AIF Co-Chair Lata Krishnan received the 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award for her positive contributions to society with enduring impact, and her embodiment of qualities that make an individual’s life worthy of admiration: generosity, ability to inspire and desire to make a difference in our world today and in our future tomorrow. Lata received the award from the Commonwealth Club, the leading national forum for discussion of public issues.
The Commonwealth Club’s 114th Annual Dinner and 29th Annual Distinguished Citizen Gala was a dual celebration, reflecting on the last year of the Club’s events and accomplishments, as well as honoring outstanding members of the community who exemplify the Club’s values by presenting them with the Distinguished Citizen Award, an award reserved for those whose professional and humanitarian endeavors and accomplishments are worthy of recognition and celebration.
Recipients of this award have included local and global leaders whose contributions to society have had a positive and enduring impact, and who embody the qualities that make an individual’s life worthy of admiration: their generosity, their ability to inspire and their desire to make a difference in our world today and in our future tomorrow.
As the Chair of AIF, Krishnan’s responsibilities include developing global outreach programs and a strong group of trustees and volunteers, building partnerships with US and India based non-profits, and developing communications strategy and project selection. She is one of the leading women entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, the co-founder of SMART Modular Technologies, Inc., and a member of the Angels Forum in Northern California. Her community efforts include being on the Board of Directors for the San Jose Tech Museum, Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose Repertory Theater, The Indus Entrepreneur (TIE) Silicon Valley Chapter and a Fellow of the American Leadership Forum. She is also on the Advisory Board for Narika (Shelter for Abused Women in the Asian Community) and the Indian Business & Professional Women’s Association. Ms. Krishnan received a Bachelor of Science degree from the London School of Economics.
By the age of 40 Lata Krishnan had co-founded a tech company that was sold for $2 billion, won recognition as Silicon Valley’s highest paid female executive, had two kids, beat cancer, co-founded a booming tech investment firm and served as founding president of American India Foundation, the leading foundation by which desis funnel aid to India. Today Krishnan remains a happy homemaker who has established herself as a leading light in the Indian American community while serving as CFO of Shah Capital Partners which she co-founded with husband Ajay Shah. An example of the kinds of deals that have helped SCP thrive: in 2004 it led the $100 million buyout of Smart Modular Technologies, the same company Krishnan had co-founded in 1988 and sold to Solectron for $2 billion in 1999.
Lata Krishnan was born 1961 in Palghat India. After spending a part of her childhood in Kenya, she attended the London School of Economics. She graduated in 1982, then stayed in London to work as an auditor for Arthur Andersen and Hill Vellacott. In 1986 she moved to San Francisco to become a financial analyst at Montgomery Asset Management. Two years later Krishnan, her husband Ajay Shah and Mukesh Patel co-founded a quick turnaround chipmaker to take advantage of the booming demand for commodity memory chips. In 1995 Krishnan organized Smart Modular’s wildly successful IPO that won it recognition as one of the nation’s most promising companies.
By 1998 Krishnan’s $3.9 million salary and options earned her the distinction of being the highest paid female executive in Silicon Valley. By 1999 Smart Modular had $1 bil. revenues and was profitable enough to catch the attention of competitor Solectron. That OEM chipmaker paid $2 billion to acquire SMT which was then 35% owned by Krishnan, Shah and Patel. Krishnan and Shah used a small part of the proceeds to seed Shah Capital Partners which has acquired a controlling interest in a half dozen promising tech companies.
Krishnan lives with Shah, a son and a daughter in Fremont, California. Since the 1990s she has devoted much of her energies toward good works, inspiring others to do the same. “Children can be molded into good, caring people,” she said. “They lose their way for a variety of reasons, broken homes, financial instability, etc. If I can help one child have a better future, it is meaningful. This is what I want to be remembered for. These are more notable than the sales and stock figures.”