We are in conversation with Amit and Archana Chandra, a couple who through their life have set an example and inspired many towards greater generosity, purpose, simplicity, joy and more.
Amit Chandra is Managing director and Chairman of Bain Capital India and founder of their Mumbai office. Prior to that, most of his professional career was at DSP Merrill Lynch, one of most reputed investment banks in India. He joined the firm after his MBA from Boston College and by his mid-thirties, he was heading the firm.
Despite having reached the pinnacle of the corporate world at such a young age, Amit recalls having felt empty. That led him to reflect deeply on the meaning and purpose of life and at the peak of his banking career, he gave up his position as MD of the firm and moved to private equity so that he could devote more time to philanthropic work.
In fact, generosity was not a new thing for Amit. Thanks for his mother’s encouragement, giving was part of Amit’s DNA right from the early days. He would give time for education and as money came, he started to give money too. As a couple too, Amit and Archana have been contributing to various causes, right from the day of their marriage. They would set themselves a target for % of income to be donated - it started with single digits, then grew to 10%, then a bit more and at some point, they decided to give away most of their income. Currently, they aim to donate 90% of their income and are also signatories to Indian Giving Pledge -- LivingMyPromise. Since last few years Amit has now moved to a part-time model in Bain Capital where he devotes half of his time to Bain Capital and the remaining half to Social Impact and related topics.
Archana’s early career was in marketing, PR, and HR roles at Bennett & Coleman, Informix (a division of IBM) and The Akanksha Foundation. Soon, she moved full time into social work and presently serves as Board Member & CEO of Jai Vakeel Foundation, one of the largest NGOs serving those impacted by mental challenges. She is a Trustee of SRCC, which is building the largest hospital dedicated to children in the country. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of Annamrita (part of the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation) and Antarang Foundation. She passionately shares stories of inclusion encouraging everyone to take time to notice and connect with people with disability, not as much for changing their lives but because it might transform our own lives.
Inspired by The Atlantic Philanthropies founder Chuck Feeney's "giving while living" approach to philanthropy, Archana and Amit Chandra, have become the torchbearers of new ideas and trends in India’s development sector. Their commitment to create an equitable, inclusive and sustainable society is now embodied in the A.T.E Chandra Foundation. Since their earliest days, they have deeply supported the education space including playing a pivotal role in setting up organizations like Ashoka University in liberal education, design for change movement which has supported over 2mn children from 50,000 schools across 35 countries become change agents, setting up one of the largest children’s hospitals SRCC in Mumbai to name a few.
In recent years, the foundation has focused on various projects and initiatives in the area of Rural Transformation and Sector Capacity Building. Under Rural transformation, they have supported some groundbreaking work in water sustainability and helping many villages of Maharashtra become draught free through a unique, simple and collaborative approach to water restoration. Under Capacity building for the development sector, they are committed to leadership development in nonprofits and aim to support 200 social sector leaders every year and also support many NGOs by funding their capacity building expenses which can enable them to provide better services at scale. In India, as country wide lockdown was announced and 100s of millions of poor struggled with basic necessities, the Chandras along with some friends quickly responded and in a period of 2 months, were able to feed 1 million people with over 20million meals.
Through their work, they have created monumental impact, but drawing inspiration from Guru Nanak Dev and other teachers of Sikh religion, Amit and Archana continue to be the change, and live a life of simplicity, humility and greater compassion.