Acumen Blog

Catching Up With ZK

Discussing Investment Philosophy with Zaffar Khan

In addition to being on Acumen Pakistan’s Advisory Council and Chair of Acumen Pakistan’s Board, Mr. Khan is also a member of Acumen’s Investment Committee, responsible for approving Acumen’s global investments. Mr. Khan also serves as Board Member of the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy. Previously, he has also served Chairman of PIA, KSE, and PTCL and President of Engro Chemicals Ltd. He sat down with us to discuss his investment philosophy, discussing what he looks for and common challenges he has seen.

1.    What do you look for in potential investments?

First and foremost, the investment should benefit those at the bottom of the pyramid. Secondly, it should be financially viable so that the project can economically sustain itself. To me, innovative ideas have a special appeal.

2.    What is common to all Acumen investments in your opinion?

The common factors that I see are a) the rigor in evaluation of the proposals & b) the promise of bringing prosperity to many who are economically constrained.

3.    What common challenges do you see in new investments?

The most frequently faced challenge is to offer goods and services at prices which are affordable for the target market and at the same time, are high enough to maintain the economic viability of the project. It is often difficult to meet both these considerations which is why considerable ingenuity is required to find viable projects.

4.    What differences have you noticed while reviewing investments from Pakistan and other regions?

A great majority of Acumen’s investments thus far have been in Africa, India and Pakistan. In Africa’s case there seems to be many more opportunities to capitalize on, whereas in India and Pakistan entrepreneurship truly stands out.

5.     What has been your motivation to work with Acumen in an Advisory capacity?

Simply said – the Acumen people and their way of doing “good”. I admire the Acumen team here and globally for their values, caliber, and dedication to making a difference to the world – this is inspiration enough for me.

Comments

New Study By Acumen and Bain & Company Unveils How To Scale Adoption Of Agricultural Innovations

Acumen and Bain & Company today released Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations—a new report to help entrepreneurial companies, and others, unlock the potential of smallholder farmers through large-scale adoption of agricultural innovations and inputs. The report’s insights and findings—which are the result of interviews with more than 300 smallholder farmers, sector experts and pioneer firm management—demonstrate the transformative power of providing smallholder farmers with the right access to the right innovations at the right time. In parallel, the report addresses why very few pioneer firms have been able to achieve the scale needed to provide smallholder farmers with access to agricultural products and services that have the potential to increase their yields and pull them out of poverty. [Read More]

Why India’s Economic Growth Depends on Vocational Training

India has an enormous population of young people – over half of the 1.2 billion people are younger than 25 years old. Yet, only 2% of its 500 million person workforce has any skills or training. The majority work in the informal sector (90%), where there are few opportunities for education other than what workers ‘pick up’ on the job. This reality limits overall productivity, as well as upward mobility. [Read More]

Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

+Acumen’s free online courses are a great way to learn tools that will help you develop both professionally and personally. Whether you are a social entrepreneur who wants to market to your customers or a young professional that wants to strengthen your leadership skills, we are offering six courses this Fall that will help you develop the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. [Read More]

Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]

DE-BUNKING THE BURDEN MYTH: IMPACT DATA GOES LEAN

Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]