At the Intersection of Business and Climate Change

SELCO Foundation
4 min readFeb 23, 2023

Nithin Kamath and Sameer Shisodia talk about the responsibility of entrepreneurs and start ups move towards social causes and the common good.

In a candid chat Nithin Kamath and Sameer Shisodia, came together to talk about their respective experiences as the founder and CEO of Zerodha and the CEO of Rainmatter Foundation with Sandeep Singh, Resident Editor of The Indian Express. As a disrupter in the country, Nithin through Zerodha has made it easier for everyone across the country to come and invest in the markets to participate in India’s growth story and create wealth. Talking about the failures that he experienced, he said, “I had most of my failures thankfully before Zerodha. I started trading the markets and spent 12 years building a career in the industry. Now, when people who are building businesses ask me the reason for the business doing well, you know it’s because we’ve been extremely lucky, we were in the right place at the right time but more importantly, I built a business around my core competencies. You need to sharpen your axe before you chop wood so if you build a business around core competencies the odds of luck hitting you increase significantly.”

Seeing the scope of influence he achieved with Zerodha, Nithin was motivated to expand his reach into philanthropy. “When you raise money selling a certain story of growth, you cannot suddenly change course. But today, because of the success of the business, I am in a position to peer pressure people into doing some things right. We were one of the first companies to do an ESOP buyback. Following this, there were 30 other companies that followed us in providing the same service. I think today we have an influence on others. It is also one of the objectives of Rainmatter Foundation that eventually people will start asking questions about why we are not doing more.”

As the CEO of Rainmatter Foundation, Sameer Shisodia talked about their focus on climate. Sameer explains,

“Climate is a hyper-complex problem and it’s a cross-cutting problem that affects health, it affects education, livelihoods, it’s in our supply chains and businesses and stock exchanges. There is an ongoing joke where we say that if this doesn’t work the stock exchange is dead, and if it works the stock exchange is dead anyway. It’s a problem the size of the planet literally and in 2022 we have realised that we are likely not staying below two degrees. So, it’s got failure writ all over but we wanted to pick up something as audacious as climate. We want to become the biggest player in this while being right by the customer.”

It’s a very simple principle right, you keep doing what you are doing and some of the outcomes will fail and some will succeed. It’s the same thing with climate because it’s a super complex problem it affects everything, it is by definition in the intersections, and it needs civil society, governance, players with social capital, innovators, and a lot of different people to apply these principles, popularise these ideas, and talk to as many people as we can.”

Of the ventures that have been funded by Rainmatter Foundation, Sameer says, “There are organisations out there doing some amazing work and we are merely funding them. We are involved with AkshayKalpa in a big way and it’s creating livelihoods and incomes at the village level. Many organisations like Nature Conservation Foundation, organisations working in water, and organisations working in large restoration projects in Maharashtra, there are also people who are working on policy and on solutions. Right now we need more green livelihoods, our economy has to get more regenerative to solve this it’s not just going to come from a simple energy transition and a mobility transition we’re trying to stitch all of this together.”

Climate has started to become important for CSR and philanthropy in the last over the last year especially as world events catch up and make it to the headlines. In a pertinent observation, Sameer said, “Today you can spend on energy and worsen water, you can spend on income and actually worsen livelihoods, or health. Somebody asked us what happens to the place when you fix one variable and destroy three others. So we have to take a more holistic approach to problem-solving. I think we are also starting to see some collaboration in the Indian philanthropy and CSR space. So, as this starts to happen more, the quality of problem-solving will also improve dramatically. Unfortunately, the climate crisis is a great way to bring this together because it cuts across almost every other sector.”

And while the air around the conversation was largely optimistic for a conference about failure, Sameer is careful to add a cautionary message. “I think we have miles to go in that, while we are proud and thankful to all our partners and those who are doing this out there, I think we have miles to go and I don’t think we have started to crack this yet.”

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SELCO Foundation

SELCO Foundation seeks to inspire and implement solutions that alleviate poverty by improving access to sustainable energy to underserved communities.