When Karan Kishorepuria became president of NUImpact, a student organization that invests in businesses that serve a social good, he and his team set an ambitious goal: to raise at least $25,000 and get the approvals necessary to make their first investment.
At the time, in 2019, NUImpact was only three years old, with a small leadership team and little fundraising infrastructure. It was also distinctly different from most student-led investment groups, which focus on investing publicly traded companies with great profit potential. But Kishorepuria, who was raised in an affluent Indian family that owns businesses in industries ranging from steel to hospitality, believes strongly in the power of philanthropy.
“Growing up in India, where over 300 million people live under the poverty line, I realized money spent consciously and business run purposefully could make the world better,” he says.
In his native Calcutta, Kishorepuria often witnessed poverty and struggle and was encouraged by his parents to help. He donated money he'd saved to charitable groups like Friends of Tribals Society, served food in soup kitchens and nursing homes, and advocated for fairer laws and policies through organizations like the Nature Club of La Martiniere. He nurtured his instinctive determination in other ways, including earning top grades and becoming a championship-level squash player.
Kishorepuria brought his persistence and charitable ethos to NUImpact and he and his classmates got to work.
First, NUImpact focused on recruiting members and grew the nascent organization's leadership team to 54 students of diverse backgrounds. With help from alumni mentors, they then identified gatekeepers they'd need to persuade to secure the money and approvals necessary to establish a student-led investment fund. They crafted a succinct prospectus and pitch about what they planned to do, and how, and spent the next eight months meeting and cajoling a wide range of people, including private investors, company and foundation leaders, and Northeastern administrators.
This type of fund “had never been done before at Northeastern so a lot of people thought it was impossible,” Kishorepuria says. “We had to figure it all out from scratch. As we met people, a lot of them questioned how deeply we had thought about this, and if students could actually run a fund like ours.”
By January 2020, the team had approvals to operate the fund and had raised $29,000 from a private donor and the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education. The NUImpact team then spent hundreds of hours researching and winnowing a list of up-and-coming companies, zeroing in on EatWell (a Boston social enterprise that offers nutritious, low-cost meal kits to under-resourced neighborhoods) because of its solid leadership team, profitable outlook, customer loyalty, and socially centric mission.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. When the campus closed, Kishorepuria returned to India and NUImpact members fanned out across multiple time zones. But the group kept in frequent contact, working through the investment details and keeping spirits high with lighter talk of binge-worthy TV and the best foods and distractions for isolation.
“We'd have 40 or more NUImpact people on the calls, no matter the time of day. The group really came together to support one another,” he says.
The team finalized the EatWell investment in June and has already started to raise more money and seek its next company to support. Kishorepuria is now on co-op with an investment bank, is also (in his free time) developing an education-technology startup focused on improving student health and well-being, and was recently named to BostInno's 25 under 25 innovators list. He's not sure what direction his career will take, but knows it will be influenced by his NUImpact experience.
“We got to shape something meaningful and work with some really incredible people,” he says. “If you keep trying and work with the right intention, things will open up.”