Upaya extends debt to partners in India for the first time

Upaya Social Ventures has made 10 equity investments into Indian-based businesses employing the very poorest but until now, has not been able to extend debt due to regulatory restrictions. For the first time, in August of 2016, we have been able to structure small loan agreements with our partners to provide working capital assistance as they grow their businesses.

Parvata Foods

Parvata Foods

The first partner to receive debt from Upaya is Parvata Foods. Parvata aims to eliminate middle-men in the agricultural value chain so that poor farmers can keep more of their profit. Founded by Siddhi Karnani and Anurag Agarwal, their particular focus is to process and market the organic products from the state of Sikkim in northeastern India, which was recently declared the first fully organic state in the country. They source their products—currently spices and squash— from about 100 farmers with one to two acres of land who previously earned about $0.75 to $1.50 per day per person. Upaya has extended a two-year loan to Parvata and may make an equity investment in the future.

The second partner to receive an Upaya debt investment is Karmantik, a Delhi-based enterprise that aims to revive artisanal hand-crafted shoes. Founded in 2015  by Sruthi Niveditha Kande and Apoorva Kamath, who are alumni of the Young India Fellowship Program of Ashoka University. "Upaya came in at a time when we needed support to push ourselves forward, and for that we are very grateful," according to Kande.

Karmantik artisan

Karmantik artisan


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.

Scaling Mountains to Get to Scale

Letter from Executive Director, Sachi Shenoy

I’m not a marathon runner. Or a triathlete. Or a mountain climber. In fact, you could say that my only “extreme” passion is my obsession with fighting poverty at Upaya. 

That being said, 2015 was my Everest.

When we started Upaya nearly 5 years ago, I knew this would be the hardest work I'd ever done. What I didn’t know was that in 2015, earthquakes, floods and fires would threaten our own offices and our partners', and that our team would be challenged by life-threatening illnesses and staff transitions.

Even in the face of all this adversity, even with this mountain to climb, 2015 has also been our greatest success. Thanks to our team’s dedication and tenacity, we:

  • Doubled Upaya’s investment portfolio! (10 partners and counting...)
  • Attracted 5x in follow-on investment capital
  • Had our 1st exit (and capital reinvestment)
  • Doubled our job numbers: Upaya’s partners are now employing 2,329 individuals

The tough stuff is not often featured in year-end letters from small non-profits, but I think it’s an important story to tell. It is not only authentic, it exemplifies our spirit of resilience and teamwork. These are also the same traits we admire in our portfolio partners and their employees. Our newsletter includes profiles of two other fearless individuals: Jamuna and Wilma. I hope you read their stories. Their struggles and successes continue to fuel my commitment to this work, and have helped me raise the bar for 2016.

Next year, our goal is to double our outreach once again, and create over 5,000 jobs in 2016 for families like Jamuna’s. As I share these aspirations, I also extend my deepest gratitude. This work wouldn’t be possible without our very dedicated “base camp” team: You! I thank you sincerely for making this rocky year one that ended with such celebration and victory.

So, I take back what I said. I AM a mountain climber. At Upaya, we all are. We are the risk takers. The do-ers. The believers that it can be done.

Thank you for being a part of this hard, beautiful, life-changing work.


Sachi Shenoy
Executive Director