Naina Subberwal Batra is the CEO of the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), a Singapore-based funders’ network committed to building a vibrant and high impact philanthropy and social investment community across Asia. Before joining AVPN, Naina was a member of the senior leadership team of a purpose driven unit of The Monitor Group, a leading global strategy consulting firm. Naina was also partner and Co-Founder of Group Fifty Private Ltd, curating contemporary Indian art with a view to provide a medium for upcoming and established Indian artists to showcase their work directly to a large and diverse audience. Naina has a master’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and a bachelor degree in Economics and International Relations from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and a General Course Diploma in economics from The London School of Economics.
How did you become interested in philanthropy/social investing and come to join the AVPN?
Naina Batra: Before joining AVPN, I was working with Monitor – a strategy consulting firm in their mission driven practice called Monitor Inclusive Markets. It was here that I got exposed to social businesses, social entrepreneurs and the concept of social investing. It was frugal innovation at its best and focused at solving some of the most complex social problems and I was hooked.
Can you tell us about AVPN’s ‘multi sector collaboration’ model and the unique contributions from these different sectors?
Naina Batra: At AVPN, we believe that to achieve scale and multiply impact it is crucial for different sectors to partner and collaborate with each other. Thus we believe that as a convening platform it is our role to bring government, the private sector and the social sector together on one platform to engage and come up with mutually feasible solutions.
How did AVPN identify and forge partnerships with these sectors?
Naina Batra: AVPN is the only pan Asian platform that links organisations from different sectors such as government, corporations, foundations, impact funds and universities in order to increase the flow of capital to the social sector and facilitate the strategic deployment of this capital. We look at all different types of capital including financial, human and intellectual as we believe that all three are needed to maximize social impact. Regarding identifying and forging partnerships – we have become the go to platform for all organisations along the continuum of capital (i.e. from grants to non-financial support to debt and equity in order to find partners and also plug into deal flow).
What is AVPN’s Deal Share Platform and can you tell us about some previous deals executed?
Naina Batra: AVPN’s deal share platform is a online platform that connects funders and resource providers to a pipeline of qualified deals. So far the biggest hurdle to deploying capital in the social sector has been the lack of transparency and trust on the side of the investors. The Deal Share Platform addresses that issue by putting up deals that have been previously invested in by AVPN members who have conducted substantial due diligence.
There are currently more than 180 live deals on the Deal Share Platform and the platform is sector and geography agnostic. The ask ranges from grant to equity to non financial support.
What do you enjoy doing most outside your work?
Naina Batra: I enjoy travelling for leisure although my work entails about 15 days a month of travel, I very rarely get to see anything other than offices, hotels and airports on these trips! I also am a voracious reader and read pretty much everything.
Currently, how would you describe the landscape for social investing in Asia?
Naina Batra: The landscape for social investing in Asia is currently a vibrant one with a lot of interest across different countries from investors and also support from various governments in building up the social investment ecosystem. AVPN through its Asia Policy Forum is trying to get policy makers to work closely with investors and end beneficiaries to create an enabling ecosystem that helps facilitate the flow of capital to the social sector along the continuum of grants, loans and equity.
In terms of challenges the availability of substantial qualified deal flow, the missing middle of capital support for social enterprises and inclusive businesses as they try to scale and the absence of supportive policies for social entrepreneurs have led to a much smaller growth than was predicted over the past few years.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted you?
Naina Batra: Ela Bhatt of the SEWA Bank has shown how social enterprise and access to credit for women entrepreneurs can be a very successful business model.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and/or resources?
Naina Batra: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (C. K. Prahalad), New Frontiers of Philanthropy (Lester Salamon), The Stanford Social Innovation Review; publications and reports by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, New Profit and of course the AVPN website.