Unitus Seed Fund India Receives SEBI Approval for Impact Investing

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Ravi Venkatesan joins as Venture Partner; Atul Bindal joins investment committee.

The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has approved the start of investment activities for Unitus Seed Fund India (USFI), registered as a Category-I, Venture Capital Fund under SEBI Regulations (Alternative Investment Funds) 2012. While impact investing has been established in India for over a decade, attracting more than INR 4000 crore (US$800 million) of predominantly-overseas risk capital, Unitus Seed Fund India’s approval by SEBI marks the first time that Indian national investors have access to a seed-stage impact fund. USFI already has INR 20 crore (US$3.3 million) of committed capital and plans to raise up to a total of INR 50-75 crore (US$ 9-12 million) from local investors to take minority positions in “BoP Startups” – companies building scalable businesses delivering improved livelihoods and innovative affordable products & services to 100 crore (1 billion) low-income people in India..

“We see tremendous opportunity to mobilize Indian investment capital by enabling investors get in on the ground floor of exciting new businesses that are targeting the massively-under-served market of a 100 crore (1 billion) Indians who get by on under less than 2 lakhs (US$3,300) annual family income but nonetheless represent enormous purchasing power,” said Will Poole, co-founder and Managing Partner of Unitus Seed Fund. “We anticipate investing in up to 40 of these BoP Startups over the next 4 years. There is dearth of seed capital in this segment of the market, making the investment opportunities very attractive,” he added.

USF India’s sister fund, the US$8 million (INR 50 crore) Cayman Island-registered Unitus Seed Fund that was launched in January this year has invested in nine companies in the areas of livelihoods, education, healthcare, and technology for development.

Unitus Seed Fund also announced that Ravi Venkatesan, board member of Infosys, former Chairman of Microsoft India, and author of best-selling “Conquering the Chaos – Win India Win Everywhere” has joined as a Venture Partner where he will extend his existing role on the fund’s investment committee and oversee operations of the SEBI- approved fund, along with the fund’s Bangalore-based partner Srikrishna Ramamoorthy. Atul Bindal, former managing director Asia of Khosla Venture Advisory Services and former president of Airtel Mobile Services for South Asia, has also joined with Mr. Venkatesan and others on the investment committees overseeing Unitus Seed Fund’s domestic and overseas investment decisions.

Several impact investing luminaries and senior business leaders are among the founding investors of Unitus Seed Fund India, including: T. V. Mohandas Pai (Chairman of Manipal Global Education and co-founder Aarin Capital), Dr. Ranjan Pai (CEO of Manipal Education and Medical Group), ‘Bala’ V. Balakrishnan (member of the Board, Infosys), Hemendra Kothari (Chairman of DSP Blackrock), Pramod Saxena (Founder & Managing Director of Oxigen Services), Rajeev Bakshi (Managing Director, METRO Cash & Carry India), Ravi Venkatesan (former Chairman, Microsoft India), and Govind Iyer (Managing Partner India of Egon

Zehnder).

“With our Bangalore team fully formed – including two investing partners and 3 investment professionals – we’re ready to step up our investment activity even higher, putting the funds that will flow in due to our new SEBI-approval to immediate use,” said Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, Partner, Unitus Seed Fund India. “We’ve looked at over 200 investment opportunities already this year. The sectors where we are seeing the most activity include livelihoods, healthcare, agriculture, education, and tech for development (“T4D”). With the continued roll-out of Aadhaar in 2014 and mobile pushing further and further in to the hinterlands, we expect to see further growth in the T4D sector soon,” he added.

More about Unitus Seed fund: http://usf.vc/