After 25 years of international experience in mergers, acquisitions, and corporate strategy development and execution, Amit Bhargava feels he can now contribute to the citizen sector with his time, experience and connections. Joining the Ashoka Support Network (ASN) seemed like a great opportunity to learn about the social space by engaging and supporting outstanding organisations and social entrepreneurs, the Ashoka Fellows.

Just as venture capital and private equity firms help their clients identify and select the best financial investment opportunities, Amit believes that leveraging Ashoka's rigorous selection process will enable him to work with individuals and social impact organizations that can benefit most from his engagement and support.

“The older I get, there’s this desire to give back. I have my theories of what might be most effective; at this time I have a few hypotheses but I need to engage at the ground level to understand what may work,” reflects Amit, who trained as an electrical engineer and holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. “There's the World Bank model where they come in and say: ‘Look, here's a bunch of money, we will tell you what to do.’ Ashoka, on the other hand, is more about finding passionate motivated social entrepreneurs, which is more of a bottom-up approach. I hope the financial and the social impact aspects are not unrelated.  What I mean is that I could write checks to a charity, and the money would go somewhere, for example, it would help feed so many people. On the other hand, if there are more entrepreneurial organisations that are financially more sustainable and who have a strong impact, I think that could be way more powerful. I have seen a little bit of that in Ashoka. It is a fundamentally different model, and this sparked my interest, the lightbulb went on”.

“By being part of Ashoka and getting exposed to so many different Fellows, maybe I can help them think through how to scale up and accelerate their impact. That was my motivation to join Ashoka,” says Amit, an ex-McKinsey & Co. consultant with executive-level experience at private equity (PE) portfolio companies and Fortune 500 Public corporations in the industrial and energy sectors.

Finding the essential strategic pieces to scale up

Amit believes that once he understands and learns how to collaborate with Fellows aiming to make a strong social impact, he will be able to help them identify the essential elements of their strategy.

Amit highlights the importance of this process: “I think any organisation, whether it’s for profit or for social impact, needs a strategy. I hope to help Fellows see clearly what's really impactful, what matters, and choosing what to focus on and, equally important, what not to focus on. I don’t want to hand out 500 pages saying what they should do but help them understand the “critical few” most impactful levers. Identifying the critical few and following up with execution can often be the hardest thing. I hope I can transfer some of my experiences from the business world to the fellows and Ashoka”.

Education and sustainable tourism, linked to livelihood

Amit is particularly interested in livelihood-related projects, especially those in the education and sustainable tourism sectors. This interest stems from his role as a board member of Glasgow Caledonian University, an institution committed to the Common Good, since 2021 and his lifetime passion for remote mountain villages in the Indian Himalayas.

“Broadly speaking, livelihood has to do with social enterprises that teach people to make themselves better equipped to move up in the world. At university, we teach students much more than how to get a degree. They learn how to have the confidence to succeed and that creates livelihood”, explains Amit.

“I'm open as well, I could be helpful in other areas, for example, tourism and sustainability are also linked to livelihood. I have spent a bunch of time in the Himalayas in India over the years and I feel that local people don’t have many opportunities for meaningful jobs. They leave their villages and become chauffeurs or cooks and live in almost slum-like conditions in Mumbai or Delhi”, says Amit, who sees an opportunity for non-profit organisations to turn things around as adventure travel companies are starting to train locals who can then earn their living and stay in those villages.

“When I was in college, I used to climb mountains about 20,000 feet (about 6,000 meters) in height in the Indian Himalayas. These were proper climbs, and it would take 30 days to go up and come down giving me a chance to immerse in that environment. Mountains move me, when I stand in front of a big mountain, I don't know why but I get moved by it. When you're walking along on this beautiful mountain, surrounded by glaciers, I think life cannot be better”, recalls Amit, who is now based in London and soon will be returning to the United States, where he lives permanently.

Amit's connection with the majestic mountains of India, and with his family homeland remains strong today, serving as an additional motivating factor for joining the ASN.

“Firstly, I believe there's significant potential for making a huge impact, given the current transformation occurring in India where there are huge inequalities. Secondly, I do have strong connections to India having grown up there until I was a young adult. I want to see people's lives improve in some shape or form thanks to this concept of livelihood improvement and I think the Ashoka Support Network can be a good ally to help me learn and do this” concludes Amit.


The Ashoka Support Network is a global community of committed leaders who share, support, and advocate for Ashoka’s Fellows, values and vision while unleashing their own potential as changemakers.