Women of Indian origin breaking into male-dominated hedge fund industry


Last week, Mala Gaonkar, an Indian American hedge fund founder, made history with the launch of what is being termed as the largest debut of a woman-led hedge fund in the industry’s history. And she is not alone; last year, another Indian American woman Divya Nettimi too, became a part of an exclusive club of women leaders in a male-dominated industry with the largest debut launch of the year from her hedge fund Avala Global. Here are some of the leading women of Indian origin making a mark in the high-risk world of hedge funds.
Mala Gaonkar


Mala Gaonkar’s hedge fund SurgoCap Partners started trading with $1.8 billion under management last week, in what is being termed as the largest debut of a woman-led hedge fund in the industry’s history. The New York-based firm will use data science to invest around the theme of how technology can improve other sectors such as financials, industrials, health care and enterprise data, according to a Bloomberg news report. The firm, with about 20 employees, will bet on and against stocks and can invest as much as a quarter of its assets in private companies. A representative for New York-based SurgoCap, however, declined to comment.
According to her profile on Wikipedia, Gaonkar was a founding partner of investment firm Lone Pine Capital, where she worked for 23 years and was a portfolio manager of the firm’s technology, media, internet and telecommunications exposure and the co-portfolio manager of the long-only funds. In 2022, she left Lone Pine Capital and started SurgoCap Partners.
She was a Kauffman Fellow and attended Harvard University and Harvard Business School. She had worked for The Boston Consulting Group and Chase Capital Partners. She is a trustee of Ariadne Labs, as well as of the Tate Foundation, The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Technology and Clinton Health Access Initiative. Gaonkar was born in the US and raised mostly in Bengaluru. She is married to private equity investor Oliver Haarmann; the couple lives in London with their two sons. An author with published short stories; Gaonkar co-founded the Surgo Foundation in 2015 to focus on using artificial intelligence and behavioural science to solve global health problems. In 2020, she co-founded a non-profit Surgo Ventures to further that cause by developing strategic partnerships with other groups. She has taken the Giving Pledge to commit the majority of her wealth to philanthropy, according to reports.
Divya Nettimi


Last October, the debut of Divya Nettimi’s Avala Global, which started with more than $1 billion in committed cash, too grabbed headlines as the largest launch of a woman-led firm in the industry’s history and among the biggest of any to debut in 2022. Like Gaonkar, Nettimi, 36, too, had established herself at a larger firm Viking Global Investors, where she had worked for seven years. In July 2021, she founded Avala Global where she is the chief investment officer. A portfolio manager who oversaw more than $4 billion at Viking Global Investors before leaving last year, Nettimi will bet on and against stocks in the consumer, business services and technology, media and telecom sectors, while also backing private companies, according to a Bloomberg report last year after the launch. A representative of the firm had, however, declined to comment.
Devika Agarwal
Devika Agarwal, macro portfolio manager, Balyasny Asset Management (BAM), Singapore, was featured in the annual 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds in November 2022; published by Hedge Fund Journal, a leading magazine focused on the global hedge fund industry. Agarwal joined BAM, a global investment firm with more than a dozen offices globally, in April 2021 and is based in the Singapore office, according to an Instagram post by the firm. She joined from Barclays where she was director in the global emerging markets trading business. She runs a macro pod in BAM’s Singapore office, leading her own investment team and managing the portfolio. Over the last decade, Agarwal has been involved in campus events to attract female STEM talent into finance careers. She has also held workshops in finance and entrepreneurship for secondary school and junior college students in Singapore, according to the firm. She is a member of the BAM Women’s Group and outside the firm is part of the “Women helping Women” chapter in Singapore, an initiative connecting leading women from different industries and backgrounds. According to the Hedge Fund Journal citation, Agarwal holds a bachelor of electrical engineering from National University of Singapore. She was a scholar at Stanford University for techno entrepreneurship.
Nandita Koshal


Nandita Koshal, senior portfolio manager, equities, Millennium Management, a global alternative investment management firm, was also featured in Hedge Fund Journal’s 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds for 2022. Based in New York, she leads a team of investment professionals specialising in the healthcare sector. She deploys an equities long/short market neutral strategy, focused on stock picking supported by deep fundamental research and rigorous valuation frameworks. Executing a consistent investment process and applying disciplined risk management has enabled the team to generate strong returns in both up and down markets, during periods of exceptional volatility and against a rapidly changing social, economic, and monetary policy backdrop. Koshal believes that understanding and developing the unique strengths of each member on her team is key for long term success in a variety of market environments. Diversity and respect for different views is a core tenet of the team’s culture. She is a member of the steering committee of Millennium’s Women in Investments Network (WIN). Prior to joining Millennium in 2019, Koshal worked at Citadel on a long/short healthcare team, and Levin Capital on a value-oriented strategy. She previously worked in healthcare equity research at Barclays. Koshal is an engineering undergraduate from the University of Delhi and holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. She is also an alum of Delhi Public School, RK Puram.
Shikha Gupta


Shikha Gupta; portfolio manager in London at European credit management firm, Astra Asset Management, was also named by Hedge Fund Journal in its annual edition of 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds in November 2022. Gupta manages the flagship Astra Specialist Credit fund. The fund has been recognised with several industry awards for its resilient double digit returns and has just passed its 10- year anniversary, a strong milestone for an independent private and alternative credit asset manager. Gupta’s investment approach is to first identify the risk contributors through fundamental analysis of both credit and the structure, and then drive returns, often through active engagement. She works holistically with various stakeholders in public securitisations to create value for bondholders. Her portfolio construction is designed to obtain low market correlation and positive return convexity, achieved through low duration and by investing in assets with embedded options. Her management style led to the fund being recognised as one of the fastest recovery funds post the Covid meltdown in 2020. Gupta has led activist proposals in relation to structured credit, the Hedge Fund Journal says. She is a part of the management board alongside Anish Mathur (CIO) and is the first female director of Astra. Prior to joining Astra in 2017, she worked at Deutsche Bank for 9 years, where she was responsible for managing a structured credit portfolio exceeding $10 billion at DB’s non-core operating unit and formerly Winchester Capital, the principal finance unit at Deutsche Bank in London. At Deutsche, she also led an industry wide initiative that led to a compression of US sub-prime CDS exposure across all major banks by several tens of billions of US$. Additionally, she managed various esoteric investments including structured financing portfolio, failed securitisation exposures, liquidity facilities and investments in other PE Funds.
Gupta strongly believes that female empowerment can only be achieved fully with access to financial resources and passionately supports this cause. She holds a BTech in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

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