There are nearly 4 million Indian Americans in the U.S today, and they are increasingly becoming active in the development of Indian society. This spring, I joined Calvert Foundation to lead the launch of the India Investment Initiative, the only widely available opportunity to invest in social enterprises in India.
Indian Americans have been migrating to the United States since the 1960’s, and have managed to become one of America’s most successful diaspora communities. Thanks to the low cost of travel and the connectivity provided by the Internet and telephony, they have remained in touch with family and friends in India. Since India’s economic liberalization in the 1990’s, that connectivity has expanded to include business and investment. Indian Americans helped build Bangalore and Gujarat into globally-competitive hubs of manufacturing and technology. Now, Indian Americans are turning their attention towards philanthropy and impact investing – looking for ways to deploy their wealth towards making India a better place and helping the 700 million citizens of India who live under $3.00 a day.
Indiaspora itself reflects this interest, attracting senior leaders of Indian origin from around the world with an interest in India. In recent years, a growing number of startups in India are serving customers at the base of the pyramid – or those living on $1.25 or less per day. The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) has even launched a track on social enterprise, in parallel with tracks on Web 2.0, life sciences and clean tech. With their connections to South Asia, conferences like TiECON, AAPI and Pan IIT attract people who are interested in impact investing and social enterprise in India, and who are frustrated by the barriers to engaging in it.
The India Investment Initiative simultaneously satisfies the two needs expressed by Indian American leaders: An investment product that is targeted to social enterprises in India, and that does not require a high net worth or Indian bank account.
President Obama and Prime Minister Modi announced the Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative (as it was originally called) in January 2015 in New Delhi, and Calvert Foundation will launch the campaign behind the India Investment Initiative this summer. Investments into the initiative are made through Calvert Foundation’s flagship fixed-income security, the Community Investment Note. The Community Investment Note is available through Calvert Foundation’s online investment platform, Vested.org, starting at $20, through a brokerage account or financial advisor, or directly through a paper application. Investors can expect annual interest payments, and can select investment tenors from 1,3,5,7 and 10 years.
Indian Americans have been giving philanthropically for years, but their targeting options have been limited. Their ability to invest in emerging sectors like microfinance has been limited by the lack of mainstream investments targeted to India’s social enterprise sector. Now for the first time, Indian Americans–and Americans more broadly—can make small investments to directly support India’s social entrepreneurs.
At the recent TiECON in Santa Clara, CA, we talked with hundreds of people at our booth. Many were entrepreneurs themselves, and were keen to help startups in India in sectors like rural health care, public education, agricultural productivity and clean energy. Many were investors looking for companies they could directly invest in or learn about. And many were simply concerned citizens who now live in the United States but remain interested in India’s development. They were all curious about how the Indian Investment Initiative addresses their interests.
With 20 years of experience and a track record of 100% repayment of principle and interest to all investors, The Calvert Foundation is a leader in impact investing. Its long history in the field, and experience investing in India, give it credibility and a deep understanding of the issues facing investors in India – including transparency, access to information and regulatory challenges.
Over the next few months, Calvert Foundation will formally launch the India Investment Initiative. In the meantime, we’re hosting webinars and events to educate people about the impact investing and social entrepreneurs in India. We look forward to working with Americans of all backgrounds to grow the movement and create impact in India. I encourage you to join the mailing list to stay updated and explore the India Investment Initiative on vested.org ”