CONQUERING UNCONSCIOUS BIAS
By Chhavi Moodgal (PGP 2004), CEO – IIMA Endowment Fund (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With governments, corporates, and investors adopting ESG practices, there is a worldwide focus on stakeholder capitalism and issues of the Environment including Climate, Sustainability, and Governance.
As the IIMA Endowment Fund, we are proud to have supported initiatives at IIMA in this topical domain.
In December 2021, the Institute inaugurated a dedicated Centre of Excellence, the Arun Duggal ESG Centre for Research & Innovation; and in February 2022, IIMA announced setting up the country’s first Research Chair – National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) Chair in ESG.
Coming from the social aspect, the themes of equal opportunity in the workplace, inclusion and diversity are the key focus areas for most organisations today. One of the most common issues to deal with in order to create equal opportunity environments is that of removing unconscious bias – which is ambiguous and hence tougher to deal with.
Unconscious bias occurs when someone who does not know you makes assumptions about your character, intelligence or capabilities based on how you look, speak or behave. This person does so not even knowing that he or she is thinking or reacting this way. Unconscious bias can manifest in several ways – from gender bias to confirmation bias and affinity bias. Training to deal with such biases has increased many fold in global organisations where the mandate is to create more equitable firms.
Mitigating unconscious biases needs two types of support systems – firstly, those which influence behavioural inclusion, and secondly, those which influence structural inclusion.
The former i.e., behavioural inclusion has roots in neuroscience and change can happen if individuals are trained and encouraged to examine their behaviour, be confident and authentic irrespective of peer pressure, remove the “fear” of someone who comes across as different from oneself.
Structural inclusion on the other hand deals with institution building for the long term which instils an equal opportunity environment. This comes from hiring, training and compensation policies which support diversity. It also means the reinforcement of equality in internal and external communications of the organisation.
Investing in building an inclusive culture is not just an ethical imperative – research has shown how diversity can lead to a more productive and happier workforce, varied and creative points of view that help in problem solving, innovation as well as decision making; different perspectives of risk which helps in better risk adjusted returns in the long term; as well as more profitability in certain cases.
The IIMA Endowment Fund is committed to long term institution building which promotes equity, inclusion and diversity. We hope to continue supporting initiatives at IIMA which build minds and organisations of equal opportunity and meritocracy. We also hope to promote thought leadership in this domain amongst the wider management community.
IIMA ENDOWMENT FUND’S 1 CRORE ‘BEST STARTUP PITCH CONTEST’ AWARDED TO PGPX’22 STUDENTS WORKING ON TECH-BASED FASHION APP
On 5th December 2021, the Founders and Co-Founders of IIMA Endowment Fund announced the ‘Best Start-Up Pitch Contest’ for IIMA students, with INR 1 Crore going to the winning idea, the first and highest ever such initiative for students announced on campus till date. The Contest was open for students from PGP, PGP-FABM, PGPX, ePGP and PhD programmes (during the last academic year), with an aim to extend the much-needed early stage funding support towards innovative and entrepreneurial ideas. Students could apply in teams of up to three members, of which at least one co-founder was to be a (current) IIMA student; non-IIMA co-founders could be professionals. This contest complements IIMA’s other initiatives in this space (such as IIMAvericks); and the winner of this contest continue to receive the fellowships under the IIMAvericks program. Also, the winners would receive mentoring and guidance from A-listers in the private equity and venture capital space, facilitated by the IIMA Endowment Fund.
In the 1st cycle of this annual contest, 35 student teams participated with unique startup ideas (many of who are also IIMAvericks fellows at CIIE currently). The startup ideas covered product and service offerings across sectors such as e-commerce, agri fintech, apparel retail & fashion, food & beverages, healthcare & life sciences and more. The selection of the winning idea was done via a two stage process. In the first stage, 6 ideas/teams were shortlisted based on how innovative the idea was, ability to demonstrate a large addressable market, a unique competitive advantage of the product/service, an effective go-to-market strategy, and an enthusiastic and passionate founding team. The shortlisting was led by Mr. VT Bhardwaj, one of the Founders of the IIMA Endowment Fund, having a rich experience in Private Equity/Venture Capital space (with support from the endowment team).
