Philanthropist | Investor
Amit Chandra heads Bain Capital in India and is a Managing Director in the Financial and Business Services Vertical and a member of the Asia Pacific Private Equity team and a part of its leadership group. Before joining Bain Capital Private Equity, he spent most of his professional career at DSP Merrill Lynch, a leading Investment Bank in India. He retired from DSP Merrill Lynch in 2007 as a Board Member & Managing Director.
Amit is also a committed Philanthropist. He and his wife Archana (CEO - Jai Vakeel Foundation and Research Centre) aim to donate 90% of their wealth to social causes. He has moved to a part-time model in Bain Capital where he devotes 50% of his time to Bain Capital and the remaining 50% to Social Impact and related topics.
In our conversation, Amit spoke about his formative years and his early career choices including the decision to come back to India after an MBA in the US and join Investment Banking. He spoke at length about how he was able to have a successful career in Investment Banking despite his style running counter to the prevalent “wining and dining” culture in Banking. He spoke about how he thought about the transition from Banking to Private Equity and related that to his life goals and how they had evolved over time. He spoke about how he has cultivated an apprenticeship culture at Bain Capital. Finally, he spent talking about how he has been strategic about spending his time and money towards social impact related topics.
Published in April 2018.
Nuggets from the
Early formative years
Amit talks about how his parents have influenced his attitudes towards giving and his parenting style. He talks about how he and his siblings were encouraged to be grounded and contribute with their capabilities (not just money) to help the needy. He also talks about his parenting style where he emphasizes nudging and role-modelling than prescribing and lecturing.
Joining an Indian I-Bank after a US MBA
Amit talks about how he thought about pursuing an MBA in the US. He also goes on to talk about the considerations he had when he decided to come back to India immediately after his MBA. He also talks about how he thought about Banking as a career option picked Investment Banking as a career path (as against Trading despite his strengths in quant related topics).
Factors behind the rise at DSP Merrill Lynch
Amit reflects on the common misconceptions people have when they get into Banking. Amit talks about how he made the decision to join DSP Merrill Lynch despite it being the job with the lowest pay and title. He also talks about how he leveraged his style of building deep authentic relationships with clients to grow over time. He also talks about the role of early bosses and brutal developmental feedback coupled with mentorship from Hemendra Kothari which have played a key role in his growth as a Banker.
Amit talks about how he has benefited from mentors along the way starting from Hemendra Kothari at DSP Merrill Lynch. He also goes on to talk about how mentors need not be from within the company and how clients could sometimes be great mentors. He talks about how the circle of mentors (which includes KV Kamath, Kalpana Morparia and KM Birla) has evolved organically over time than him going out in an explicit, conscious way to build a group of mentors around him.
Transitioning from Banking to PE
Amit talks about how he thought about the transition from the world of Investment Banking to Private Equity. He talks about taking stock of life after reaching the heights of the Investment Banking profession and also seeking more time to devote to some of the other elements in his life such as Social Impact.
Apprenticeship - the magic sauce in Private Equity
Amit talks about what it takes to build a sustainable Private Equity business over the long term. He also talks about the criticality of apprenticeship in people growing to become effective investors. He talks about three things that investors need to get right (people bets, strategy bets and timing) and how that evolves over time. He also discusses what it takes to transition to Investing as a profession and how he evolved from Investor 1.0 to Investor 2.0 during his tenure at Bain Capital.
Building better business judgment
Amit discusses how people get better at judgment calls over time. In an industry where the lead time to feedback is long, this is a significant differentiator over the long-term. He also discusses how, in order to drive disproportionate returns, it is critical to walk the tight-rope between seeking all the inputs required for a decision but at the same time have the courage of conviction to stick your neck out to avoid a consensus evaluation.
Institution building - Leading Type As
Amit discusses how he thinks about hiring and creating a nurturing climate for his team to deliver performance. He also shares how he invests time with each of his colleagues and help build their capability. He also talks about how he handles exits from Bain Capital. He talks about the realities of a corporate pyramid and stresses the importance of handling the people that don’t go up the pyramid with empathy.
Moving to a 50% model at Bain Capital
Amit currently operates on a 50% model where he spends 2.5 days at Bain Capital and 2.5 days on Social Impact, Boards and other matters. He talks about how he and his wife gradually started spending more and more time on the Social sector and how he structured this arrangement when the last fund was being raised.
Being Strategic about Philanthropy
Amit talks about how he and his wife Archana have been thoughtful about how they would spend their time and money towards Philanthropy. He talks about how they picked Water, Education and Health as three areas he would go after. He also discusses how his intervention is a blend of several activities including writing cheques towards break-out NGOs, investing in Leadership Capacity Building and Governing through the Board.
In summary - Playing to potential
Amit discusses how he has always surprised himself over time with the goals he has set for himself on the work front and the Social Impact front. He talks about the importance of setting goals and revisiting them from time to time. He also talks about the criticality of collaborating with the right set of people who inspire you and enable you to drive impact at a large scale. .