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Moving Towards A Fintech-Forward Future - SP Jain Global Alumni Spotlight with Atharv Mankotia (BBA 2014)



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In the past decade, Fintech has witnessed substantial growth in India. However, despite this progress, the sector faces challenges that necessitate attention for its advancement and continuous innovation. How can we ensure that fintech witnesses sustained growth and success in the upcoming years?   

Join us in exploring these crucial questions and more as Atharv Mankotia - ex-PwC, ex-Invest India, and currently, a Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - delves into topics like fintech and investment strategies over a quick chat.


Would you like to take us through your personal and professional journey so far?


Upon graduating from SP Jain Global in 2014, I decided to return to India, given its rapid growth trajectory, market opportunities, and unique vantage point to the global economy. These factors, along with proximity to family were enough for me to take the ‘reverse plunge’ and come back home.


In 2014, I joined PwC as an Investment Banking Analyst and worked in Deals Advisory for around three years, obtaining exposure to various sectors and geographies along the way.


Post my stint at PwC, I pursued my MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB), majoring in Finance and Strategy. After graduating, I forayed into the world of technology for about a year, with a role at a prominent tech startup in Mumbai as a Business Development Manager.


I had the opportunity to work at Invest India, a quasi-government organisation housed under India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry. I spent almost four years working as an Investment and Policy Specialist, supporting ease of doing business and FDI in India. I wore many hats in this role, but my primary focus was on expanding economic cooperation and ties with two crucial regions - MENA and Russia. 


Finally, to satiate my appetite for creating longstanding tangible impact, I joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where I currently serve as a Program Officer, in a global capacity, advancing philanthropic capital flowing into the Foundation’s priorities – where I have been for over a year.


How did your BBA at SP Jain Global shape you personally and professionally?


I would say having exposure to a global cohort so early in one’s career and professional development is a key driving factor to obtaining a well-rounded view of global issues and topics. Additionally, having the ability to have an ‘MBA-like’ classroom, with a focus on case studies and out-of-classroom experiences, especially working with groups, prepares you to be a more outspoken, confident, diligent and curious minded asset to any room, organisation, and relationship.


Could you tell us a bit about your new job role as a Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? 


My role as a Program Officer in the Philanthropic Partnerships Team, housed under Global Policy and Advocacy, is focused on identifying, developing and implementing key strategic investments across programs and focus areas on behalf of the Foundation. In this role, I support our valuable partners across various geographies that are advancing equity and enabling positive outcomes toward SDGs. While sector agnostic, I get to work in major markets ranging from ME, Africa, and India, and currently support portfolio investments across gender equity, women empowerment, nutrition, food security, and agriculture development, among others. Very simply, the role can be viewed almost as an impact venture fund, wherein the KPIs and RoI is overall impact and betterment, versus monetary returns, given our investment vehicles are grants and contracts.

The most fulfilling part of the role is spending time in the field to see the positive impact that the capital you infuse to key interventions really make. It motivates me to work harder to deliver more impact with the finite resources.


How are investments in technology, especially in FinTech, shaping the way people manage their money and businesses in India? 


In my previous organisation, I had significant exposure to the domestic and global ecosystem, especially in terms of solutions and policy. While there have been significant advancements in the global fintech ecosystem, India’s development as a fintech superpower remains the most impressive and something I am most bullish on. Everyone is familiar with India’s journey since 2014 – from a largely unidentified, unbanked and unaware population, to one that has the strongest financial infrastructure in the world, scaling to other major economies is not just a proof of concept, but a proof of excellence. While there are still major challenges toward cashlessness, positive policy support, innovative technology frameworks, and an appetite to further integrate global interoperable and scalable systems will remain the major driving force toward a fintech-forward future. 

It's also great to see the large-scale, sustained attention and recognition this sector has gotten from both the private and public sector, with new innovation, supported by conducive policy, thereby creating such a thriving ecosystem develop. Its also exciting to see that State Governments have been quick to create their own policies and frameworks to support Fintech development and infrastructure in their own states, thereby gamifying some of these innovations, further enhancing the scope and appeal of the sector.


How do you balance the risks and benefits when deciding where to invest, and can you share an example of a successful investment where the risks paid off?


At my current organisation and role, the concept of ‘investing’ is very different from what most people are accustomed to. Firstly, there is no return on investment as these are grants in their truest form. Secondly, there is an appetite to take much bigger and bolder risks that other capital streams cannot and will not do. This unique position allows me to assess my investments through various lenses and metrics – mostly anchored onto impact and scale, but also to various intangibles, such as positive spillover, behavioural changes, self-worth of target demographics etc. It's hard to explain without going into passionate (and poor grammatical) essays, but broadly, the risks could be either working with partners who don’t have the same drive and passion and know how to meet the programmatic goals. The risks could also be macroeconomic and regulatory too – COVID being a great example.


To quickly touch upon a successful investment - I am currently working on and assessing targeted interventions designed to supplement and grow women’s livelihoods in some of the poorest regions in India through skill development and backyard poultry. In a matter of a year, we are seeing very positive growth metrics, right from women deriving incomes through diligent farming practices all the way through to these women positively viewing themselves and breadwinners in their families, making discretionary purchases (such as clothes and heirlooms) and supporting the education of their children. 


What advice would you give aspiring candidates who wish to follow in your footsteps?


I would simply advise them to follow their own journey but with an honest, open, and curious mindset and a diligent work ethic. I would ask candidates to both assess yet embrace risks and create pathways to whatever one may define as success. All work is great work when it’s done with the right mindset. Additionally, comparison is often the thief of joy so I would recommend for one to not get swayed away by others’ journeys and achievements. Lastly, there is no fulfilment without letting your hair down and enjoying time in the sun so I would also urge people not to take things so seriously, as we often see Instagram gurus preach nowadays.








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