Upaya, Artha Initiative to Co-Invest, Expand Management Resources Available to Job Creating SGBs in India


Upaya Social Ventures and the Artha Initiative are proud to announce that they have formalized a collaboration through which they will work together to develop a pipeline of and co-invest in India’s Small and Growing Business (SGB) sector.

Together the two organizations will deploy seed capital to help these SGBs scale and create employment for the poor, share best practices around sound financial management, and disseminate tools and training for the benefit of India's wider SGB ecosystem.

“In order to promote entrepreneurship in India, the barriers to financial management skill development must be addressed and be paired with improved access to patient investment capital that best meets the entrepreneurs’ needs,” said Artha Initiative Director Audrey Selian. “This partnership does exactly that by improving the access to management resources and seed capital for the next great wave of Indian entrepreneurs,” said Selian.
Upaya and Artha have each found that when early stage entrepreneurs receive seed funding and have the resources to master basic financial management practices, their confidence greatly improves and they are far more likely to see a new venture through its tumultuous first year. By equipping entrepreneurs with financial management tools and a roadmap for their use, they have been able to reduce the risk and uncertainty inherent in a new venture and, in turn, attract follow-on debt and equity investment needed to grow the business.
Through this collaboration Upaya will share its tools and training materials for dissemination across Artha’s platforms and networks.
“Although a number of tools are already available, the uptake by entrepreneurs currently is minimal as most tools are geared towards later stage businesses,” said Upaya’s Executive Director Sachi Shenoy. “Entrepreneurs find the more general templates difficult to adapt to their specific business models,” said Shenoy.
In addition to sharing materials and best practices among the two organizations, Upaya will explore co-investments in job creating businesses that participate in the Artha Venture Challenge. Furthermore, Upaya will leverage the Artha Platform, an online community and website dedicated to building relationships between sector participants, to expand the pool of resources available to its partners as they continue to scale.
This is the second co-investment and tool-sharing partnership of its type for Upaya, following an announcement earlier this year of a similar collaboration with 3rd Creek Foundation.

Upaya Partners With 3rd Creek Foundation to Facilitate Knowledge Building, Co-Investment Opportunities

Upaya Social Ventures and 3rd Creek Foundation (3CF) are proud to announce a collaboration through which both organizations will work together to identify, support the development of, and potentially co-invest in Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) that can create employment for India’s poor.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with 3rd Creek Foundation and strengthening the ecosystem for SGB innovation together,” said Upaya’s Executive Director Sachi Shenoy.

This is a new type of partnership model for Upaya, one that facilitates not just the exchange of ideas and best practices but also opens the door for co-investment in current and future Upaya partners.

“3CF and Upaya share a development philosophy that meaningful employment is key to achieving sustainable poverty alleviation,” said 3CF Executive Director Gwen Straley. “3CF hopes that this collaboration will encourage other foundations and impact investors to take a closer look at the potential that SGBs in emerging markets have to create long-lasting, positive change for those living in poverty,” said Straley.

“While Upaya is often the first investor in a company, we know we can’t do it alone,” said Shenoy, “and by having a channel for co-investment to take place, we can better ensure that early-stage ventures are set up for growth and success.”

3CFis a private family foundation dedicated to helping individuals achieve economic independence. Established in 2007 by Dave and Pam Straley, 3CF supports sustainable development initiatives through charitable grant-making to strong nonprofit partners in impoverished communities worldwide. The foundation seeks to put funds where they will go the farthest and improve the most lives and values projects that take a market-based approach to solving tough social problems. For more information, please visit and


Upaya Selected for 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Membership


Upaya is proud to announce that the organization has been selected as a complimentary member of theClinton Global Initiative (CGI) for 2013.As part of CGI’s Market-Based Approachestrack, Upaya will share broadly its perspective on job creation as a solution for ultra poverty.

“We are honored that Upaya has been selected for complimentary membership and are excited about the opportunity to share our experience with other CGI members,” said Upaya’s Executive Director Sachi Shenoy.

