It was easy to locate Krishna Thacker while he was at EDII. Head straight to the library and there he would be. Settled in a quiet corner with a book, Krishna was a sponge for knowledge and people. Krishna is still fondly remembered by faculty and friends alike. This is further supported by his colleagues and acquaintances, who met him through his journey as a student to Asia Regional Director at MetLife Foundation. This has made him a rich owner of a very dedicated and supportive team and friends, besides a happy memory bank.
Krishna is with simple needs and a happy-go-lucky disposition. He is an only child from a lower middle class family from Kutch. He shares that it was only after his senior secondary schooling that he ventured out to Mumbai for further studies. This is when, Krishna admits, he was a little reckless and busy enjoying the new found freedom. As a result he was expelled within a year from the university. Nevertheless, his parents’ trust, strong support, and encouragement led him to pursue B Com at Bhuj. Having understood the value of both time and money, Krishna worked as a computer assistant to a CA for a paltry amount of ₹ 300 per month for a part time job in year 1999 when he was 18 years old. It was not the money, but the eagerness to gain an understanding about work in real life that motivated him to take up this assignment.
His short stint with Gruh Finance introduced him to financial services and also propelled him to take up higher studies. He attempted the Common Admission Test (CAT) and started evaluating various options he could take. It was then that one of his friends told him about EDII and its specialised NGO Management course which irked his interest. He arrived at the sprawling twenty three acre campus to appear for the entrance test and claims to have fallen in love with the institute on his first visit. Joining EDII was a game changing decision for him. His nostalgic smile bears testimony to the good times he had here. The rich library itself seemed to be a paradise to him. Krishna had always been bad at rote and did not enjoy memory challenging academic sessions but found concept oriented courses very interesting. He remembers the heated discussions that took place during the class and the faculty that nurtured democratic thought. One crucial lesson learnt at EDII, which went on to become his mantra in life, was to never shy away from working at the grass root level.
He had an inherent ability to motivate people to get financial support and then manage it well. The academic development in NGO management and empathy for the deprived made this silver medallist opt for the development sector with passion. Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) seemed a natural choice to begin his career, working with a reputable and strong organisation in his home district. He handled both funding of loans and recovery of loans from women at the grass root levels, among other capacity building initiatives.
Krishna’s assignment with IFMR in partnership with MIT was challenging and a great learning experience where he worked on an assignment all by himself at Mumbai. Although it was a very challenging assignment and a great learning experience, what Krishna missed was a team. This was followed by an assignment with Microsave at Lucknow as a senior analyst, which provided him with opportunities to work with governments, small and large banks, NGOs, technology companies, mobile network operators in many countries like India, Laos, Phillipines, Papua New Guinea etc. He has worked on and implemented large scale financial inclusion programs with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ADB and the UN. Krishna has worked closely with several institutions in Asia, advising and working with them as they ‘go digital’ and restructure their business models to offer wide range of technology enabled financial services and a better customer experience for the un/under banked communities to help them manage their financial lives better. What started with a team of 13 people grew multifold in 6 years and 2 months and was a huge success by the end of six years when he had to quit due to family reasons.
Presently he is Asia Regional Director at Metlife Foundation. In 2013, MetLife Foundation committed USD 200 million to be spent over five years to support their new mission of improving financial inclusion/financial health of low income people across the world. Krishna joined MetLife in early 2013 to kick-start MetLife Foundation’s work in the Asia region, and is responsible for driving and managing MetLife Foundation’s work and strategy in Asia.
He supports and works closely with the best financial inclusion experts and organizations in Asia to identify and address key issues related to financial inclusion in each country. The issues that he covers are diverse. On one hand he supports a mobile-phone enabled product in one market and on the other, provides relevant training to increase the availability of skilled staff. While a micro finance institution (MFI) in Bangladesh is harnessing the power of ‘digital financial services’ created by their in-house mobile money services; in other countries he is working with several financial inclusion partners who are seeking to become better providers of customer centric financial services. He also introduced Behavioral Economics to effectively design products and services which helped their customers to achieve their financial goals.
His education at EDII, where he studied subjects like gender, poverty, livelihood and financial inclusion, and his well-rounded experience after his studies, helps him to stay grounded and incorporate principles of gender sensitivity and strong governance to support greater number of women achieve their financial goals. He has further helped in developing women centric financial products that ensure that women’s financial needs are met, both in terms of the kinds of products they may be interested in (e.g. savings for children’s education or a loan to run their own businesses) and in ways that they can be made sustainable.
Krishna focusses on about 10 countries in Asia which include both developed and developing countries such as Korea, China, Malaysia, India, Nepal and Vietnam. Over the last three plus years, Metlife Foundation has supported more than 45 partners across the region and has reached more than 2.1 million ‘low to moderate income’ people with targeted, affordable and conveniently delivered financial services. Krishna is positive that the impact and reach will be significantly greater over the next two years as the projects mature and as they continue expanding their work in the region.
Krishna realizes that each country, institution, and each project is unique as one solution cannot fit all. So while scaling needs replicability, it also needs to be efficient and far reaching, with critical testing of the technology. Active collaboration, constant learning and fostering partnerships are vital.
Krishna’s international partner acknowledged his expertise in Digital Finance (DF) to launch the innovative Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) programme. Krishna is the key and useful resource even on foreign lands. Krishna is highly valued for his client-focus and ability to develop relationships. Extremely articulate, diligent and a dedicated professional, Krishna has a deep sense of intellectual curiosity. His strong subject matter expertise and excellent interpersonal skills make him a popular team member. His camaraderie is respected and appreciated
On being asked about his future plans, Krishna admitted that he did not have a calibrated plan but believed in taking one step at a time and doing the right thing in a given situation. His own reasons for a change were very simple as “mazaa nahin aa raha” or even when he seemed a wee bit lost with the roles in the organization. He said that one faced uncertainties all the time but the key was to look for the right questions to which one had to find pertinent answers.
To the new students and aspiring change makers Krishna’s message is that any change has to first begin from within (oneself) and no matter what situation you are in, big or small, it always helps to ask and remind yourself as to what is the problem that you are helping solve or in other words, what way are your actions today making this world a better place… Outside of his work on improving financial health of low to middle income people, the problems that Krishna chooses to spend his time with is sustainable living, elderly care, and coaching/mentoring youth.
We are proud of the work contributed by Krishna and wish to see him as a change maker in diverse fields, we wish him success in all ventures that he gets attached to.