Application deadline: 22nd February, 2019


Upaya Social Ventures invests in early-stage entrepreneurs who share our mission of fighting poverty through job creation. By creating dignified jobs for those in extreme poverty, we aim to provide a hand up, not a handout, to those who need it most. To date, the companies in Upaya's investment portfolio have created nearly 12,000 jobs for people living in extreme poverty.

Upaya's 2019 accelerator program will be focused on identifying and investing in business that creates jobs (full-time, part-time or income enhancement) for the poorest of poor. We will select 8-12 entrepreneurs who are working to scale their early-stage job-creating companies with investments and consulting support. From the 8-12 enterprises, Upaya will invest up to $50,000 in up to three enterprises at the end of the accelerator program

Livelihood focus

Upaya’s past accelerators were focused on industry themes. In 2019, however, we are going in a different direction. This year’s accelerator applicants will be considered based on job creation, regardless of the industry they work in. The key question is Can you imagine creating 1,000 dignified jobs for the poor within three years?

We are going to learn a lot from the companies that answer “yes” to that question. Maybe what we learn will validate our current assumptions around the industries that are creating stable, dignified jobs for the poorest of the poor. Maybe it will open new horizons for our investments.



2018 Agribusiness Cohort





Enterprises must be legally incorporated as a for-profit business in India.



Enterprises must be less than 5 years old with revenue-generating customers.



Enterprises have raised no more than 50 Lakhs in funding but are looking to raise more funding within 6-8 months. 



Companies that create jobs for those living in extreme poverty or significantly improve income levels by purchasing from them.



Upaya defines a job as a full-time or part-time engagements that helps people work themselves out of extreme poverty. People employed through Upaya’s portfolio companies:

  • increase their daily food expenditure for their families,

  • earn a reliable income that enables them to save for future needs,

  • receive training to strengthen their skills,

  • are able to purchase assets like motorcycle/bicycle or refrigerator.

Upaya has invested in companies that:

  • directly employ the extreme poor as employees (Saahas Waste Management has on its payroll waste collectors);

  • provide income as suppliers (Tamul Plates provides income by purchasing arecanut leaves from local residents) or

  • help develop skills for the poor to enable them to get better jobs (Maitri trains and places caregivers securing employment for women from disadvantaged Northeast communities.)

  • provide substantial increase of income through aggregation (Krishi Star increases and stabilizes farmer incomes by building a food brand that focuses on value-added processing and market linkages).


Accelerator Program benefits include:

  • Access to Upaya funding (up to $50,000 equity investment in each company). Upaya selects up to three enterprises for investment from each cohort.

  • Additional access to investors through pitch and networking opportunities to bring on co-investors.

  • 4-month long program, involves three class room workshops focussing on helping companies improve their business model in three functions – Finance, Social Impact & Communication and Organizational Development

  • Additionally, offline support in helping companies refine their business plan, pitch deck and financial model.

  • Provide access to network of experts, investors and mentors.

The cost for travel and logistics for the program will be covered by Upaya Social Ventures.



Upaya will select the final 8-12 entrepreneurs by the first week of May, 2019.

Accelerator Program:

  • First Workshop: 12th - 14th June, 2019

  • Second Workshop: 20th – 22nd August, 2019

  • Third Workshop: 9th - 11th October, 2019

The Upaya team plans to visit each of the selected enterprises to work with the enterprises in identifying key challenges and gaps in the business and providing assistance in addressing challenges around social impact and financial management.

The investment decision will be announced at the end of the third workshop.



Amit Antony Alex, Upaya India Country Director
Kate Cochran, Upaya CEO
Patricia Devereux, Upaya Board Chair
Sandhya Nakhasi, Investment Manager, Tondo Foundation
Sachi Shenoy, Upaya Chief Impact Officer and Co-Founder
Gwen Straley, Executive Director, 3rd Creek Foundation
Caroline Vance, Director, Deutsche AM Global Social Finance Group