A lot like the Indian business landscape, the space for Indian-origin business leaders abroad is also male dominated with names such as Microsoft Chairman Satya Nadella, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and the now ousted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, coming to mind when NRIs who made it big are mentioned. But women such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Leena Nair of Chanel have also made a mark among global CEOs along with younger executives such as Vijaya Gadde, before her fall. Now Mala Gaonkar has joined the list of Indian-American entrepreneurs making waves in the US, with the biggest ever launch of a hedge fund led by a woman.
The journey US to India and back
Born in the US but brought up in India's IT hub of Bengaluru, the 53-year-old has attended the Ivy League Harvard University as a Kauffman Fellow. She later went on to work at firms such as the Boston Consulting Group, and Chase Capital Partners, before becoming a founding partner for Lone Pine Capital in 1998. She stayed at Lone Pine for more than two decades, as she also became trustee for the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Technology.
Finally in 2015, Gaonkar joined Sema Sgaier, to launch SurgoCap Partners, the hedge fund which has brought her in the news for managing as much as $1.8 billion in funds. The idea behind SurgoCap was to address social issues and healthcare by bringing together data and behavioral scientists as well as technologists, to bring a customer-driven approach to healthcare.
Beyond the art of money management
But being a portfolio manager is just one part of Mala Gaonkar's life, as she has also been driven by creative pursuits. In collaboration with singer and songwriter David Byrne, Gaonkar last year launched an immersive theater experience called Theater of the Mind, which used interactive neuroscience to dive deep into the human psyche. She has also written short stories, which have been featured on several fiction sites.
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