CGImembership includes access totrack convenings, as well as admission to the CGI Annual Meeting to be held September 23 – 26 in New York City. The Upaya team will also work with CGI staff to develop a new partnercommitmentthat will extend the benefits of Upaya’s work to thousands of Indian families in need.

“For many years the ultra poor were either overlooked or deemed ‘too hard to reach’ by conventional development programs,” Shenoy said. “This is a great chance to show that not only is it possible to meaningfully help the poorest make progress out of poverty, but that it can be done in a financially self-sustaining way,” she said. 

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton as an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, CGI convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which have improved the lives of over 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at more than $73.1 billion. 

For more information on CGI, please click here.

Justrojgar Awarded First Runner-Up in "Power to Empower" Competition


Upaya proudly congratulates Ajaya Mohapatra and the Justrojgar team for being named First Runner-up in the non-student category of the Power to Empower business plan competition. A partnership between the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and India@75, Power to Empower "[encourages] innovative and implementable business solutions that contribute to the development of a sustainable vocational skills ecosystem in India." This year's competition received 234 nominations and over 100 applications.

"We are extremely excited to see Justrojgar recognized by the NSDC for its potential to transform the lives of the urban poor," said Sriram Gutta, Upaya's Director of Business Development. "By training slum-dwellers on needed skills and ensuring they get social benefits, Justrojgar is creating job opportunities in a market with enormous potential," Gutta said.

As First Runner-up, Justrojgar will receive a free delegate pass to the Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2013 courtesy of the Villgro Innovations Foundation,  the opportunity to participate in the Deakin University’s (Australia) Sponsored Entrepreneurship program, a Complimentary TiE Annual Associate Membership, and a bundle of classes and mentorning courtesy of the Sunstone Business School.

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Judges Saurabh Srivastava, Rajan Navani (both left) and MV Subbiah (far right) congratulate Ajaya Mohapatra (center) and Ashish Gupta

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Ashish Gupta (left) and Ajaya Mohapatra present to the judges in the competition's final round.

Justrojgar Joins With Upaya to Create Service Sector Jobs for the Very Poorest


Committed to skilling and securing employment for the millions of potential service industry workers currently living in ultra poverty, Delhi-based Justrojgar is proud to announce that it has secured an initial equity investment from Upaya Social Ventures. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“This strategic partnership will afford Justrojgar the resources and expertise needed to connect those living in extreme poverty with an ever-expanding array of opportunities in service sector,” said Ajaya Mohapatra, Managing Director of Techpeople, the parent company of Justrojgar. “Together we are working to ensure rojgar (jobs) for the poor in a way that is just and equitable for all,” said Mohapatra.

Justrojgar was designed as a social venture to bridge the demand-supply gap in the service industry by creating a comprehensive ecosystem to train job seekers and link them with potential employers. For corporate clients, service employees can fill roles such as janitors, security guards, and porters, while in a domestic setting these positions can include full- and part-time housekeepers, cooks, doormen, and caretakers. Through its partnership with Upaya, Justrojgar will build on its pilot National Capital Region operations to establish a national footprint for skilling and placing the manpower needed to fill the massive national labor market shortage for formalized service work.

“By allowing a variety of corporate and domestic employers to confidently source capable and reliable employees, Justrojgar is making it possible for those living in the furthest depths of poverty to directly benefit from the country’s economic growth,” said Sachi Shenoy, Upaya’s Executive Director. “Upaya has been impressed by what the Justojgar team has accomplished so far and see great potential in this model,” she said.

The partnership coincides with the launch of, India’s first-ever integrated online employment exchange for the service sector. The company envisions the website as a complement to its other efforts to recruit, train, place, and support service sector employees. Justrojgar is also fostering on-the-ground partnerships with the government, NGOs, corporates, industries, microfinance institutions and microfinance associations to fully realize the potential of its platform.


