Dasra grants $800,000 to six organisations supporting social biz in India

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on May 28, 2013

Philanthropy foundation Dasra has awarded the Impact Economy Innovations Fund grant amounting to $800,000 (Rs 4.47 crore) to six organisations in India, who are intent on building the ecosystem for the impact investing industry.

Impact investments are investments into organisations with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

Launched in January 2013, the grant aims to build stronger infrastructure for the fast growing impact investing industry in India that can provide scalable and sustainable solutions to help the 600 million people living in poverty in India. The initiative by Omidyar Network and The Rockefeller Foundation is administered in India by Dasra.

Samhita and the Indian Institute of Ahmedabad-Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, that won the grant in the category of 'unlocking domestic capital for impact investing', have innovative approaches to direct resources from corporates and high net worth individuals to do social businesses in India.

Villgro, another winner, is focussed on finding and incubating early stage social enterprises that are developing products and services for the rural poor in India. Paul Basil, Founder and CEO noted, “A natural extension of our work is to go beyond major urban centres, into tier 2 and 3 cities and towns, to nurture potential entrepreneurs, early stage ideas and local eco-system partners. This grant will help us expand our work to a wider audience.”

Winners such as Villgro and UnLtd India, that provide a suite of financial and non-financial services to entrepreneurs, are set to expand to smaller cities across India.

In addition to funding, the grant will help provide mentorship to entrepreneurs and empower them through collaborative learning and networking platforms. Chosen from a competitive pool of 120 applicants, the winners provide a spectrum of services to social entrepreneurs, investors and other players finding business solutions to India’s development issues.

An eminent jury of social and business leaders evaluated the applications in India to shortlist the most innovative, impactful and scalable ideas for the grant. The applications spanned across a variety of areas, ranging from unlocking domestic capital, actively supporting the creation of incubators, to advocacy and industry governance.

Till date, majority of the investments into social businesses in India have come from foreign funds and individuals. Increasing the flow of Indian capital to social businesses is a key for the success of this industry.

Jury member, Poornima Dore of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust noted that there was a need to stimulate employment and enterprise development in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. Research finds that cities and states that have embraced entrepreneurship have created more jobs and experienced higher regional growth, she added.

Despite success stories, impact investing in India is grappling with lack of infrastructure, financing and policy support. “If the impact investing industry wants to grow both in depth and scope so as to provide individuals with alternative and innovative financial access, then we need to focus on building the ecosystem to impact the lives of the poor,” said Rehana Nathoo, Programme Associate, The Rockefeller Foundation, in a statement.

Policy level support to the impact investing industry is another critical area that the grant focused on. “Since impact investing is still in its nascent stages in India, it is critical to have a policy framework for disciplined and sustainable growth of this industry. Intellecap is setting up an industry body for impact investors that will help to strengthen the policy and governance structure needed in the industry,'' said Jury member, Chinmay Sengupta, Chief Operating Officer, ICICI Foundation for inclusive growth.

Published on May 28, 2013

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