Sreejith Nedumpully

Upaya Welcomes Bangalore-based Saahas to LiftUP Project, Promotes Job Creation Through Waste Management

Upaya Social Ventures is proud to announce today that it has joined with India’s largest business angel group the Indian Angel Network (IAN), to invest in Bangalore-based Saahas Waste Management Private Limited (SWMPL).

SWMPL provides end-to-end waste management solutions for bulk waste generators in Bangalore while creating secure employment for women from disadvantaged communities. Following this agreement, the company will receive seed funding and business development support through Upaya’s LiftUP Project.

“The waste management problem in Indian cities is staggering and is growing fast with increasing urbanisation. At the same time, the ‘waste industry’ in India is largely informal and exploitative,” said SWMPL founder and CEO Wilma Rodrigues, who has 13 years of experience in the waste management sector.  

“SWMPL was founded to responsibly manage all kinds of waste generated within corporate campuses and institutions with the firm conviction that waste has to be handled at the source itself,” said Rodrigues.

The company provides on-site waste management solutions to a wide range of waste generators, beginning with an audit to determine the types of waste generated, recommendations for recycling solutions and infrastructure requirements.

Many of the on-site facility staff employed by SWMPL are women who have worked as informal waste pickers in highly exploitative and dangerous environments. The organization provides them with reliable, formal employment and regular salaries.

“Upaya's focus on ultra poor job creation really goes into the heart of our model and I am very glad to have Upaya join this round as they will help us to remain people-centric while growing as a movement for cleaner cities,” said Rodrigues.

Across the company SWMPL emphasizes safety with adequate protective gear and training for hygienic waste handling practices. The company provides each employee with a fair salary and full benefits.

“The SWMPL team is highly experienced and respected in the industry for their work,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully.

“We are excited to work with a great organization that helps corporations and institutions reduce their carbon footprint significantly and be more ecologically sustainable and socially responsible,” said Nedumpully.

Mr. Nagaraja Prakasam, lead IAN investor, commented on the company’s growth strategy saying, “SWMPL pioneered the zero waste campus model and has successfully delivered onsite waste management services to bulk waste generators. IAN Impact was launched in 2013 to support ventures working on the ‘triple bottom line’ -- like SWMPL -- as IAN would like to encourage the growth of social enterprises that are creating better lives for people.” As an active IAN impact angel, Prakasam has lead four other deals and has made 12 investments through IAN.

Upaya’s support to SWMPL has been made possible by Open Road Alliance, a private philanthropic initiative that provides grant capital to non-profits for mid-implementation projects facing an unexpected roadblock or a sudden catalytic opportunity.


Upaya Invests in Kolkata-based Maitri Livelihood Services, Promotes Expansion of Sahayika Caregiver Program in India's Northeast

Upaya Social Ventures is proud to announce that it has invested in Kolkata-based caregivers training and placement company Maitri Livelihood Services Private Limited (Maitri).

Maitri recruits, trains, certifies, and creates fair and dignified employment opportunities for women from vulnerable backgrounds in East and Northeast India through its flagship “Sahayika” (one who helps) initiative. The company will receive funding and business development support through Upaya’s LiftUP Project framework.

“Domestic workers are vulnerable to socio-economic exploitation because they are unorganized and poorly skilled.  At the same time, millions of employers find it difficult to get skilled, reliable, trustworthy domestic workers. Maitri’s Sahayika programme is hence designed to assure dignity,  recognition and fair wage to domestic workers. While doing so, Maitri is also addressing a pressing problem faced by millions of families in urban India.” said Maitri’s founder and Managing Director, Gitali Thakur, an Assam native and 13 year veteran of livelihood promotion. “The company is building a safe ecosystem for women who would otherwise be vulnerable to an informal sector fraught with exploitative agents and little regulation,” said Thakur.

The Sahayika initiative is designed to build both the technical and interpersonal skills needed by domestic workers. Sahayikas receive training on a variety of home-based care services including cooking and housekeeping, child care (including health and safety skills), and geriatric and patient care. The company also verifies that the prospective employer’s household does not have a history of issues with domestic service workers, sets clear expectations for the nature of work, and briefs the family on the prospective Sahayika’s background, skills, and employment preferences. Furthermore, Maitri takes this time to educate each Sahayika on her employee rights including a regular salary, paid leave, a bank account, and other benefits enjoyed by her formal service sector counterparts. This extra effort creates trust and an open communication channel between Maitri, the Sahayikas, and the family.

Maitri is currently placing Sahayikas through two centers in Guwahati, Assam. It is also in the process of launching four new centers across Assam and Kolkata. Each center places a minimum of 25 Sahayikas per month.

