Ravi Venkatesan, SVP Bangalore
The Economic Times
June 11, 2012
By Hari Pulakkat
LASVP is part of the Social Venture Partners network, which is present in 26 cities across the US, Canada, Japan, and soon India.
BANGALORE: After a two-decade career in the corporate world, former Microsoft India chairman Ravi Venkatesan wanted to transition quickly from being successful to being relevant.
His immediate way of becoming relevant was to get together several of his senior technology industry friends in Bangalore and form a philanthropic organisation that was unlike any other in the country.
Members of Social Venture Partners (SVP) -- which is present in 20 cities in US, Canada and Japan, and debuted in India this May in Bangalore -- are not satisfied with just giving money for philanthropy. They also use their immense experience and knowledge to help NGOs magnify their impact on society.
The founding members of SVP Bangalore include, apart from Venkatesan, former Infosys board member Mohandas Pai, Aditi Technologies CEO Pradeep Singh, Zinnov Consulting CEO Pari Natarajan, Microsoft sales director Arun Rajamani and other senior managers in the city. Says Venkatesan: "NGOs need expert help as much as money. We are trying to help NGOs to become sustainable."
SVP was formed 15 years ago in Seattle, and has existed for over a decade in several US cities. It has had a tremendous impact on philanthropy in the US, as its members have provided technical, managerial and strategic help to a number of organisations there. "Our members do not just write cheques to philanthropic organisations," says Paul Shoemaker, a director of SVP in Seattle. "We engage actively with the recipients of our grants." Because of this engagement, their financial contributions are better directed and capable of greater impact than usual.
SVP monitors its own functioning through biennial studies. The last study found that 47% of its members increased their donations to charity and 63% are more involved in their community. More than 80% of the members say that SVP was a factor in these changes.
SVP members engage with NGOs in their own cities, which helps to increase their societal impact. Says Will Poole, a founding member in Seattle who played a key role in forming SVP Bangalore: "People often give money to organisations that are far away and so don't know how it is used. Since SVP is locally-managed, they can see the impact of their contributions immediately."
Poole is the chairman of the desktop virtualisation company NComputing -- headquartered in the Silicon Valley -- and is involved in several other businesses in the US and India.
The first SVP chapter in Seattle and the first SVP chapter in India would work closely together. "There are many NRIs (non-resident Indians) among our 2,200 members who are keenly interested in growing connections back to India," adds Poole.
"We have much to learn about how NGOs in Bangalore addresses social challenges and we have much to share about how we have helped NGOs in Seattle grow and scale."
Since the members actively involve with the NGOs they give to, the SVP model would also help solve two common problems about giving to NGOs: inefficient operations and concern about misuse of funds.
A founding member of SVP Bangalore needs to commit at least 2 lakh a year for three years, and a member needs to commit 1 lakh a year for three years.
Many members give more than the minimum; SVP also raises money from other sources. The agenda of SVP in Bangalore, although many members have just signed up and it has not had formal meetings, is likely to include environment, education and governance.
In its first year, SVP Bangalore will invest in self-help groups and for-profit enterprises that would provide employment in local communities.
SVP members who have joined in Bangalore expect it to start making an impact soon. "Bangalore has the answers to many of India's challenges," says Mohandas Pai, who thinks that sub-scale operation is the reason for the poor impact of many Indian NGOs. "The IT industry in Bangalore understands scale."
Pai cites the Akshaya Patra Foundation -- which uses centralised and high-tech kitchens and streamlined operations to provide mid-day meals to school children in nine states -- as an example of big impact. "It reaches 1.3 million children every day," he says. "We could easily work with the NGOs to help them reach 25 million people in the country."
SVP in other countries have helped with technical solutions for people and for NGOs, and the Bangalore members think it would be no different in India.
For example, SVP Seattle invested in an NGO called Rainier Scholars, which helps mainly coloured children in the city to go from sixth-grade school to college. Rainier Scholars had enormous data with it, but did not know how to manage it.
One of SVP's members was David Habib, a former Microsoft database expert who had been working actively with philanthropic organisations. Habib built a data infrastructure for the organisation.
"This system helped Rainier Scholars to measure its own impact," says Shoemaker. Like Habib, SVP members in Bangalore have been thinking of technical solutions societal problems. Watch out for them soon among India's NGOs.
To read the original article, click here.
Back to News & Events