Sheena Jain has always wanted to make an impact.
Born to Indian parents, she spent part of her childhood living in Thailand where her father’s job was based. Later, her parents remained in Thailand while she returned to India for boarding school. Between her early years in Thailand and her boarding school days in India, she reaped the benefits of being around classmates from other cultures, finding inspiration in differences, and discovering a life-long love of travel. One of her favorite trips of all time was a 3-month backpacking journey through Europe. “All of these experiences sort of nurtured me into being an independent, self-reliant woman,” says Sheena, who still enjoys warm bowls of Tom Yum soup and other South Asian cuisine, reminders of her time in Thailand. “The friendship and bonds across cultures shaped me and gave me confidence in my travels, and embedded a deep desire to do work that made a difference to the world.”
To this day, those friendships remain important. Sheena regularly meets former classmates who are also based in Bangalore at parks for picnics or playdates at home with her toddler. She’s also part of a never-ending text chain with the other classmates-turned-confidantes. “We ask each other all sorts of motherhood questions day and night,” she says.
In her work at Quona, Sheena finds herself answering more questions than she asks. Since joining the firm in 2018, she has found herself offering solutions to many founders of Quona’s portfolio companies, including NeoGrowth, a digital lending platform focused on small and medium-sized businesses. Sheena’s background — which includes a degree in computer engineering and an MBA — helps her serve as a trusted advisor to portfolio companies, bringing her technical skills to problem-solving when needed. “We play an important role in each founder’s journey as they grow and scale. It’s not just a transactional relationship — we are also giving them useful direction and guidance,” she says.
Recently that’s meant being a liaison between one of Quona’s fintechs and another potential investor. Sheena had known the investor through her network, which allowed her to better convey the company’s value proposition. “I was pretty much a spokesperson of the company — sharing their vision, their strategy, how to think about the exit,” says Sheena, who was promoted to vice president in 2021. “It felt as if I was sitting on both sides of the table.”
Finding her path to impact
While she is very comfortable working in the impact investing space now, it was only after she completed her degree in computer engineering that Sheena decided she wanted her career to go in a less technical direction.
Of one of her early roles, she laughs, “I got a job that involved coding in different languages. I had a fantastic time, but I realized this is nothing that I can do for the long-term.” But this technical expertise would serve her well over the course of her career.
After completing her engineering degree, Sheena joined the investment bank Goldman Sachs and spent a summer interning with the Boston Consulting Group. Once she obtained her MBA, she spent more than three years at Avendus Capital, a Mumbai-based financial services firm where she was part of M&A and private equity transactions focused on digital and technology startups. “There was not another practice like this in India,” Sheena says. “I jumped in heads down, and was able to hone both my technical and financial skills.”
Then she found Quona — and has been deep in the impact investing space ever since. “Quona’s thesis on financial inclusion is what drew me to the firm,” Sheena says. “We have a high bar for impact. The fact that we combine financial with social returns is both meaningful and hard-hitting.”
With its global/local team spread across four continents, representing at least 9 different nationalities and speaking a combined 20 languages, Sheena also thrives among the diversity and breadth of experience found on Quona’s team.
“When I see customer testimonials for our portfolio companies across the globe, I realize the sheer gap many people face in accessing basic financial products,” she notes. “It’s inspiring to invest in products that bring more people to the table.”
Sheena has had a front-row seat to witness how financial inclusion opportunities are already transforming India, including seeing how more insurers are offering new platforms and making advancements in digital underwriting through insurtech startups. She views B2B payment opportunities and innovation across borders as another area of growth. She is also seeing how companies are enabling the rewriting and development of India’s banking infrastructure.“We were always used to dealing in cash, which has now become obsolete,” she says.
The success of the portfolio companies she works with, including the health insurance and HR benefits startup Onsurity, are also meaningful to her on a personal level. “In my early years of work life, I took insurance coverage for granted, and did not attempt to understand it, or even know it wasn’t readily available to others,” she says. “Today, the working population actually seeks these benefits and realizes the critical importance of corporate health insurance coverage. This is exactly what Onsurity is solving for.”
Powering industry change
These days, she prioritizes conversations with company founders, setting aside time for catch ups at tea cafes and quick lunches in the city’s Indiranagar neighborhood. “I love the informal conversations I have with founders outside of work, during those hours we get to talk about general market perspectives, prepare for board meetings, talk about how the team is feeling and their morale, discuss market specific trends and even exchange notes on different things we are seeing,” she says.
Since Quona works with many companies early in their inception, even decisions that can seem small often turn out to be critical as the companies grow. “It’s at a stage that the smaller decisions you make can go a long way,” she says.
Sheena routinely encourages local founders to connect with companies throughout Quona’s portfolio, especially fintechs based in Africa and Latin America. Quona’s collaborative nature allows the companies to learn lessons from one another on a global scale, and she knows from her own experiences traveling the world that a comprehensive worldview of how similar products and services work in dramatically different markets can be a strategic advantage for founders. “I love facilitating these important connections to different founders across Quona’s regions,” she says.“It provides a great vantage point and builds perspective, and I can’t think of another firm that can bring this to their portfolio companies.”
Sheena winds down each day by glancing at her calendar and planning for the next. Five years in, she still feels like she’s still just getting started. “Every day continues to be super exciting,” she says.