Upaya is proud to announce that it has come together with 3rd Creek Foundation (3CF) to provide a follow-on investment into Maitri Livelihood Services Private Limited (Maitri), a caregivers training and placement company that recruits, trains, and secures employment for women from vulnerable backgrounds in the East and Northeast communities of India.
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.
In March 2015, Upaya exited its investment in Delhi-based Justrojgar after its shares were bought back by the entrepreneur, Ajaya Mohapatra.
This is the first full exit of a partner from Upaya's LiftUP Project. The organization will re-invest 100% the returns from the transaction into a future LiftUP Project partner in a manner consistent with its Pioneering Capital model.
Upaya initially invested in the Delhi-based skilling company in 2012.
The deal is notable as Tamul Plates is the only established producer of disposable tableware in the Northeast - a region with more than 100,000 hectares of arecanut under plantation and one of the poorest areas of the country.
“This investment is a recognition that Tamul Plates is well positioned to meet the growing demand for high quality, environmentally responsible, and ethically produced products,” said Tamul Plates CEO Arindam Dasgupta. “Working in the Northeast, the company benefits from a unique combination of access to the highest quality raw materials and a producer base that takes great pride in its craftsmanship,” said Dasgupta.
Tamul Plates produces and markets high-quality, all-natural disposable plates and bowls made from arecanut (palm) tree leaves and sells them under the “Tambul Leaf Plates” brand. The company’s clientele includes a mix of restaurants, fast food establishments, event managers, and direct-to-consumer retailers.
This investment follows a recent agreement between Tamul Plates and the Government of Assam to supply the equipment for and train an extended network of affiliate rural producers. The investment by Artha and Upaya will allow the Barpeta-based company to make use of that expanded affiliate producer network by diversifying its product line, expanding its domestic sales and distribution networks, and opening export markets for its products.
“It has been a highlight of the Artha Venture Challenge to uncover a pioneering and innovative enterprise in Tamul Plates,” said Artha Initiative’s Director Audrey Selian. “We are particularly happy to be co-investing with Upaya, and look forward to continued efforts in collaboration sector-wide through our AVC and ArthaPlatform.com programming,” said Selian. Artha Initiative is associated with Switzerland-based Rianta Capital Zurich.
Disposable arecanut dinnerware is hygienic, chemical-free, compostable, microwave safe - and in high demand among urban consumers around the world. The production and sale of natural arecanut dinnerware not only reduces the deforestation and pollution associated with the production of traditional disposable dishes, but also provides a viable livelihood to disadvantaged communities.
“Upaya has been very impressed by the work of Arindam and his team over the past year, and believe that the company’s growth plans will benefit both customers and producers alike,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “We are proud to join the Artha Initiative in backing this promising enterprise, and are exciting about the company’s potential,” said Nedumpully. Upaya was Tamul Plates’s first investor.
This co-investment in Tamul Plates is the first deal completed under the formalized collaboration framework between Artha and Upaya that was announced in November 2014. Per that agreement, the two organizations are working together to deploy seed capital to help 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 ecosystem.
Upaya partner Eco Kargha and Bangalore-based Kinara Capital have entered into a working capital debt agreement that will allow the company to meet the demands of a second straight year of a high double-digit sales growth. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Having worked with Dr. Ravi Chandra and his team since 2012, we are pleased that Kinara Capital is able to provide additional financing to meet the company’s day-to-day business needs,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “This deal is one more endorsement of Eco Kargha's growth prospects and a validation of the business model’s ability to positively impact the lives of hand loom weavers,” said Nedumpully.
Eco Kargha was also recently identified by Unitus Seed Fund as one of the “75 Companies Transforming India’s Livelihoods,” chosen for the company’s “potential for scale and to impact large numbers of Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) populations.”
Upaya’s Executive Director Sachi Shenoy joined impact investing thought leaders from around the world at the Clinton Global Initiative’s May Mid-Year Meeting in New York City. Over the course of two days, the group discussed the ongoing maturation of the sector and explored the mechanisms needed to ensure that early-stage social businesses are given the support they need to launch, grow, and prepare for follow-on investment.
“I heard so often over the two day meeting that there are simply too few scale-ready, socially transformative businesses reaching the desks of impact investors, and that organizations like Upaya are exactly what is needed to solve this problem,” said Shenoy. “The conversation reaffirmed for me the power of Upaya’s model to empower small and growing businesses, build a pipeline of sound investment opportunities, and bring significant change to the people living below the extreme poverty line,” she said.
For more information on the Clinton Global Initiative, click