25 Aug 2016
Having an Impact on Development and Poverty IssuesTopics:
Vikram Gandhi (MBA 1989) started Asha Impact to bring together successful business leaders and entrepreneurs to help India’s poor with affordable housing, financial inclusion, and access to energy.
“India has 400 million people within the poverty line,” says Gandhi. “While the government can have a lot of charity programs and philanthropy, there is no way that is going to solve the problem. Bringing business principles to solve that issue is a very interesting and exciting thing to do.”
Gandhi’s approach to microfinancing is to help India’s poorest people the same way he would approach financing any other project—sourcing deals, doing all the same types of due diligence. However, unlike other microlending efforts, there is one other value that must be assessed: whether a loan has an impact that will aid people at the lowest income level by stimulating other growth. This has many benefits, not all of which can be calculated as a direct ROI.
“Even with the best charities, the ‘I-am-helping-you’ element is always somewhere in the transaction,” Gandhi says, who recently joined the HBS faculty on a part-time basis. “You, the borrower, are being given something and that affects the nature of the relationship. With our approach, you are an important part of the economy—a customer—and this institution wants to sell you a product. You know that if you’re not happy, you can take your business somewhere else. You have status. You matter.”
(Published August 2016)
Class of MBA 1989, Section H