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Eco Kargha Partners With Upaya to Build Employment Opportunities for Bhagalpur Weavers


Eco Kargha Handicrafts Marketing Pvt. Ltd. is proud to announce that it has joined with Upaya Social Ventures to employ marginalized Tasar silk weavers in Bhagalpur, Bihar - a region commonly associated with the high-luster, strong, and lightweight fabric. With Upaya’s backing, Eco Kargha will hire and train slum-dwellers on new skills, techniques, equipment, and designs for producing wholesale Tasar silk as well as linen, cotton, and fine wool. Terms of the investment were not disclosed.

“Bhagalpur weavers have long been regarded as artists creating magic on their handlooms, but have faced challenges in scaling up the industry beyond handicrafts,” said Dr. Ravi Chandra, Founder and Director of Eco Kargha. “With Upaya’s help, we will be able create systems that will impact thousands of weaving families in a sustainable manner,” he said.

Bhagalpur is known for being the traditional home of Tasar silk products, and as many as 100,000 families are in some way involved in its production. However, while it is an increasingly popular material in men’s and women’s clothing, Tasar silk cultivation and production in the area remains very unstructured. The majority of people weaving Tasar silk do so as a secondary occupation as the linkages to tools, materials, training, and markets are not in place for weaving to be a primary livelihood for a significant number of people.

“The Eco Kargha team has spent years working with some of the poorest populations in Bihar, and the founders have a keen sense of both the needs and productive potential of Bhagalpur's artisans,” said Sachi Shenoy, Executive Director of Upaya Social Ventures. “We at Upaya look forward to working with Eco Kargha to develop a sound business model that can create a number of new jobs and social benefits for this geography.”

Most Eco Kargha weavers qualify as ultra poor - generally living under $1.25 a day at the time of their hire – and over 50% belong to a backward caste, scheduled caste, or minority community. Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme has identified Bihar as one of the states in India with the highest rates of domestic migration in search of work because of the lack of opportunities to earn a viable living locally.

Upaya Partners with the Indian School of Business for the iDiya Challenge

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Upaya is proud to announce that it has joined with the Indian School of Business (ISB) for the fourth edition of iDiya, the ISB's National Social Venture Competition. Through the partnership Upaya staff will participate in the mentorship and judging phases of the competition. In addition, those iDiya entrants with strong potential to create jobs and improve the quality of life for the ultra poor will be simultaneously considered for participation in Upaya's LiftUP Project.

iDiya accepts entries from small groups of working professionals in India. Teams submit an executive summary of their business ideas and plans, which are evaluated by student evaluators, faculty, investors and social VCs, and social entrepreneurs. Submissions are evaluated on various parameters, including measurable social impact, criticality of the social need and sustainability of the enterprise.

For more information on iDiya, click




on 2012-09-19 05:36 by Upaya

Excitement for this year's iDiya Challenge is building. Upaya's involvement in the ISB initiative has been cited in:

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"Stand For Girls" with Upaya & GlobalWA

Upaya is proud to join Global Washington and the Seattle Center's Next 50 campaign in taking a stand for women and girls around the world.

Please join us September 22nd at the Seattle Center to learn more about Upaya and the community!

Click to learn more.


on 2012-10-30 19:22 by Upaya

Steve discusses Upaya's evolution at the Stand for Girls event:

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Upaya Teams Up with Chicago Booth Social Enterprise Initiative to Promote New Models for Social Change


Upaya Social Ventures is proud to announce today the appointment of its Executive Director, Sachi Shenoy, to the Advisory Board of the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) at Chicago Booth. Robert Gertner, Deputy Dean at Chicago Booth and Co-Director of the SEI, will also join Upaya’s Board of Advisors.

“Throughout the world, enterprise development and job creation have proven to be a highly effective way of ushering populations from poverty to prosperity. We look forward to working with Upaya to identify new models for social enterprise, while giving our students the tools and exposure to design and build companies that can provide social benefit,” said Gertner.

