Sonali Mehta-Rao, Vice President of Business Development reflects on her trip to India this past summer.
My trip to India this summer had multiple objectives: Spend time with family and friends in Mumbai, explore opportunities for Mission Markets in India, meet artisan producer groups for MyMela, a social enterprise which I co-founded with my father about a year ago, and make my best effort to schedule some relaxation. I am proud (and privileged) to have accomplished them all!
When I tell people about how I Co-Founded MyMela but have chosen to spend all of my time working for Mission Markets, sometimes they look a bit puzzled. So before you ask the question I will answer it simply: because Mission Markets could be game-changing by opening up funding opportunities for hundreds of other “MyMelas”, that is, commercially viable enterprises with a strong social (or environmental) mission.
My interest in India began during my time at NYU studying International Relations. I was born and raised here in the U.S., but my parents grew up in India. Being a part of the South Asian diaspora has placed me, along with thousands of others, in a unique position, suspended between two worlds and in many cases struggling to truly be a part of either. My goal is now to be as much a part of both worlds as possible, and to use my unique position to affect positive change in both the U.S. and India. I feel that MyMela will do so- by enriching the lives of U.S. buyers with an interactive and educational online shopping experience, and by creating demand to keep talented local artisans in India in business.
With Mission Markets, I believe there is huge potential in the Indian market. I have gained enough experience through Ashoka and its network of fellows, working in India in particular, to know that there is enormous potential and also a definite appetite for investing capital in social businesses. It is widely known that there are significant opportunities for combined financial, social, and environmental returns in India. According to a joint study by IFC and the World Resources Institute, the BOP market in India is estimated to be worth at least $1.2 trillion.
Mission Markets plans to work with some of the leading players in the impact investing space. We will provide them and their partners access to unique sources of capital and expertise so that they can be positioned to efficiently scale both their financial and social/environmental impact.
On my last trip, I had the privilege of meeting with leaders in the development of social entrepreneurship, like New Ventures India, Intellecap, Aavishkaar, and Omidyar India, to give just a few examples. My hope is that Mission Markets will play a significant role in contributing to and accelerating the flow of capital into these opportunities.
To give a few examples that I believe illustrate this opportunity-because concrete examples are always more interesting than just numbers alone:
Greenlight Planet is combining cutting-edge technology with innovative distribution networks to commercialize low-power LED lanterns to replace kerosene lamps that emit more greenhouse gas than the entire nation of Belgium.
Provides families in rural villages with clean drinking water, medicines, comprehensive diagnostic tools, and advanced tele-medical services that bring a doctor and modern healthcare to their community.
I am excited to continue to work to build and expand a pipeline of high-quality deals from India and other emerging markets as well as present these opportunities to our growing investor base. If you are an investor with an interest in India, I would encourage you to register now for free and stay tuned for some interesting opportunities!