What We're Reading June 2014: Let's See Action

A few interesting articles and a podcast from around the internet.

Economic Times "What is holding back the social entrepreneur?" (15 May 2014)

Exhibit A for the “too much money is chasing too few entrepreneurs” case:

“An April 2014 study by Intellecap, a strategy advisory firm, highlights the gravity of the situation. Of the $1.6 billion invested in social enterprises since 2000, around 70% was in the financial inclusion space (both microfinance and non-microfinance). Of the investments that went into other sectors—including agriculture, energy, education, healthcare and livelihoods—about 67% was in just 15 enterprises.”

The article also does a great job of breaking down fund economics to explain why more patient investments in ecosystem are virtually impossible. Overall, it is a great look at the challenges faced by early stage entrepreneurs in India.


New York Times “Upscale Dairies Grow in India, Promising Safer Milk” (3 June 2014) 

This article is a nice look at how small investments in quality control and chain of custody management allow dairy companies and farmers to profit more from their efforts.

The connection between pro-poor business models and higher-end goods is growing. Here in Seattle, we have Theo Chocolate, a company that is working hard to create maximum social benefit in their supply chain. To absorb the higher costs Theo has had to create a $4 chocolate bar but rather than cutting costs, the company’s founder Joe Whinney has set out to create the best darn luxury bar he can. And Theo is not alone – the work Arthur Karuletwa is doing with Starbucks is very much in the same spirit


Outlook Business "Social Entrepreneurs Are Reinventing The Wheel" (24 May 2014) 

This is a fascinating interview with Intellecap’s Aparajita Agarwal as she talks about social enterprise in India, the differences from working in Africa, and the constant battle entrepreneurs face when they’re trying to differentiate themselves.

Most interesting for me was the point about entrepreneurs trying to make their idea feel truly unique. I suspect much of this need is driven by interactions with impact investors and the benefit narrative those investors are trying to build around their work. Unlike traditional investors who can look simply at the financials and management team in their due diligence, self-defined impact investors often need to have their imagination captured by the social benefits of the business. As such, entrepreneurs often try to tell a story about how their product or service is “revolutionary” or “innovative,” when the reality is that their business might be most socially beneficial and profitable if they could focus their efforts on the fundamentals.

There is a saying that has been floating around Upaya for a long time that seems relevant here – sometimes a business is not innovative for what it is doing, but for where it is doing it. This interview shows we might not be alone in that thinking.

Catch Upaya Onstage at Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2014!


Upaya's Sreejith Nedumpully will join a panel of industry leaders to discuss the experience of supporting promising entrepreneurs in their earliest days.

Bridging the Pioneer Gap: Are We Meeting the Needs of Social Startups & What Can We Do Better?

11:45 AM - 1:15 PM, April 11 2014

Grand Ballroom A3

Hotel Renaissance, Powai, Mumbai

Over the past few years we have heard the conversation about the needs of businesses in the “Pioneer Gap“ reach a fever pitch – particularly in a frothy impact investment market that finds itself starving for more established, less risky opportunities. At the same time, a chorus of ambitious social entrepreneurs with promising models talks about finding themselves in a desert of funding and advisory support. The reality is that, if we rely on traditional venture capital models, most social investment funds will be financially unable to find, fund, and advise these companies in their infancy.

With the majority of these entrepreneurs exhausting their limited runways long before their transformative potential can be realized, there is a strong need to mobilize our peers and create an ecosystem for Pioneering Capital to fill the gap. The assembled panel will explore what’s working, what’s not, and what steps the sector can take to mobilize more resources for the next generation of effective social enterprises.


Ashish Karamchandani, Partner, Monitor Group


Sreejith Nedumpully, Director, Business Development Upaya Social Ventures

Harish Hande, MD, SELCO

Aditi Shrivastava, Head, Intellecap Impact Investment Network

Simon Desjardins, Programme Manager, Shell Foundation

Paul Breloff, Managing Director, Accion Venture Lab


Upaya Joins Intellecap Impact Investment Network (I3N)

Upaya has accepted an invitation to join the Intellecap Impact Investment Network (I3N), India’s first angel network dedicated to start-up socially beneficial enterprises. I3N draws on the full spectrum of Intellecap initiatives - including the popular Sankalp Forum - to facilitate investments in early-stage enterprises that pair financial returns with clear social and/or environmental impact.

"We are honored to have been invited to join this distinguished group of angel investors, and see a great opportunity to expand our own due diligence capacity through the Intellecap network,” said Sriram Gutta, Upaya's Director of Business Development. Gutta will serve as Upaya’s representative to the I3N.

While the network supports start-up enterprises across sectors including healthcare, education, clean energy, financial inclusion and agri/rural businesses, Upaya is the first I3N member with an explicit focus on job creation for the ultra poor.

“Business growth and job creation require a full ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs throughout all phases of their development, and it is our hope that Upaya’s membership in I3N will help foster that ecosystem,” Gutta said.

Intellecap launched I3N in September 2011, and currently counts more than 20 high net-worth individuals and institutions among its membership.

For more on I3N, click here.