Chicago Booth established the SEI to enhance the efficiency and impact of social sector organizations through research, data collection, communication and education. The initiative builds on the school’s commitment to rigorous analysis and its discipline-based approach to understanding organizations, markets, and policy.

The collaboration allows Upaya to advise Chicago Booth on the design of its MBA curriculum for students interested in social entrepreneurship. It will also open internships and research projects for the Chicago Booth community, while allowing Upaya to call on the school’s thought leadership, academic resources, and vast alumni network to advance its mission. Additionally, Shenoy will be a judge in Booth’s Social New Venture Challenge and Upaya will contribute to the Social Entrepreneurship Lab programs.

“We are very excited by the invitation to help the next generation of social entrepreneurs both in Chicago and around the world,” said Shenoy. “As an alumnus, I am honored to join such an accomplished group of faculty and alumni on the SEI Advisory Board, and believe that Chicago Booth is well positioned to be a global leader in social enterprise.”

As a member of Upaya’s Board of Advisors, Gertner will work with the Upaya team to refine methods to measure social performance. He will also support Upaya’s efforts to identify new models and best practices for creating jobs and improving the quality of life in the world’s poorest communities.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rob Gertner to our team and know his involvement will ensure Upaya adheres to the highest standard of excellence in business development and social performance measurement,” said Shenoy.

About Chicago Booth’s Social Enterprise Initiative - The Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business aims to enhance the efficiency and impact of social sector organizations through research, data collection, communication, and education. Established to support interest in the non-profit and social sectors, SEI builds on Chicago Booth's commitment to rigorous analysis and its discipline-based approach to understanding organizations, markets, and policy. The initiative's mission is to further the field of research on issues of importance to the social sector and to support social enterprises that wish to apply proven business practices to strategic decision-making and organization management. For more information, please visit

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.

India Development Service Supports Upaya's LiftUP Project


Upaya is proud to announce it has received funding from the Chicago-based India Development Service (IDS), a nonprofit, non-political, and secular organization supporting economic and social development in India.

Varsha Pancholi, IDS Board Member, recently met with Upaya's Sachi Shenoy and Sriram Gutta, and visited Samridhi's operations on the outskirts of Lucknow. "I was really impressed with the level of motivation both Upaya and Samridhi have in working with the ultra poor," said Pancholi. "I know they all could choose an easier route in life but choose to do this."

IDS supports small grassroots development projects under various categories like income generation, education, health care, environment and disaster management across India. These projects emphasize self-reliance, accountability of project coordinators, and a strong sense of ownership for the beneficiaries. Careful prior monitoring and ongoing dialogue with the projects have been the mainstay of IDS project support.

“We are pleased the IDS board saw in Upaya the same potential it has seen in many other successful early-stage organizations,” said Upaya Executive Director Sachi Shenoy. “Not only will IDS’s financial commitment allow Upaya to support early-stage businesses through the LiftUP Project, but we will also have the opportunity to draw from the insights and experiences of IDS leadership as our own organization continues to grow,” Shenoy said.

Since 1974, IDS has given over $ 1 million in support to over 150 projects across India and remains a catalyst to new projects every year. For more information about IDS, please go to

Upaya Joins Global Washington


Upaya is pleased to announce the organization has joined Global Washington, a coalition of Washington nonprofit organizations, foundations, businesses, academic institutions and corporations working to improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of the world’s poorest people.

"Upaya has undoubtedly benefited from the supportive environment for organizations focused on poverty alleviation in Washington, and membership in Global Washington is an opportunity to further grow that community," said Steve Schwartz, Upaya's Director of Strategy & Operations. "We are excited by the opportunity to connect with like-minded businesses and peer organizations who share our values, and hope that together we realize our goal of creating pathways out of poverty for the very poorest," he said.

