eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and wife Pam have been investing in India through Omidyar Network for many years now. The philanthropic investment firm which has invested over $100 mn in India so far, looks at areas such as Consumer Internet & Mobile, Financial Inclusion, Government Transparency and Property Rights. Former McKinsey executive Jayant Sinha leads the firm’s investment strategy in India. We caught up with him on the sidelines of the GSF Summit in Bangalore last week. “India is the epicenter of impact investing in the world,” said Jharkhand born Sinha, who reckons that the state is one of the “worst places” in the world on some counts. Edited Excerpts.
You are saying that India is at the epicenter of impact investing, how so?
There have been investments in over a 100 companies by impact funds and that collectively constitutes over $500 mn of capital under the impact investing banner in India.
How does that compare with rest of the world?
India is the epicenter of impact investing in the world. I don’t think any other country in the world will have had investments in over a 100 companies and $500 mn of capital which has gone into impact investing.
You’ve formed a council for Impact Investors?
Yes. An impact investing council has been formed with all the funds and other members who are interested in impact investing in India. We are about 25 members and are in the process of registering the industry association as a section 25 company.
Have you had any exits yet?
We have had an number of exits. SKS Microfinance is one example, Comat Technologies is another. Many of our companies have done extremely well. Quikr, Treehouse, d.light etc are doing very well.
What prompted you to move to Impact investing?
I was born in Giridih, and it is deep in the hinterlands of India. When I talk about what it is like to be there, I have personal experience of what people have to deal with on a day to day basis without access to electricity, water and quality education. By some counts, Jharkhand is one of the worst places on this planet along with Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of sub Saharan Africa. I spent the first few years of my life in Jharkhand and Patna. My father was in civil services and we moved to Delhi after some time. I went to IIT- Delhi after school and later spent 20 years in the US working for McKinsey and others. It allows me to combine many aspects of my background.