Aavishkaar, the Modern Day Impact Investor
Vineet Rai turned a venture capitalist quite by chance. “I was doing research for the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 at IIM Ahmedabad,” he recalls, “and was later offered the role of CEO at the Gujarat government’s business incubator for innovation and development of rural areas (the Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network – GIAN). There I realised providing only capital is not enough to help rural businesses. The only way to make a difference was to take both capital and talent to help build businesses locally.”
He decided to do just that, but then Rai was scarcely a stock market shark. “I had no idea how to raise money,” he muses. It took him four long years to raise his first million dollars. “But bit by bit I learned. There are foundations and endowments which will give to venture funds dedicated to rural and small businesses,” Rai says.
In 2001, he travelled to Singapore to make an investment pitch to non-resident Indians (NRIs). “As a 29-year-old forester with no experience (even the air ticket was sponsored), I remember being given a lift in the car by Arun and Laxmi Diaz to show me around Singapore.” Arun Diaz, a veteran entrepreneur and investor would later become a key advisor and partner in Rai’s new venture capital fund.
In October 2001, Aavishkaar (Hindi for ‘invention’) was launched with the money Rai had raised. It’s now part of the parent company, Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group. Intellecap was founded in 2002. The company identifies investable businesses from underprivileged areas and provides the necessary business training.
Photo courtesy of Peter Haden.