“Maitri’s creation of dignified, stable jobs with opportunities for skill building makes it a natural fit within Upaya’s LiftUP Project framework,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “Maitri’s commitment to its Sahayikas allows each woman to not only earn a higher wage but also possess a greater degree of dignity and self-respect,” said Nedumpully.


New Report: Impact Investors See India’s Social Entrepreneurs Lacking Basic Financial Management Skills to be Investable

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Over the past four years, the Upaya team has repeatedly heard from impact investors that the pipeline of investable social enterprises in India is frustratingly thin. While these investors regularly hear about interesting concepts, they lament the lack of entrepreneurs who have the business management skills needed to lead such a venture to profitability. In fact, many leading investors have said that a social entrepreneur who does not have a sufficient command of fundamental business tools is not someone they can even really consider an entrepreneur.

Looking to turn these anecdotes into actionable information, Upaya is today releasing the first of a series of spot surveys that dig deeper into investors’ impressions of the entrepreneurs they encounter.

Titled What They Really Think: Perceptions of India’s Early Stage Social Entrepreneurs Among Impact Investors, the series provides data and recommendations to the multitude of incubators, training programs and mentorship networks currently operating in India. The report captures investor opinions about the collective critical skills and competencies of entrepreneurs, and starts a substantive conversation on improving the ecosystem for early-stage social businesses.

In “Spot Survey #1: Financial Management Capabilities,” 18 of India’s 25 most active impact investors shared their impressions of the financial management competencies of entrepreneurs they have conducted some level of due diligence on. The report looks at entrepreneurs' skills in utilizing a variety of financial management tools for decision-making. It also looks at the quality of documentation investors receive from entrepreneurs, as well as the ability of those entrepreneurs to use valuation tools to communicate the financial health and long-term projections of their companies with investors.

Click to download the report.

Upaya Joins With Ennovent IIH, LAF: Creative Venture Fund to Expand Youth Employment and Employability Through Investment in Anant Learning & Development

Upaya is proud to announce today that it has come together with Ennovent Impact Investment Holding (Ennovent IIH) and LAF: Creative Venture Fund (LAF:CVF) to invest in Anant Learning & Development (Anant), a Delhi-based company that is working to ensure young people from poor communities across India have adequate skills training and regular access to secure stable employment with credible employers. Upaya will provide funding and business development support to Anant through its LiftUP Project framework.

Anant has developed a two-track model for improving labor markets for young people. First, the company provides placement and post-placement services through its platform to youth in both urban and rural communities across India. Second, Anant consults with private and public sector employers to assess the effectiveness of their skill development programs through skills assessments and post-placement tracking. Anant currently operates in nine states [within India].           

“Having overseen many vocational training projects in the past, I saw that the young men and women who graduated out of training programs quickly fell back out of the formal sector workforce,” said Anant Founder and CEO Ajit Singh.

“These young people often claimed frequent miscommunication of salary, benefits as well as job roles by training and placement agencies while, at the same time, employers complained of high attrition and need for credible intermediaries for sourcing candidates. The misalignment of incentives of training and placement agencies is a central issue, and I thought that a more transparent, data-driven approach could iron out the inefficiencies in the market,” said Singh.

Unlike many placement websites in India, Anant does not collect fees from the young people being placed. Instead, the company harnesses its data collection capabilities to provide actionable insights to employers, training agencies, and government agencies so that each can improve the efficacy and efficiency of their efforts.

Singh expects to enroll 10 employers every month on, who are collectively projected to hire approximately 250 candidates.

The Ennovent Circle, an exclusive group that collaborates to accelerate innovations for low-income markets, facilitated the investment in Anant. Both Upaya and Ennovent IIH are Ennovent Circle members.

 “The unique selling point of Anant is its strong linkages to the industry and direct contact with the beneficiaries. This helps the company understand the needs of the potential employees and connects the disconnected rural youth to the employment system,”said Ennovent Circle Manager Joel Rodrigues. “The Ennovent Impact Investment Holding is optimistic about the impact Anant will be able to create at the grass roots through this investment,” said Rodrigues.

Upaya’s support of Anant has been made possible by LAF:CVF, a venture philanthropy fund that invests in employment and empowerment initiatives that provide vulnerable youth around the world with the means to create a better life for themselves.

“Upaya sees Anant’s platform as enhancing the ability of young men and women from poor communities to earn a stable, dignified living,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “By harnessing technology along with a geographically diverse network of trainers and assessors, Anant is able to remove the inefficiencies from the system,” said Nedumpully.