poornima Kavlekar, anchored this story on Omidyar and Roopa Kudva. The story touches upon different aspects – Omidyar’s approach to spotting entrepreneurs and startups to bet on, the opportunity in double-bottom line investing, the key sectors it wants to impact and Kudva’s key learnings on scaling up and keeping up with change, from her stint at CRISIL.

To me, her journey at the helm of Omidyar seems like a seamless continuation of her earlier stint. While CRISIL wasn’t directly positioned as an impact-driven firm, the kind of impact it has had (especially in the early days after liberalisation when there was little logic in the credit markets) is immense. At Omidyar, the impact will hopefully be seen across several sectors; its investments in non-profits will play a role in shaping up markets that are currently non-existent, yet, crucial. On the for-profit side, Omidyar’s strategy is to pursue long-term sustainability and rapid business growth, like any other venture funded business. The differentiation comes in the choice of ideas it wants to bet on.

For instance, Omidyar’s investment in Scripbox, an online investment service, was analysed like any other business. Scripbox wants to simplify the process of investing and creating wealth, and for that, it lets its customers choose from eight preselected funds. Interestingly, over 70 per cent of Scripbox’s current customers have never invested in the past. Imagine if Scripbox scales up the way CRISIL did; the impact it would have on India’s growth story would be tremendous. People would not only earn, but also actively save, invest and create wealth, further enhancing the opportunities this wealth could buy them. The investment team at Omidyar evaluates every startup on two factors – potential scale and social impact over the long-term. Can this grow? Can this create a meaningful difference to the ecosystem? And, often, you’ll be surprised at the answers as social impact is a catalyst for growth; it is hardly ever an impediment.

The time is now ripe to pursue ideas that have ‘social impact’ at their core and not just as a by-product.

On that note, as we close this issue, we are gearing up for the 2nd edition of The Smart CEO-Startup50 Conference & Awards on Sept 16th, at Taj West End, Bangalore. It is a wonderful platform where the founders of India’s 50 most exciting startups come together to talk about the finer nuances of building a venture. Please visit www.startup50.in for more details.

Hope you enjoy reading this edition.
Prem Sivakumaran
(Editor)

Prem Sivakumaran is co-founder & CEO of Growth Mechanics, a leadership and entrepreneurship-focused business content company in India. Growth Mechanics publishes The Smart CEO, a publication focused on enabling peer-to-peer knowledge exchange among C-level executives and board members. The platform reaches over 1.2 lakh CXOs across its website, app, print publication & CEO Round Tables, and has featured on the cover India’s leading business leaders/founders from Infosys, Mindtree, Tata Sons, ICICI Bank, Biocon, Yes Bank and several others. In addition of Smart CEO, Growth Mechanics also organises the Startup50 Conference & Awards, an annual event to recognize India’s top 50 startups every year. Startup50 Alumni include Freshdesk, Oyo Rooms, Urban Ladder, Capital Float, Paperboat Beverages, among others. Growth Mechanics’ primary business model revolves around linking CXOs and Brands around engaging content and has worked with India’s leading companies including Mahindra Group, Godrej & Boyce, BASF, Airtel, Tata Docomo, Fiat, IDA Ireland, Yes Bank, Prestige Estates, Frederique Constant, Indian Terrain