Intern Spotlight: Avish Patel – Avia-Tek

Avish Patel

Majors: BHP, Finance, Pre-Med

Company: Avia-Tek, Shanghai, China

Topics: Aerospace, Airlines, Finance, Emerging Markets, China

What were you doing in your role?

I got to put on a lot of different hats throughout my time at Avia-Tek. Initially, I was doing market research on the Chinese aerospace industry, and aircraft leasing and financial structures. After that I did sourcing work to find aircraft parts for trading and maintenance. Towards the middle of the internship I did finance-related work in the form of financial modeling and planning. For the last few weeks I learned how to code a bit in Python (I’m a Finance/Pre-Med major), and then wrote a program that streamlined supply chain processes within the company and for clients.

Biggest lesson you learned or ways you grew from this internship:

Becoming a quick-learner was by far the biggest lesson learned from this internship. I came in to the internship expecting to do work related only to Finance, but I was given a variety of projects that often I knew nothing about. In addition, being that I’m going into my sophomore year I haven’t had any major specific courses making the learning curve even larger. For every project I took on while at Avia-Tek I had to find time to teach myself what I didn’t know often times meaning that I was taking my work home or working later. Especially for my last project which included coding, I had no coding background whatsoever, but I had to learn quickly, and eventually came out with a successful deliverable.

What did you like most about the internship?

Although the free lunches were amazing, the best part of the internship was definitely the variety of projects I got put on. Even though I was a rising sophomore with limited experience my boss constantly tried to test me with new projects or things completely out of the scope of my major through things like coding and even working at photoshoots. This left me with a much wider scope of knowledge and experience, in addition to a great internship.

Did you get to experience living in a new city? If so, what was that like for you?

Living in Shanghai was amazing and lots of fun. Shanghai is like living in New York or LA minus all the English requiring me to learn a considerable amount of Chinese. It is very fast-paced, and always alive. Bargaining is an actual thing in China making shopping much more fun. The nightlife there is endless very diverse. The food was great! I got to try lots of foods I definitely wouldn’t have tried in America. Being that Shanghai was very central I got to travel around China to places like the Great Wall and Huangshan Mountain (the mountain that Avatar was based on). Overall, Shanghai was an amazing place to spend 3 months interning!

Anything else you want to point out to other students about your internship experience:

Although interning abroad is somewhat intimidating it is something that I feel like it is an experience more people should try. Although everything from workplace culture to language is completely different it makes every single moment a learning experience.

Alumni Spotlight: Rakesh Apte – Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund

Rakesh Apte

Majors: BHP, Economics

Featured: Impact Investing, Entrepreneurship, Working Abroad, Emerging Markets

Rakesh Apte, BHP 2007, is an Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund, which invests in social innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people in the developing world. Rakesh has also worked as an investment manager for Eleos, a business development manager for H2O Venture Partners and a strategy manager for Microsoft.

Take me through your career so far.

While finishing up college, I thought I wanted to work in quantitative finance. I went to work for D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund in New York doing quantitative finance, but found that I was more interested in the fundamentals of business and technology. I made a shift and joined Microsoft. I worked there for several years in corporate strategy, finance, and M&A across various product groups including the cloud computing group and the Windows group. Our team was tasked with analyzing trends in the industry, identifying disruptive technologies, and evaluating Microsoft’s ability to compete with new technologies.

During my time at Microsoft, I took a post in Turkey, Microsoft’s Middle East & Africa headquarters. That was my introduction to technology and business in emerging markets.  After 4.5 years at Microsoft, I decided to transition my career to technology startups and venture capital investing. I decided to do a MBA at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business to learn how to integrate the core business skills I developed at Microsoft into the progressive work of impact investing. During my time at Haas, I worked at a venture fund focused on commercializing technologies and supporting new startups in emerging markets. After that experience, I worked for a few years with another fund – Eleos – based in California. Eleos is a pioneering for-profit social venture fund that invested in several companies in India, Africa and Latin America. When I moved to Washington D.C. to support my wife’s career, I joined the Global Innovation Fund where I have spent the last few years investing up to $15 million per investment in Seed to Series C stage companies.

What are the challenges of investing in startups in emerging markets?

The venture capital industry is about successful exits. As an industry, we have yet to see whether investing in impactful startups in emerging markets will lead to successful exits. These are tough business environments which make it challenging to apply the same venture capital template we have in Silicon Valley to impact investing. We are starting to see success through interest from first-world commercial entities. They see the opportunity to make money while contributing to the social good. The amount of interest and money that has been invested in these startups is a positive indication, but we are waiting for these companies to mature and become successful acquisition opportunities or even publicly traded companies.  We have seen a few successful exits from double-bottom line companies here in the US such as Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Odwalla, Unilever’s acquisition of Ben & Jerry’s, or Clorox’s acquisition of Burt’s Bees   However, one of the inherent differences between startups in emerging markets and those in the United States is that companies may achieve high volume but not the profit margins that are expected from traditional institutions.  This is exactly the setback that one of Eleos’ earlier portfolio companies in India faced when it started to scale.  They were providing services to over 500k customers a day and were profitable, but private equity players were not excited about the economic upside of the business given its lower profit margins.  Overall, the industry’s long-term goals are to achieve large-scale impact while delivering risk-adjusted financial returns for investors. Success for the Global Innovation Fund would be a portfolio of companies which have scaled to millions, provided liquidity to investors, and continue to deliver impact that is inextricably linked to the core business.

What is an example of positive change you have seen from investments your funds have made?

