Group of people in a red room watching talk sitting on chairs

people sitting on chairs on a stage giving a panel discussion

Durjoy Rahman of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation addresses the audience at the AVPN South Asia Summit

A pioneering conference in India is seeking to kick start venture philanthropy in South Asia

‘We had a strong sense that our projects had a lack of effectiveness. Add to that the lack of transparency as well as poor methods of measuring impact, and it became clear that something needed to be done.’

On a charity fundraising trip in 2002, Doug Miller realised the futility of his friends’ and his impact ventures in private equity. Unlike traditional investments, metrics were undeveloped, and methods and final impact opaque. In short, a lot of capital and time was being spent with the best of intentions but with limited results.

In response to this, Miller developed the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) in 2004 and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) in 2011, bringing a collaborative approach to venture philanthropy through exchanges with impact investment.

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His successor is the overwhelmingly accoladed Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO of AVPN and Chair of the International Venture Philanthropy Center, proclaimed one of Asia’s Most Influential by Tatler Asia in 2021 and awarded awarded one of Asia’s Top Sustainability Superwomen by CSRWorks. Batra presided over the latest AVPN South Asia Summit in Mumbai earlier this month; it was the first of these conferences to take place in person, last year’s inaugural edition having taken place virtually. This year’s theme was ‘Bringing Fringes to the Fore”, and it brought together individual philanthropists from culture, education and social impact, and major global companies and organisations.

Durjoy Rahman, a philanthropist from Bangladesh engaged in South Asian art and culture, focused around the creative realm and cultural soft power. Speaking of the cultural world, he said that one of the missions of this Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation was to show that the cultural world “does not need to be seen or judged by the West’s historical perspective”. Durjoy said he is finding this message is finding resonance both in the rest of the Global South, and also in the traditional cultural capitals of the West.

people sitting on chairs in a red room listening to a talk

AVPN South Asia Summit brings together philanthropists, venuture capitalists and other leasers to promote the field of venture philanthropy

“It is important to lead the conversation, and to do so needs to involve a multilateral, global conversation. It’s not about doing something and broadcasting information about what we do: multiple dialogues are the way to ensure we engage with like-minded individuals and institutions around the world.”

Durjoy also spoke about how the creative realm can contribute to future-ready education; and specifically, how the creative and cultural field can play a “soft power” role in influencing international views of Bangladesh, a country only founded in 1971 which previously had a negative economic reputation but is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the region.

The same panel, moderated by Vivek Agarwal of the Tony Blair Institute, also focused on educational reform, and featured Dr. Akhil Shahani, Managing Director of The Shahani Group, Dr. Nivedita Narain, CEO of OneStage and Rakshit Kejriwal, President of Phillips Education, speaking about empowerment in employability.

With a history of philanthropic infrastructure lacking in Asia, AVPN CEO Batra is building a network, catering to models that suit the collective regional story and its challenges, moving from a purist venture philanthropy, focused on empowering voices and expanding the network at all costs.

Venture philanthropy itself is a relatively new field, pioneered in the US and now making inroads around the world. It combines elements of traditional philanthropy, where a return is measured purely on the impact of the philanthropic aims, and traditional venture capital seeking a return. There is a prevailing view now that this maximises returns on both levels.

The AVPN conference is aimed to be an interregional weaving of thought leaders and industry experts, where a collective regional story is conducive to progress as opposed to challenging it. Its brief spans culture and education, as well as sustainable development goals.

Left to right: Vivek Agarwal, Dr Akhil Shahani, Rakshit Kejriwal, Durjoy Rahman at the AVPN Summit after their talk on future-ready education

A conference on social impact and sustainable development runs the risk of empty pledges. But not at AVPN – Lavanya Jayaram, South Asia Regional Director, ensured animated conversations, with stakeholders ‘debating unique regional challenges and solutions towards charting a roadmap for philanthropy and impact investing in the South Asian region.’. Founder Doug Miller’s aversion to inaction charged the summit, which hosted over 70 speakers over 27 sessions, a variety of panel discussions, keynote speeches, workshops and ‘fireside chats’. The agenda is also interspersed with networking opportunities, encouraging an ongoing dialogue between speeches, to expand the AVPN ecosystem, with over 600 members across 33 markets and its own academy dedicated to teaching skills in impact investment.

In the wake of environmental disasters that struck the region over the past year, the 2023 summit featured panel discussions on climate resilience and energy transitions in South Asia. Speakers such as Prerana Langa of Aga Khan Agency for Habitat India, developing network based models for disaster risk reduction and biodiversity conservation, spoke particularly to this year’s floods and industrial accidents in Bangladesh, bringing investors into contact with means of making effective impact.

Read more: Cyrill Gutsch on saving the oceans through art and collaboration

A panel discussion dedicated to ‘Bridging the Borders’ and ‘Global Perspectives’ brings as one of the speakers Sanjay Gujral of Everstone Capital, a private equity firm investing across the South Asian landscape, further engaging investment in a cross cultural design. Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar also spoke about finding purpose in philanthropy.

