The social sector is an ever-expanding ecosystem of NGOs, social enterprises, impact investors, consultants, investment banks, etc. There are now various career opportunities across the space but it still isn’t easy to navigate through the maze. With this article, we attempt to capture a listing of the key players across the sector albeit limited to impact investors, investment banks, and incubators, and accelerators.
India has an active impact investment community that has sprawled with investing across seed to growth stage.
Unitus Seed Fund
Unitus Seed Fund (USF) is a US$ 23 million fund focused on seed funding early-stage social entrepreneurs. With funding from Lemelson Foundation, Sorenson Impact Foundation, and multiple HNIs, USF has been actively investing in the social startup space across sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture, water, energy, etc. – being fairly sector agnostic. Their current portfolio includes companies such as Hippocampus, Welcare, mGaadi, etc.
They run various investment campaigns such as StarEdu, StarHealth, and StarAadhaar, aimed at providing a platform for social enterprises to showcase their work and also get investment. USF also takes investment proposals through a submit link on their website.
Intellecap Impact Investment Network (I3N or I-cube-N) is a global platform that aggregates individual and institutional impact investors to co-invest in social enterprises across India and East Africa. The focus is on angel funding of social enterprises.
Their portfolio includes companies across sectors, such as AgroStar, Head Held High, iKure, etc.
Elevar is an institutional investor investing across sectors in the impact space. They invest in India, Latin America, Philippines, and Indonesia.
With a primary focus on series A investments, in a majority of their investees, they were the first investors. Their portfolio includes companies such as Glocal, Shubham, Vistaar, etc. With the aim of being accessible, the website has a section that enables entrepreneurs to submit their business plans through the dedicated link.
Lok Capital is an India dedicated impact investment fund that manages to funds with a corpus of close to US$ 100 million. Their first fund was exclusively focussed on investing microfinance but diversified across sectors such as education and healthcare with the second fund. They are currently in the process of raising a third fund, rumoured to be at US$ 100 million.
Lok’s portfolio includes several microfinance companies, housing finance companies, and healthcare and education companies like QED, Drishti, Sewa Grih Rin, etc. Lok can be reached through their website, and again if you’re an entrepreneur and want to send an investment proposal, you’re in luck.
Accion is a global non-profit organisation working towards poverty eradication – focused on financial services. The Frontier Investment Group at Accion is a venture equity fund investing in financial services companies. With years of experience in the microfinance space, Accion’s Frontier Investment Group invests in companies that have disruptive business models and/or leverage technology to increase access and affordability of financial services.
They recently invested US$ 2.4 million in NeoGrowth, a Mumbai-based SME finance company. They accept investment proposals via email and the template as well as contact details can be found here.
Another Intellecap group company, IntelleGrow is one of the most active providers of debt capital to social enterprises. The focus on sectors such as agricultural supply chain, clean energy, education, financial inclusion, affordable healthcare, water and sanitation, but are also flexible to explore other sectors that bring about a tangible social impact.
Their portfolio includes companies such as Milk Mantra, Banka Bioloo, Bioserve, etc.
A decade old impact investment organisation, Acumen provides grant and equity capital to social enterprises. They invest across the world and across sectors and provide the companies not only with capital, but also a strong operational support through their fellowship program.
With their India offices in Mumbai, Acumen has invested in companies such as Ziqitza, Hippocampus, Asian Health Alliance, etc. They have provided a detailed process flow of applying for investments and the same can be found here.
Ankur Capital is a seed-stage investor in companies in sectors such as productivity enhancement, income generation, health, and education.
Having started in 2012, the growing portfolio of Ankur has companies such as ERC Eyecare, Crop-In Technologies, etc. Entrepreneurs looking to reach out to them can send their proposals via email to email@example.com
Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, is a private foundation started by the founders of Dell. With a focus on healthcare and education, MSDF provides grant and equity capital to social enterprises.
With its India offices in Delhi, MSDF has invested in companies such as Edutel, NEST, Waterlife, etc. In some companies, such as Edutel, they have supported the company’s initial phase through grant funding and later through equity investments. Grant applications can be submitted through their grants page.
Omidyar Network is an impact investment and foundation built into one. Founded by eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pamela Kerr Omidyar, ON has invested across the world and across sectors. Though fairly sector agnostic, their key focus areas are healthcare, education, governance and citizen engagement, financial inclusion, consumer internet and mobile, and property rights.
With popular investments such as 1mg (nee HealthKart.com) and Change.org, ON has invested in multiple social enterprises in India.
Omnivore Partners is an agri and food technology focussed investment firm. Launched in 2010, they are now one of the most active investors in the agri startup space. They are also currently in the process of raising a second fund, rumoured to be at US$ 50 million.
Their portfolio includes companies such as Skymet and Arohan Foods.
Aavishkaar is the investment fund in the Intellecap group of companies. Founded by Vineet Rai, Aavishkaar invests across sectors such as healthcare, education, financial services, water, and sanitation, etc.
With over a decade of experience in the impact investment space, Aavishkaar has invested in companies such as AgroStar, Karadi Path, MeraDoctor, Vaatsalya, etc.
Although there is an array of impact investors in the space, social entrepreneurs still fumble when it comes to many key investment aspects – finding the right investor, preparing an investment story, negotiating key rights, etc. There are very active commercial and social investment banks that focus on helping social entrepreneurs and below are a list of the key investment banks focused exclusively on the impact space.
Unitus Capital (UC) is one of the leading investment banks in the social sector and works across sectors and geographies. They have been ranked the number one investment bank in India by Venture Intelligence, on deal volume, across years. UC mobilises equity, debt, and structured products such as non-convertible debentures and were one of the key advisors to the SKS IPO. As per company reports, they have facilitated over US$ 1 bn in funding to social enterprises.
They have worked on equity raising projects for Janalakshmi, Vindhya, Forus, among many social enterprises and helped these companies raise funds across funding rounds.
An investment bank, Intellecap was one of the first in the Intellecap group of companies. With an active practice in India and Africa, Intellecap has facilitated investments in several social enterprises – amounting to over US$ 200 million.
They have helped raise funding in companies such as Gramco Infratech, Suryoday, etc.
Founded by Grameen Foundation (founded by Muhammad Yunus), IFMR, and Citibank, Grameen Capital focuses on mobilising investments into social enterprises. They work across financial products in the equity and debt investment space.
They have facilitated funding into companies such as Svasti Microfinance, Vienova, Cashpor, etc.
Accelerators and Incubators
India has seen a spurt in accelerators and incubators designed to mentor and chisel the vision of social entrepreneurs.
Backed by Ashoka and Rockefeller Foundation, Villgro was founded in 2001 to mentor and incubate social enterprises. They have so far incubated over 43 companies in the space, across sectors. They have incubated companies like Skillveri, Biosense, etc.
Villgro has also recently launched Rs 20-crore incubation fund, with support from MSDF, focused on education startups.
Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) was setup at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) with support from the Central and State (Gujarat) Government and is a not for profit entity.
A confluence of IIMA faculties, alumni, partner organisations, etc., CIIE focuses on incubation and general ecosystem building activities like academic initiatives, conferences, etc. They also invest in companies that they mentor and provide fund raising support as well.
Their portfolio includes companies like Boond, Awaaz De, iStar, Karma Recycling, etc. These incubations were done through various initiatives at CIIE like Aarohan Ventures, Infuse Ventures, etc. Each of them have dedicated contact links on their individual websites and can be reached through the main CIIE website.
The list is not exhaustive, it covers the major players in the field. We hope to revise and expand this list in the future.