Pratima Abichandai: After Managing $3 Billion for Fidelity, Giving the Gift of Education

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Pratima Abichandani

1Pratima Abichandani is the President of the Boston Chapter of Pratham USA. In her tenure as President of the Boston chapter, she revitalized the chapter and more than doubled the chapter’s contribution to Pratham India for increased program implementation.

Started in 1995 in the slums of Mumbai, today Pratham reaches over 7.7 million underprivileged children in India annually, providing them with an education. Pratham is a great example of an organization achieving transformative impact in education on a large scale and its methods are being used in other developing countries in Asia and Africa.

Pratima is currently an Executive in Residence for the Babson College Fund (BCF), an academic program in which selected students manage a portion of the Babson College Endowment with support from the Professor and Executives in Residence who are experienced fund managers. Prior to the Babson College Fund, she spent almost two decades as a fund manager at Fidelity Investments from 1994-2011. She managed over $3 billion in assets during her tenure, including Fidelity Select Energy, the Fidelity India pilot fund, and co-managed the Fidelity Global Telecom fund.

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Pratima Abichandai: Most of my time is spent on education related and mentoring activities. As the head of the Pratham Boston chapter, I spend time building awareness of Pratham and the tremendous work it is doing in India to achieve its mission of ‘every child in school and learning well’.  Pratham reaches over 7.7 million underprivileged children in India annually, providing them with an education. Pratham is a great example of an organization achieving transformative impact in education on a large scale and its methods are being used in other developing countries in Asia and Africa.

I have been working to forge alliances with individuals in the Boston area, and with institutions to increase contributions from corporate sponsorships. I have also been exploring innovative partnership programs with local K-12 and higher education institutions to create community based awareness and fundraising networks to help Pratham India and enhance local literacy initiatives in the Boston area

At Year Up and Babson College, more of my time is spent in mentoring activities. YearUp is a local Boston organization which empowers low income young adults to move from poverty to a professional career in one year by helping them attain the skills, experience, and support that will enable them to reach their potential. I have worked with the students by providing them with a window into different career options, offering career advice and doing mock interviews with them.

My education and all the support from my family, friends and teachers/mentors laid the grounds for my success and I feel strongly that I have to support the next generation of young people achieve their potential. I believe that every human being should have the opportunity to develop their talent to its fullest potential, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic or ethnic background.

INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?

PA: As the President of the Pratham USA Boston chapter, I am very engaged with all the programs that are being implemented in India to educate underprivileged children, and support those initiatives with fundraising in Boston. Where else can you educate a child for $10 a year? The scale and impact is tremendous.

I serve as an Executive in Residence for the Babson College Fund (BCF). BCF is an academic program in which selected students manage a portion of the Babson College Endowment with support from the Professor and Executives in Residence who are experienced fund managers.

I firmly believe that giving the gift of education is not just heartwarming, but also makes good business sense for those who have the ability to help.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

PA: I enjoy looking for interesting investing ideas.  I like to travel to historic places around the world, exercise, do yoga, read, watch movies and spend time with my family.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field.

PA: I used to be a fund manager at Fidelity investments and managed over $3B of assets during my tenure there, and I still continue to invest independently. When I managed money at Fidelity, to me the ultimate beneficiaries were the individuals who were looking to their fund managers to grow their capital so they could achieve specific life goals, whether that was their children’s college education, buying a house, funding their retirement or starting a business. I think training the next generation of fund managers is critical and I work with the Babson College fund in mentoring students who are interested in fund management and other financial services careers.

INE: Your rare talent?

PA: Persistence and tenacity.

INE: Your favorite books?

PA: ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg, ‘Learned Optimism’ by Martin Seligman, ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth (a recommendation from my 11-year-old daughter) and ‘Tangerine’ by Edward Bloor (a recommendation from my 14-year-old son).

INE: Your favorite quotes?

PA: “Pratham sees primary education as a special gift. Without it the human mind cannot develop; without it the human spirit cannot soar; without it, perhaps even democracy and freedom cannot endure.” Professor Srikant Datar, HBS

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” Mother Theresa

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln

INE: Who inspires you the most?

PA: Mother Teresa. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” All of Pratham’s dedicated volunteers embody that sentiment.

INE: Your core value you try to live by?

PA: I call them the three C’s – Candor, Competence and Compassion, and strive to incorporate them into my everyday life.

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