When Ajit Dayal (MBA ‘83) first began investing in the 1970s, he had doubts about the integrity of stock brokers in India.
“I had written articles in the Indian press saying that the Indian financial system was not run by very straightforward people,” says Dayal. “I was a pioneer in some sense, believing that the Indian stock market would open up and foreigners would be allowed to set up operations in India.”
“Financial service firms have a massive role to play in society,” explains Dayal. “We have a huge responsibility to look after the savings of these individuals and make sure that we never compromise their objectives because of selfish or near-term needs.”
“As an MBA student at Kenan-Flagler, it was a course about ethics where I realized that being ethical in business is not necessarily the norm – it may be the exception. There were colleagues in my class who didn’t really like the course because it was not about maximizing profit – it was about trying to be ethical.” However as the course progressed, says Dayal, everyone pulled together and recognized the importance of ethics in running a long-term sustainable business.
“I graduated from Kenan-Flagler with very solid views on how I should live my life, and if I ever started a business, how I would run that business. I owe a lot to Kenan-Flagler for that.”
After graduating with an MBA degree from UNC Kenan-Flagler, Dayal went on to found Quantum in 1990, and Quantum Mutual Fund in 2005, the first and only direct-to-investor mutual fund in India. “I started Quantum with a view that we would one day partner with an international company to change the way the field of finance is run in India.”
In addition to starting Quantum, Dayal is also CEO and CIO of QIEF Management LLC, an investment management firm that advises and manages the capital of pensions, university endowments and foundations that wish to build a long-term, India-dedicated portfolio.
He has launched a couple of interesting philanthropy projects as well.
In the spirit of giving back to UNC Kenan-Flagler, Dayal and QIEF Management established The Jack Behrman “Pay It Forward” India Fellowship Award, with the dual objective of honoring the career of his professor, Jack N. Behrman (MA ’45), the Luther H. Hodges Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Business and Ethics, and encouraging future generations of Indian business leaders to focus on ethical practices.
“Our goal in sponsoring this fellowship is to honor Professor Behrman by giving a student from India the opportunity to carry on the pursuit of peace and prosperity in the global economy and society,” says Dayal. “We hope that the recipient of this fellowship will contribute to a better world for all within the true and ethical framework of capitalism and democracy, and will one day set up and grant their own awards with a goal of making future generations of business leaders aware that inculcating good ethics in the DNA of companies can translate into building great businesses that benefit society.”
In 2012, Dayal also founded National Streets in Performing Arts (NSPA), a Mumbai-based non-profit initiative to revive a culture of public performances and support the livelihoods of artists.
“Musicians, artists, and performers enrich society,” says Dayal. “Most of the financial firms have enriched themselves, at the cost of society. And, yet, musicians earn a lot less than people working in the field of finance. The world will be a far better place when a musician, on average, earns more than a person working in a financial services firm. NSPA is a small step in that direction: to give musicians an opportunity to earn a known, steady salary for the work they do and for audiences to be calmed and soothed by the musicians as we scuttle about our daily lives.”
Watch this video as Dayal talks about his vision for Quantum Mutual Fund, and how UNC Kenan-Flagler taught him the importance of ethics in business.