The conference equally addressed gender gaps and supporting women within the economy through talks on gender lens investing, furthered by AVPN’s Asia Gender Network, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to advance equality through representation in leadership positions, economic empowerment and education, just to name a few.

Through a multiplicity of sectors and regions, the South Asian Summit is driving a collective effort in sustainable development and in centralising fringe communities in the discussion. The phrase ‘catalytic platforms’ is often thrown around, and yet could not be more apt in such dynamic conversations taking place. The Summit, through the focused involvement of leaders in their fields, is set to catalyse significant change in important and evolving areas. – Olivia Cavigioli

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Reading time: 5 min
Large cityscape shot at night
Large cityscape shot at night

The number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the Philippines is forecast to grow at the the second fastest rate of any country, says Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2019. Pictured here: Manila

Portrait of a man in a suit

Lord Andrew Hay. Image by John Wright

Lord Andrew Hay is Global Head of Residential at Knight Frank, the international real estate consultancy, and has built up property portfolios for some of the wealthiest people in the world. In this regular column, he is handed a theoretical sum of money by LUX and asked how he would invest it. This month, we asked Lord Hay where he would invest if he had $200m to spend on real estate in emerging markets

“Where would you invest if you had $200m to spend on real estate in emerging markets?” It seemed appropriate that I was asked this question by LUX having just returned from a business trip to Manila. With the Philippines front of mind – this is where I would start.

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As reported in The Wealth Report 2019, the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) in the Philippines is forecast to grow by 38% in the five years to 2023, the second fastest of any country. In Manila, the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) facilities sector is rapidly growing – currently employing 1.5m Filipinos, 1.5% of the population, and accounting for 7.5% of the economy – with the government aiming to expand this to 10-11% in 2020. This growth has boosted office rents within the metro Manila region as well as the residential market as investors snap up multiple units to lease out to BPO employees working nearby.

I would then move my attention to India. Recently the Government of India has put in place a growing number of incentives to enter India’s warehousing sector and this is an area, which seems ripe for investment. The new ‘Make in India’ programme was created to encourage manufacturing; the development of multimodal transport networks and the setting up industrial corridors such as The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) are also supporting growth in the market.

Large city shown from bird's eye view

India’s warehousing sector is ripe for investment, according to Knight Frank’s Andrew Hay. Pictured here: Mumbai

My focus would then turn to an investment in South Africa and to something that appeals to me on a more personal level – a game lodge and reservation. As interest in climate change, sustainable tourism and the concept of “natural capital” grows around the world, there is an increasing focus on Africa. Much of this is centred on South Africa and projects that can add significant value to denuded agricultural land, especially if the “Big 5” are in residence.

Read more: Why we love the Richard Mille x Roberto Mancini RM 11-04 timepiece

Back to Asia, I would look to South Korea. The government recently introduced a pre-sale price cap policy in an effort to cool its housing market. However, this currently only applies to four areas in Seoul. House prices in certain prime areas of the city have been recording price growth in excess of 15% year-on-year over the last 12-18 months, as developers rushed to redevelop older buildings. Going forward, this move is expected to rapidly cool speculation in the market and reign in accelerating prices but there is still an opportunity to invest here.

Small provincial town with old fashioned houses

There are no restrictions on foreign nationals acquiring property in Romania, making entry into the market easier for investors, says Andrew Hay

I would then consider closer to home in Europe – the Romanian prime residential market. It recorded promising results in the first half of 2019 and, according to Knight Frank, 60% of developers active in the local market expect price increases of up to 10% per square metre in the next year. There are no restrictions on foreign nationals acquiring property in Romania either, making entry into the market easier for investors than many other markets.

Perhaps not the most glamorous of locations or assets but nonetheless a diverse and interesting portfolio and this is where I would invest $200m if considering investment across some of the world’s emerging markets.

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Reading time: 3 min
vibrant abstract painting of Sienne Port by S.H. Raza
vibrant abstract painting of Sienne Port by S.H. Raza

S.H. Raza, Sienne Port, Oil on canvas; 1960. Image courtesy: Piramal Museum of Art

The first major exhibition of Sayed Haider Raza since his death in 2016, S.H. Raza: Traversing Terrains explores five decades of the painter’s work from the early 1940s to the late 1990s, tracing his development and influence as both artist and philosopher.

