A group of impact investors and alumni of IIM and IIT have come together to invest an undisclosed amount in Aakar Innovations, the portfolio company of IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) working in the domain of affordable sanitary napkins for rural Indian women.
The investment round was led by CIIE with further participation from Artha Platform, a leading philanthropy community in India. The investment was carried out under the ACT for Impact Programme at CIIE, focusing on using alumni connections to bring more angel capital into the ecosystem. The program was supported by eminent philanthropic foundations including the Rockefeller Foundation, Omidyar Network and Dasra.
Vipul Patel, senior manager, CIIE Initiatives said,
CIIE is excited to be partnering with IIMA alums driven by a strong desire to create social impact along with generating financial returns. These angels bring a diverse set of expertise and shall bring enormous non-monetary value to the company.
Aakar is a hybrid social enterprise that manufactures high-quality, compostable and hygienic sanitary pads, which are priced below other branded, competitive products. These pads are produced and sold by women entrepreneurs in their own villages. Their not-for-profit arm trains rural women to run manufacturing units and create awareness about menstrual hygiene. As a part of this arm, Aakar has started a crowdfunding campaign called “Freedom from Shame” to raise donations. Sombodhi Ghosh, co-founder of Aakar Innovations said,
Over 100 donors have already given their support and we are looking to raise additional donations to support more women entrepreneurs.
They have so far sold 22 machines across India of which 15 units are operational and the rest seven will be functional by mid-December. These machines, which are usually set up in rural villages and urban-slum areas, has led to the direct employment of over 200 women.
On investing in Aakar, Geeta Goel, Director, Mission Investing at Michael & Susan Dell Foundation said,
Both at a personal and professional level, I have been amazed at the power of the market in trying to bridge inequalities in access, quality and income levels. If delivered in a responsible manner, such products and services can have tremendous social impact that can both scale and sustain itself. In that respect, Aakar is a great example of a responsible, customer centric, cost effective solution to the issue of women’s hygiene in rural and low income areas, a problem that has plagued us for several generations and is at the core of poor health of millions of women. Investing alongside incubators such as CIIE gives significant comfort on the basic due diligence and governance of such ventures.
Former ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ (EiR) at CIIE, Sambodhi spoke about raising the first-round of investment and expanding to Africa,
Raising impact investment is a difficult and laborious process in India. As an impact first company, our need was to get investors who are willing to contribute to the impact that we are striving to generate. CIIE’s ACT for Impact programme helped us find such investors. We are seeing significant interest from partners internationally, and are already working with several African organizations. We are planning to commence these operations in partnership with local organizations in Kenya and Uganda in the next few months.