From Microfinance to Social Investing

by Kavita Nehemiah, MBA ‘12 (8/2/11)

Kavita Nehemiah, MBA ‘12

Getting hands-on experience at Elevar Equity to determine if a career in impact investing is the right choice.  

Coming from a background in Microfinance, I am looking to make a shift into social investing post- MBA.  Therefore, my objective for the summer was to get hands-on experience at an impact investing firm, to evaluate whether I am well suited for a career in investing, and to experience the work culture at a small firm (most impact investing firms have extremely small teams). My internship at Elevar Equity in India has allowed me to do all three.

Elevar Equity provides long-term private equity to both start-up and established social enterprises, predominantly in Asia and Latin America. Elevar is not a philanthropic investor and expects to realize competitive returns by investing in high growth social enterprises that deliver both social and economic results.  Over the past 8 weeks I have had the opportunity to get involved in various aspects of Elevar’s business by working on 3 distinct projects. My first project was to update the comparable set for each of Elevar’s portfolio companies and subsequently value these companies. Next I got involved in a new deal the team was working on. This project allowed me to see the whole investing cycle through - from reviewing the entrepreneur’s business plan to structuring the deal and making an investment recommendation. My final project was to identify a new investment opportunity for Elevar. The open-ended nature of this assignment permitted me to explore a completely new investment theme and encouraged me to think independently.

Though I had no prior investing experience, the courses I took during my first year such as Valuation Principles and Financial Statement Analysis equipped me with the skills required to perform well during my internship. The SGE immersion career treks served as excellent networking opportunities with professionals in the social investing space, which then helped me with my internship search and interviews.

My internship experience has given me greater clarity on how to manage my second year at Johnson. I have identified gaps in my skill set that can be filled by structuring my coursework and extracurricular activities. The deeper understanding of the social investing space that I gained from my time spent at Elevar will also help me refine my full-time job search and approach it more strategically.