Q&A with Vipul Kumar, newly named Director of Vikaasa coalition in India

While the severe second wave of the pandemic and the possibility of the third wave has certainly impacted India’s economy, the outlook is strong for India to rebound and be back on its trajectory. The latest IMF forecast predicts India’s growth to be the fastest growing major economy, with 9.5% for 2022. But how can India make sure its growth in 2022 and beyond is the right kind of growth?

We connected with Vipul Kumar, the newly appointed director of Xynteo’s India operations and the Vikaasa coalition for his insights on India’s economic development as the country looks to recover from the second wave of Covid-19.

He also shared what he sees as Vikaasa’s biggest opportunities for impact, and how big businesses guided by forward leaning leaders can drive collaboration to solve complex human challenges at scale.

  • Before we dive into the future of India’s development – can you share your story and how you found Xynteo?

The early years in my career were in consulting, where I worked globally in the logistics infrastructure space, advising large businesses, government and private equity investors on corporate strategy, investment, turnaround management and scaleup.

A decade into my professional journey, the compelling growth story of emerging markets and the positive impact that innovation could bring caught my attention, and I moved into the space of impact investing and start-up incubation.

I joined Ennovent, a business venture catalyst and impact fund, and moved on to lead its India business. I worked towards catalysing innovations across energy, water, sanitation, health, education and waste management by bringing together stakeholders from impact investing, multilateral organisations, government, corporates, and start-ups.

One key learning was that in order to bring transformative impact, scale-up through either corporate or government channels was essential. My passion was to help facilitate this, particularly with the private sector, and that is how I found Xynteo and heard about its mission to create impact at scale.

I remember watching a video where Mr. Ajay Banga, then the CEO and President of Mastercard, and Mr. Paul Polman, then the CEO of Unilever, talked about their relationship with Xynteo and how large businesses can come together to reinvent growth. The focus on addressing some of the world’s most complex challenges by leveraging the power of big business and its leaders, was a compelling pathway to bring transformative impact.

The way that Xynteo is set up in India with the Vikaasa partnership – and how it collaborates with large businesses that share its progressive thinking with mandates and capabilities to scale – was a unique opportunity that I wanted to be part of. Three years later, I am leading the Vikaasa partnership, which I am so humbled and proud to represent.

  • Looking to the future, what will be key to India’s recovery and development?

The pandemic has certainly impacted the Indian economy. In the IMF’s latest update to its World Economic Outlook, it has cut the growth rate of India in 2021-22 by 3 percentage points to 9.5%. Three months since its April forecast, the IMF projects the global economy to expand at an unchanged pace of 6 percent this year, but the variance of growth across economies is expected to be heavily influenced by the normalising of economic activities from the Covid-19 related restrictions. Vaccine access and the pace of coverage will be a key driver.

India has accelerated its vaccination drive in recent months, and we are hopeful this will enable substantial normalisation in economic activity in the coming quarters. The outlook is strong for India to be back on its high growth course to becoming the fastest-growing trillion-dollar economy in the world.

  • What partnerships or growth opportunities are you most excited about in your new role as director of Vikaasa?

As we created Vikaasa’s goals for 2025, I was excited that our ambitions align with seven SDGs and support declared government ambitions key to India’s economic development. They cover clean energy and waste management solutions, acceleration of innovative business models for the SDGs, and promotion of human potential development.

This next phase of our journey will require us to deliver on our rather audacious ambitions. This will take increased intensity and focus, incubation of more projects and determined leadership committed to forging greater collaborations with partners, within and outside the partnership. In a nutshell, we need to think bigger, do better and go faster in everything we do.

I am so excited to embark on this phase of our journey under the guidance of forward leaning leaders and organisations to create disruptive change, together.

  • Where do you draw inspiration?

Sometimes, I draw inspiration from stillness and engaging with my inner self. I find that yoga and breathing help centre my thoughts. Another place of influence and inspiration comes from the Holy Book of Gita. When I was a child, around 7 years old, my dad brought me a painting which had a verse from the Gita on it. In Sanskrit, it says कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन Karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana”. What that means is, keep performing your work because it’s your duty, and not because you expect anything in return. It is about Karma, and it had a very deep impact on me. So, I feel very inspired when I connect with people who elevate my thinking. It could be a child, a senior, a friend, or somebody I just met – which also reminds me to always keep an open mind.

This helps me see the bigger picture and inspires me to continue evolving Vikaasa’s mission and the impact we’re able to make.

To learn more about Vikaasa’s mission and partnership, connect with Vipul here.