Two examples come to mind.  One example we invested in while I was at Eleos is a company in the edtech sector called Eneza Education that is making affordable education available to those who have limited access to it.  They have an innovative digital platform that is providing interactive study content to millions of customers across Africa.  Their mobile phone based solution is particularly powerful for students outside of major cities who attend significantly under-resourced schools and have low national exam passage rates.

Another example is a company called SafeBoda based in Kampala, Uganda.  This is one of the investments I am most proud of because the company is solving an important safety problem, one that directly affected my close childhood friend.  Back in 2010, my friend was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Kampala.  In Kampala, and in some other major cities in emerging markets, it is common to take motorcycles as taxis.  SafeBoda is disrupting the status quo of unsafe, helmetless driving by allowing people to use an uber-like app to call a safe motorcycle taxi driver – one that has received special training and is required to provide helmets for riders.  Now riders in Kampala are taking thousands of safe rides per day while setting a new standard for drivers in Kampala with the hope that this model can scale up quickly to other cities with similar road traffic issues.

What are you responsible for in your role as Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund?

We are a geography agnostic investment fund that has invested in startups working across sectors including in clean energy, fintech, agriculture, and smart cities.  In my role, I seek out cutting-edge private sector startups that have a clear plan for delivering financial and impact returns and have a strong team to get to scale.  I assess the market opportunity and risk through rigorous due-diligence which includes an onsite visit to the company’s headquarters.  Most recently, I was in Nigeria evaluating a later-stage fintech company that is looking to help Nigeria evolve from a fully cash-dominated society to one that uses digital payments and digital financial services.  I am also responsible for structing investments and adding value after the investment is made.  This includes sitting on Boards, providing advice on growth planning, and mentorship.  As an early employee of the Global Innovation Fund, I contributed to setting up the investment process and thesis development.

You have travelled extensively throughout your career. What have you enjoyed most about that and how do you think seeing the world and other cultures has affected your work and you personally?

Traveling around the world and experiencing various cultures first-hand is life-changing.  There are a number of differences across countries in what the general population has access to in terms of resources and opportunities. Professionally, this has made me a smarter investor, as I am better able to understand what the real needs and challenges are in these countries. Personally, I have enjoyed meeting people from various backgrounds and forming life-long friendships.

For students interested in impact investing, what advice would you give them and what would you tell them about where you think the industry is headed in the future?

Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to immediately get into the industry full-time. There is value in cutting your teeth in more traditional business roles such as in finance or management consulting. You need to spend time developing core skills, which will allow you to provide value to the industry. Impact investing is still evolving and is competitive to break in to full-time. However, if you have a diversity of experiences in areas such as investing, working with startups, and travel, you can leverage these skills to join an impact investing fund.  Showing genuine interest in the sector through pro-bono projects can also help.  It is important to remember that impact investing is not just international facing.  There are domestic funds investing in local startups solving issues such as in healthcare or education. Finally, keep in mind that there isn’t one specific set of experiences you need to get into impact investing.  The opportunities in the sector are growing quickly so keep learning about the various types of funds and startups.

Intern Spotlight: Swetha Davuluru – Deloitte

Swetha Davuluru – Deloitte, Houston

What were you doing in your role?

I was a Pioneer Intern at Deloitte. I rotated between what’s called an enabling area (the IT department) for one week and a client-service line (Audit) for two weeks. I also worked on a final project with the other two Pioneer interns in the Houston office. During the internship, I was able to travel to Dallas and Atlanta for training where I met the other 70 interns from around the country. While working in IT, I deployed pre-images on Deloitte laptops and assisted at the walk-up. While I was in Audit, I worked on the Enterprise Products team assisting in updating workpapers, rolling-forward memos and balance sheets, and shadowing members of the team to see the various aspects of an audit.

Biggest lesson you learned or ways you grew in this internship:

I realized how important fit is with a company. The Audit team I worked with was in a very dreary office space, but they were able to make it lively with their team dynamic and relationships with one another. I was able to see firsthand how important it is to have a positive relationship with the people you work with. I also feel this showed me how diverse people can come together in the workplace. Deloitte is a huge proponent of diversity initiatives (our final project was centered around it), and I was able to learn a lot about how diversity contributes to success. I personally was intrigued by how diverse people can make an unexpected good fit.

What did you like most about this internship?

I appreciated that I saw so much within the company. Because I worked in two different areas and was able to freely contact other professionals, I feel that I was exposed to a lot of what Deloitte does. This was very helpful to me, as an incoming sophomore, to figure out what path I want to take in my career. Everyone around me was very honest about what they do which allowed me to form an accurate opinion.

Did you get to experience living in a new city? If so, what was that like for you?

I did not live in a new city during this internship, but I was able to travel to Atlanta and Dallas through the program which was a great experience. Aside from training in Atlanta, I was able to see various attractions around the city like the Centennial Park and the CNN center with other interns. In Dallas, all the interns came together at Deloitte University. It was a great way to supplement the relationships we had built in Atlanta.

Anything else you want to point out to other students about your internship experience?

I would say to take the opportunity to reach out and ask for what you want in any situation. At Deloitte, this was clearly told to us. Once I followed this advice, I saw the positive impact it had on my career path and even my personal thoughts. I clearly communicated to my team what work I was interested in, and they did their best to give that to me. This made my internship experience so much more enjoyable and engaging. I think the ability to speak to people who have been in your shoes, whether it’s about classes or your career, and their insight is extremely helpful.