Dr Reuben Abraham was the CEO of IDFC Foundation and IDFC Institute, a Mumbai & London based think/do tank. Dr Abraham’s expertise lies in understanding the underlying processes of economic development, with a specific focus on state and institutional capacity, the political economy of implementation, and on well-managed urbanization as a key cause/consequence of economic growth and development. For this reason, he focuses on bridging the gaps between the intent and the execution of policy. He is a firm believer in interdisciplinary approaches as critical to solving wicked, real-world problems, which are rarely contained within the silos of a single discipline.
He is a Senior Fellow at New York University’s Marron Institute, and a member of the International Advisory Board for the New Economy of the Govt of the United Arab Emirates. He is an Asia Fellow at the Milken Institute in Singapore, a Senior Advisor to Swiss Re in Zurich, and an Honorary Advisor to the New Zealand Asia Foundation in Wellington. Before IDFC Institute, he was on the faculty and Executive Director of the Centre for Emerging Markets Solutions (CEMS), initially set up in partnership with Cornell University, at the top-ranked Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad.
In 2021, he won the “Think-Tanker of the Year” award by Prospect Magazine in recognition of his efforts to tackle the Covid crisis in India. In 2018, he made it to the “Open Minds of 2018” list run by India’s Open Magazine. In 2012, he was named to Wired Magazine’s “Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world.” In 2013 and 2016, he was a Fellow at the Legatum Institute in London. He was selected as a Young Global Leader for 2009 by the World Economic Forum (WEF), where he currently serves a member of the South Asia Regional Action Group. Previously, he was vice-chair of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Market Multinationals, vice-chair of the South Asia regional board, and on the Global Futures Council on Cities and Urbanization.
He is a member of the advisory board of e-Gov Foundation in Bangalore, responsible for issuing over a billion vaccination credentials in India. He is a trustee of the Commons Project in New York and the New Cities Foundation in Montreal. He is an advisor to the Sweden-India Business Council in Stockholm, India’s Centre for Civil Society, the China-India Visiting Scholars (CIVS) Fellowship, THNK: The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership, and Intrinsic Labs in London. He also serves on the investment committee of Endiya Partners, an Indian deep-tech venture capital fund.
For a decade, he served as an independent director at the Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) in New York, a global impact investing pioneer. In 2008, under the aegis of SEDF, he helped set up SONG, one of the earliest impact investment funds, with Soros, Omidyar Network and Google as co-investors. He was a long-serving member of the International Advisory Board of Unicredit Bank, Italy’s largest bank, and briefly on the TED Fellows Advisory Board. He has also delivered public lectures/been a panelist at conferences ranging from WEF in Davos, the New Cities Forum in Jakarta, TED Global India, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Trilateral Forum in London & Stockholm, and has offered expert testimony at the UK’s House of Commons. His opinion pieces have been published in outlets ranging from Hindustan Times in India to Bloomberg.
He completed his interdisciplinary M.A, M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees at Columbia University in New York, focusing on the impact of mobile phones and technology on economic development, specifically on reducing information asymmetries in markets. While at Columbia, he was an Associate Fellow in Geo-Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Public Policy Consortium Fellow, and a CITI-Sloan Telecommunications Fellow. Before Columbia, he was a freelance writer and entrepreneur.