June 28

Upaya Social Ventures Announces Leadership Transition: Kate Cochran to Step Down as CEO; Shruti Goel and AB Chakravarthy Appointed Co-CEOs

Upaya Social Ventures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting extreme poverty through dignified job creation, today announced a significant leadership transition. Kate Cochran, who has served as CEO since 2016, will step down from her role effective August 1st. She will be succeeded by AB Chakravarthy and Shruti Goel, who will take on the roles of Co-CEOs.

Kate Cochran’s Legacy of Impact

During her tenure, Kate Cochran has led Upaya through a period of transformative growth and impact. Under her leadership, Upaya’s portfolio of impactful startups expanded significantly, adding numerous high-potential startups that have created tens of thousands of jobs for underserved communities in India. Kate’s strategic vision and innovative approach, including the successful implementation of the Pool of Recoverable Grants (PRG) model, have garnered widespread recognition in the impact investment community.

Kate led the launch of Upaya’s accelerator program, and steered the organization to adopt impact and investment standards around gender and climate, further advancing the organization’s mission to create dignified jobs for people in extreme poverty. Kate has been a vocal advocate for rigorous impact measurement and management practices and frequently participates in industry conferences, panels, and working groups, sharing her expertise on topics such as poverty alleviation, social entrepreneurship, and impact investing in the missing middle. Her thought leadership has positioned Upaya as a key player in the global movement to use business solutions for social change.

“Kate stepped in to lead Upaya at a critical and pivotal moment in our history,” said Upaya Co-Founder Sachi Shenoy, a board member who had formerly served as its Chief Impact Officer and Executive Director. “We were entering our sixth year of operation, having bootstrapped our own venture while simultaneously bootstrapping community entrepreneurs in overlooked sectors and regions of India. Kate saw potential in our model when many others were skeptical, and I am incredibly grateful for the structure, systems, and strategies she put in place to scale Upaya to spectacular heights. She has much to be proud of.”

AB Chakravarthy and Shruti Goel bring a wealth of experience and a shared commitment to Upaya’s mission as they step into their new roles as Co-CEOs. As of August 1st, 2024, Chakra will lead investments, portfolio management, and operations for Upaya. Shruti will take the lead on fundraising, social impact performance, and communications.

“An intense – some would say obsessive – commitment to put ‘impact’ before ‘investing’ has always been core to Upaya’s culture and values, and that is why I’m thrilled by Shruti and Chakra’s co-leadership of Upaya’s next chapter,” said Shenoy. “As the heads of Impact Management and Investing, respectively, they both bring years of relevant experience, unwavering conviction in the power of dignified jobs, and complement each other in the best ways. I can’t wait to see the new trails they blaze.”

AB Chakravarthy, known as Chakra, has been the India Country Director at Upaya for the past three years. He successfully guided Upaya’s portfolio through post-COVID recovery, driving job creation, and boosting fundraising for portfolio companies. With over 15 years of experience in early-stage enterprises, Chakra has led impact investments across sectors such as agritech, climate, health tech, and livelihoods. His strategic insights and leadership have been instrumental in expanding Upaya’s impact.

Shruti Goel, who has been with Upaya for two and a half years as Director of Impact, has significantly contributed to the organization by leading its impact performance, adopting measurement metrics on gender and climate and launching the Dignified Jobs Collaborative. With over 16 years of experience in international development, Shruti has worked with esteemed organizations such as Palladium Group, Intellecap, and Population Council. Her expertise spans emerging markets, including India, East Africa, and Southeast Asia.

A Carefully Planned Transition to Locally-Led Leadership

This leadership transition has been carefully planned with extensive involvement from Upaya’s Board of Directors. The decision to appoint AB Chakravarthy and Shruti Goel as Co-CEOs reflects Upaya’s commitment to empowering a locally-led leadership team that embodies the organization’s values and aspirations. Their deep understanding of Upaya’s mission and their proven dedication ensure continuity and a strong future for the organization.

“The board has worked closely with Kate on her succession plan, and we are delighted with this outcome,” said Richard Wardell, Board Chair of Upaya. “Local leadership was one of our goals, and in appointing Chakra and Shruti as Co-CEOs we are achieving that and more. They both have deep experience and expertise in complementary fields, and have been highly effective working together at Upaya for more than two and a half years. The board has great confidence in their ability to lead Upaya to even greater impact in the future.”

As Co-CEOs, AB Chakravarthy and Shruti Goel will continue to build on Upaya’s strong foundation, driving forward its mission to create dignified jobs and lift people out of extreme poverty. Their combined expertise and leadership will ensure Upaya remains at the forefront of impact investing and social entrepreneurship.

Source: Upaya Social Ventures (link opens in a new window)

Social Enterprise
employment, nonprofits, poverty alleviation