THE SIX SHORTLISTED IDEAS/TEAMS:
In the second stage, the shortlisted teams made detailed pitch presentations to the Jury comprising Prof. Saral Mukherjee, Dean-Alumni & External Relations; Mr. Deep Kalra, Founder & CEO MakeMyTrip; Mr. VT Bharadwaj, Partner at A91 Partners and Ms. Chhavi Moodgal, CEO-IIMA Endowment Fund. The final selection criteria were largely based on assessing the Strength of Team/Entrepreneur; Market Size, Differentiation/TAM, SAM & SOM & Competitive Advantage; and Progress made till date in terms of product development, tech support, roll-out strategy, as well as future funding requirements.
Hopnob, an AI powered fashion shopping app, was announced as the winning team. The team is led by Ms. Parul Vashist, the only woman co-founder among the shortlisted teams and a student of the PGPX 2022 batch at IIMA. She has prior experience of working with fashion e-commerce and houses such as Myntra, Mango, Polo Ralph Lauren and H&M, and is a NIFT graduate. Hopnob’s co-founder, Mr. Varun Jhaveri, also a PGPX 2022 student, has a prior experience of working with the NITI Aayog, ADB, the UN and the University of Chicago and was a part of the 150 mn startup fund for ‘Ayushman Bharat’, Government of India’s healthcare start-up programme.
Earlier this year, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, said that India has created a Unicorn every five days in 2022 so far, and it is expected that India will add 75 new unicorns in 2022. Today, 1 out of every 10 unicorns globally is born in India. As India leaps on the path to becoming the world’s start-up hub, IIMA Endowment Fund’s Best Start-up Pitch Contest for IIMA students is a step in this direction. IIMA has always been at the forefront of promoting and furthering research and innovation through Institute’s 10 Centres of Excellence across numerous domains. The Contest is envisaged to provide a meaningful and secure opportunity to IIMA students, keen on opting out of placements and pursuing their passion. Essentially, the funding support of INR 1 Cr is expected to take care of their initial mobilization needs and help them to quickly leap into the next stage of execution.
The award was handed over to the winners on the day of 57th Convocation at IIMA by Mr. Ashank Desai, Vice-Chairman and MD of Mastek Limited and member of Board of Governors, IIMA. At the ceremony, he was joined by Mr Kuldeep Jain, Founder and MD of CleanMax Enviro Energy Solutions and an initial founding alumnus of the IIMA Endowment Fund. Handing over the award and sharing his own experience of leading a successful start-up, Mr Desai shared, his belief about the three ‘Vs’ one needs to succeed – Vision, Values and Vitality, the consistent energy and perseverance towards the goal.
IIMA is recognised for being the seedbed of some of the well-known entrepreneurial ventures. One of the goals of the IIMA Endowment Fund is to encourage IIMA student community in topical, relevant domains and hence the theme of entrepreneurship was chosen this year for the inaugural contest. The IIMA Endowment Fund will continue to deploy funds towards supporting the students, faculty and Institute in its key strategic initiatives.
Among various entrepreneurship focussed initiatives, the Institute has a dedicated student-led entrepreneur club and provides support, mentorship and financial support from its alumni network. In addition, IIMA also has its own dedicated Start-up incubator, the CIIE.CO, to support and develop the next generation of successful entrepreneurs.
The IIMA Endowment Fund was setup in mid-2020 by 10 like-minded alumni as Institute’s dedicated philanthropic and fundraising arm; the vision of the endowment fund is to solidify IIMA’s prominence in thought leadership, research and academic excellence globally. The IIMA EF recognizes and further enables alumni and corporate giving to the Institute through a formal, transparent and professionally run setup. A first among all management institutes in India, the IIMA EF is aimed towards building a corpus for long term financial autonomy and generating alternative funding sources to support strategic projects and initiatives at the Institute. Till date, the IIMA EF has received over INR 150 Crores of commitments via alumni and corporate funding. In addition, the IIMA EF also looks at reporting and donor relations for the erstwhile donations of over INR 250 Crores, making the total philanthropic commitments to IIMA in excess of INR 400 Crores.
Over the last year, more founding alumni joined the endowment fund, and alumni batches came forward to support the fund through batch donations and corporate/CSR connects. The fund also facilitates specific initiatives such as supporting research centres, faculty chairs, scholarships, or building or restoring infrastructure at the Institute. Last December, IIMA EF facilitated setting up a new Centre as well as Chair for research on ESG, one of the most current topics globally today, through alum as well industry funding. In terms of CSR, diverse initiatives such as research projects, training & leadership programs, scholarships, awards and more domain-based professorial chairs are being explored/executed with leading corporates and conglomerates.
On behalf of the endowment fund, I welcome supporters of IIMA to join us in this effort of building the future of the Institute that built us; and help bring about effective initiatives that shape not just IIMA, but also nation-building in the long run.