Pursuit of Happiness

An educated decision

The former CEO of IDFC Private Equity is at home with philanthropy and education

The doormat at the entrance to Luis Miranda’s home reads ‘Beware of the wife’. This was his wife Fiona’s retirement gift to him three years ago. “Her message was clear: ‘Just because you will be around all the time now, does not mean you can fiddle around with things’,” he recalls. When Miranda resigned from his CEO position at IDFC Private Equity, the idea was to take time off from his relentless schedule and spend time with family.

Not long after he gave up his business suit, Miranda was climbing South Africa’s tallest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, with son Khashiff, who had just turned 13. “I had told my children that they can go wherever they want with any one of their parents when they turn 13,” he explains. Being the energetic person the 51-year-old Miranda is, he intended to do more than go on treks with his family and take afternoon naps. “Every day is different now, but I needed to do something I couldn’t while working full-time.” 

Miranda turned to philanthropy, and is now associated with many non-profit organisations related to education. “With the time I have and business network I’ve developed, I have been able to help these organisations,” he says. “I wanted to start my own organisation, but then I realised there are already many people doing a good job. I decided to join them,” says Miranda, who works with leading names such as Akanksha (which helps educate underprivileged children), Sneha (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action), Dasra, Jeevika (involved with rights of street vendors) and Samhita, which does advisory work on CSR and was set up by Infosys co-founder NS Raghavan.

To begin with, Miranda was able to convince corporate firms where he had worked before to fund these non-profits. Now, there are days when he spends his mornings discussing human rights, afternoons pondering over education and evenings dedicated to CSR, though not necessarily in that order. “Sometimes, I get confused about which group I’m talking to between conversations,” laughs Miranda, whose conviction towards philanthropy is also supported by his family. “After I quit my job, I got a tattoo on my arm of the sun with my wife’s initials in it. This didn’t make her happy. Then I volunteered to work with the organisations she was associated with, and she was happy,” he smiles. 

These days, even holidays with the family turn into philanthropic work trips. Recently, Miranda went for a holiday to Ladakh, Bhutan, Kolkata and other tourist spots with his wife and two children. They ended up teaching finance to village students in association with the 17,000 ft Foundation, an NGO that works to improve education in Ladakh’s remotest schools.

Miranda, who is also on the board of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and co-chairs the global advisory board of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, says there is hunger to learn within the country, but limited funds and resources make the task difficult. “Schools in remote areas of Leh, for instance, are English-medium but the teachers do not understand the language themselves. Moreover, there are no televisions from where they can learn the language,” he says.