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abstract painting of a church against a yellow sky by S.H Raza

S.H Raza; Eglise et Calvaire Breton; Oil on Canvas; 1956. Image courtesy: Piramal Museum of Art

‘The most tenacious memory of my childhood is the fear and fascination of Indian forests,’ Raza said in an interview 2001. ‘We lived near the source of the Narmada river in the centre of the dense forests of Madhya Pradesh. Nights in the forests were hallucinating; sometimes the only humanising influence was the dancing of the Gond tribes…’

Read more: Why you should check into Chewton Glen this month

As such, the scenes Raza often depicts are full of life, movement, memory, Indian iconography, nature, philosophy, music and poetry. They’re otherworldly, sometimes strange and chaotic, sometimes precise and ordered, fusing together the landscapes of France (where he lived after being awarded painting scholarship at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris) with the feverish colours and unique aesthetics of India.

Abstract painting of a coastal town by Indian modernist painter S.H.Raza

S.H. Raza; Benares; 1944; Watercolour on paper. Image courtesy: Piramal Museum of Art

In 1947 ( the same year that India gained independence), Raza co-founded the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, advocating an avant-garde style (Fauvist colours, Cubist forms, Expressionist brushwork) with Indian subject matters and themes.

This expansive retrospective provides an intriguing and important insight not only into the artist’s career and life, but also into the progression of Mumbai’s art scene.

‘S.H. Raza: Traversing Terrains’  runs until 28 October 2018 at the Piramal Museum of Art, Mumbai.  For more information on the exhibition visit


Reading time: 1 min
boat cruise
boat cruise

On board Saffron, Spice Routes’ double-storey houseboat. Image by James Houston

Beyond Kerala’s humid, bustling cities lies a subtropical maze of secret waterways and verdant rice paddies. LUX discovers the singular beauty of the backwaters, aboard a luxury houseboat

We arrived in Fort Cochin, dusty and bleary-eyed from a long train ride down from Mumbai, into the thick humidity of an early Indian summer. Fort Cochin is the prettiest and oldest part of Kochi. It was once occupied by the Dutch and the Portuguese, and the cobbled streets and architecture retain the appearance of old-world Europe. The food is fresh with tropical flavours that differ from the rich, creamy sauces of Northern India. We ate best at the tables beside little huts which sit beneath palm trees along the waterfront, where the fish is caught practically before your eyes and served simply with fried spices and rice.

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Whilst this part of the town used to be busy trade port (there’s plenty to be discovered in various museums), the rhythm of life is now sleepy and tranquil, with tourists drifting between air-conditioned cafes, craft shops and independent art galleries. During our stay, we caught the last few days of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, stumbling across various installations and exhibitions hidden within courtyards and gardens as we wandered the streets.


Views over the rolling hills of Wayanad. Image by James Houston

Almost everyone we met was returning to the state for the second or third time, having fallen in love on their first visit. The top recommendations were to stay amongst the tea plantations in Wayanad (the north-eastern part of Kerala) and to go on a cruise through the backwaters. For many travellers, the word ‘cruise’ understandably conjures up images of massive five-storey monster ships, packed tight with tourists, but in Kerala, a cruise simply means a boat trip whether that’s on a fishing boat, houseboat, or in any other kind of floating vessel.

Most of the backwater tours depart from the coastal town of Alleppey (an hour and a half’s drive down the coast from Fort Cochin, or two hours in a tuk tuk if you prefer a slower, more scenic route). Spice Routes, unlike many of other cruise providers, offers exclusive use of their luxury houseboats, meaning that you get the whole thing to yourself. The company owns six boats varying from one-bedroom to five-bedrooms. We were booked on Saffron, an elegant double-storey boat with a large bedroom, ensuite bathroom and lounge area on the lower deck and a dining room and sundeck upstairs. The interiors paired traditional Keralan design with contemporary touches and an abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows.

Read more: Art dealer Tamara Beckwith on Rob Munday’s holographic portraiture

Rather than feeling like a floating hotel, the boat felt homely and private. The staff were there when we needed them, and not when we didn’t. We spent most of the time from our departure to nightfall, lying on the deck, sunbathing, watching the fishing boats and listening to the birds.

It is worth noting that the backwaters are by no means a secret and whilst there are, most likely, more secluded routes to navigate on smaller vessels, the main waterways tend to be busy with activity. By the evening though, when we moored up close to a bank to buy fish for our supper from a local fisherman, most of the other boats had returned home. We ate amidst silence and slept with the blinds up in a grand four-poster bed, waking with the sun.

The real luxury of the sailing through these waters, though, is the opportunity to see the landscapes and life beyond India’s urban environments. For most travellers, experiences of the country tend to be confined to the cities dotted along designated transport routes; self-drive cars are near impossible to hire and if you have a driver, it can be difficult to know exactly where to direct them unless there’s it’s to a tourist site. In the backwaters, life happens on the riverbanks: the washing of clothes, dishes, bodies, hair, swimming, chatting, playing. On the deck of a luxury boat, we became  voyeurs, made suddenly, acutely aware of the country’s wealth divide, of our privilege and other ways of existing in the world.

Rates from 25000 INR per night on-board Saffron, incl. all meals (approx. £250/ $350 / €300)

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Reading time: 3 min