he MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) is a hands-on programme run by the Bridges Impact Foundation and Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative to give students first-hand experience of what impact investing is like. “There’s real money on the line,” says Nicole Kamra, an MBA student at London Business School. “This isn’t just a PowerPoint of what happens, this is real people and dynamics.”
The LBS team, represented by MBA 2019’s Saba Ahmed, Katherine Mellis, Yue Tang, Shyan Khaleeli and Nicole Kamra, convinced a judging panel at Wharton to pursue a potential investment in Sehat Kahani, a healthcare start-up in Pakistan. Despite high representation in Pakistani medical colleges, over half of trained female doctors abandon professional pursuits in order to care for their families. Sehat Kahani allows them to work by linking them to underserved patients via videoconferencing. It was founded by Dr Sara Saeed and Dr Iffat Aga, two local female doctors in Pakistan, explains Kamra. “We chose to represent this female-founded company in a region where we had ties.”
The London Business School (LBS) team was one of 25 finalists, each representing their universities at the MIINT finals after taking part in the six-month scheme. “We were the only non-US school that made it to the final top 5 and we were the only non-US company,” says Kamra. “It was interesting to see how the lenses were so different. LBS is so international.” Through the personal interactions with the company she gained a good sense of what she is likely to be doing if, as planned, she goes into the impact investing space after she graduates in the summer of 2019.
Here’s what else she learnt along the way.
1. Impact doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone
“You’re looking for businesses that have both financial and social returns – but that gets measured very differently by different firms. One of the companies in one of our internal rounds presented a healthcare device, which led to a discussion around, is healthcare impact? The granularity is really interesting. With Sehat Kahani, it’s about changing the paradigm to connect women with work in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to before.
2. Investors like lockstep businesses
“A lot of impact investors look for lockstep businesses, where growth and profits go hand-in-hand. As they do more business, they make more money. That’s the case with Sehat Kahani: the more healthcare they provide, the more revenue they generate. But it’s common that those two go antagonistically in a company – and when they’re looking for investment, you often see companies where making money and having an impact diverge.
3. This is not a bias-free zone
“Even in impact investing, where you’re trying to get capital for people who don’t have the highest financial returns, the investors have biases around where the founders are educated, whether they look like the VCs who are investing in them… a lot of these funds are now setting boundaries around, say, founders who do not come from the US, or who come from lower-income demographics. But, even in this investment space, the trends that you see in VC and private equity – where female founders get only 2% of all funding – persist.