Global Washington is a broad-based membership association that promotes and supports the global development sector in the state of Washington. Composed of non-profit organizations, foundations, businesses, government and academic institutions, our members work collectively to build a more equitable and prosperous world. Global Washington convenes members to generate new opportunities for growth, strengthens member organizations to increase their impact, and advocates across key global development issues at the local, national, and global level.

For more on Global Washington, click



Upaya Announces Partnership with the Skees Family Foundation

 Upaya Social Ventures is proud to announce its partnership with The Skees Family Foundation (SFF). The formalized relationship will provide the organization with the financial and creative support needed to develop jobs and improve the quality of life for the 1.4 billion living in the most extreme poverty. 

An active supporter of Upaya since its incorporation, SFF has been instrumental in developing outreach messaging and materials, advocating on the organization's behalf, and providing funding critical for the launch of Samridhi's community dairy initiative. Now with this formal partnership, the Santa Cruz, CA-based family foundation has reinforced its commitment to Upaya's mission.

“Working closely with the Upaya team through their launch, we saw firsthand that they walk their talk of 'triple Ts': tenacity, transparency, and trust,” said SFF Founder and Director Suzanne Skees. “Convinced of the impact Upaya could have through training locally-led businesses and providing reliable employment for the ultra poor, we viewed this partnership as a chance to leverage a small grant to get two great organizations - Upaya and Samridhi - off the ground.”

Running through 2012, the funding provided by the Skees Family Foundation will allow Upaya to further its commitment to the Samridhi project. It also gives Upaya the resources to continue the search for the next wave of entrepreneurs creating new opportunities for the ultra poor.

"One of the the most daunting things for a new organization is generating interest in a cause that may not yet be part of the mainstream discussion," said Upaya Executive Director Sachi Shenoy. "To have an ally like SFF willing to back its time and expertise with a generous grant really shows a genuine belief in our work," she said.

Suzanne is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and The Council on Foundations Re:Philanthropy blog. For more information on her writing and the Skees Family Foundation, go to

Samridhi & Upaya Team Up To Launch Dairy Enterprise, Create New Job Opportunities In Uttar Pradesh

Upaya Social Ventures is proud to announce today a collaboration with Samridhi Agri-Products to establish community dairies that will create jobs and stabilize income for families living in extreme poverty. Launching in one of the poorest states in India, Uttar Pradesh-based Samridhi connects poor milk producers directly to the emerging formal dairy supply chain.

Upaya Teams Up With Jolkona To Address Basic Needs Of The Ultra Poor

Sharing a commitment to the eradication of extreme poverty and a fundamental belief in transparent philanthropy, the Jolkona Foundation and Upaya Social Ventures have agreed to a fiscal sponsorship arrangement that will empower Upaya to connect donors directly to social entrepreneurs working in ultra poor communities.

"We're very excited to be partnering with Upaya as we feel the team's ability to demonstrate the outcomes of their activities closely mirrors our core values," said Jolkona CEO Nadia Mahmud. 

The platform was built to connect donors with a variety of global philanthropic opportunities, and requires participating organizations to show the impact of supporters' contributions.  These fundamentals made for a natural fit with Upaya, where the aggregation of social outcomes data provides donors with a clear snapshot of how their support of an individual project is creating change.  Every donor who gives to an Upaya project through will be able to track the progress of initiatives they support through their individual giving portfolio on the website.

"For Upaya, partnering with Jolkona is a great way for us to create deeper connections between supporters and the work they're contributing to," said Steve Schwartz, Director of Strategy & Operations for Upaya. "The relationship also challenges us to hold ourselves to a higher standard of transparency and authenticity in our interactions with donors."

Through the agreement, Upaya will be classified as a project of the 501(c)3 Jolkona Foundation and thus be able to receive tax-deductible contributions designated for its work.  Upaya will maintain independent operations through its own entity and management, while reporting quarterly to the Jolkona Board of Directors.  All of Upaya's financials will be reported on Jolkona's annual IRS 990 filing throughout the term of the agreement.  For more information on the relationship and variance power, click here.