We live in a time of tremendous challenges that can only be overcome by innovation and entrepreneurs with the vision to see them through. And at Villgro our motivation, inspiration and goal will always be to create an ecosystem where it is possible for both to thrive.
Because we believe that the future is in innovative ideas and enterprises that are developed with the intention of doing away with inequity, of helping the poor attain better opportunities and of enabling the marginalised enjoy a quality of life that has not been available to them till now.
As the lights go out on 2015, we reflect on the year we’ve had:
In education, we added to our portfolio another company working in K-12 education – iTeach – and also made our first investment in skill training through ESDECS. We also continue to develop an important partnership with Teach For India to source and support early-stage education entrepreneurs.
Partnerships were again the key in our health portfolio with new relationships forged with Karuna Trust, WISH Foundation and Marico Innovation Foundation and reputed clinicians. A collaboration with BIRAC saw the induction of a BIRAC SIIP Fellowship ‘cohort’ which is supporting entrepreneurs developing solutions in maternal and child health care. Two companies – Nayam Innovations and Omix Labs – were added to the portfolio as well.
In agriculture, Villgro incubatee Flybird Innovations raised funding from Mahindra Finance and Kamal Kisan successfully launched its product in the market. Support to agri and agri-business companies has got a boost with the Villgro-Artha partnership that opens up more funding to companies along with Villgro’s in-depth incubation support.
Villgro incubatee Artoo raised follow-on funding from Accion and Ecozen Solutions raised funding from Omnivore Partners, also marking Villgro’s first ‘exit’. Clean fuel company SustainEarth was also funded by Mahindra Finance.
In another big boost for entrepreneurs all over India, especially in 8 low-income states, the TDB and DFID supported INVENT programme has launched. Managed by Villgro, this offers incubators and social enterprises in 8 Indian states support and funding to scale and grow in the next four years. We have selected our first company under this programme (subject to due diligence) called Carmel Organics, which was scouted through the national TV show called Masterpreneur on CNBC Awaaz, on which Villgro is the funding partner.
We continued to create opportunities to learn and grow for social entrepreneurs in various cities all over India through our Unconvention platform through pitch contests and inspirational events, which saw over hundreds of applications and attendees. We had the privilege of hosting Nobel Peace Prize winner and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus speak to our community and have an engaging chat with Villgro founder Paul Basil.
A reflection of our work is the people drawn to our cause. An eighth cohort of Villgro Fellows started their Fellowship, working with social enterprises in Villgro’s portfolio on critical aspects of their businesses. We also expanded our circle of mentors and are truly proud of experienced committed group of people who now mentor our companies.
We also had a Chief Technology Officer Ashwin Ramachandran join our management and are also honoured to count Selco founder Harish Hande and R. Ramaraj of Elevar Equity as our new board members.
We are scaling – deep, wide and broad.
Deeper into the health, education, energy and agri sectors, building an ecosystem of support for the innovators and entrepreneurs that we incubate.
Broader by moving up the continuum to support early stage social entrepreneurs through a new $10mn seed fund to be launched early next year.
And wider by replicating outside of India – in Kenya already and Vietnam shortly. We are also in the process of training a partner to start up social enterprise incubators modeled on Villgro in Bangladesh, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Our ambition is to replicate and adapt the Villgro model in a 100 countries in the next 20 years.
All of this only serves to remind us that people and companies have entrusted a great deal of faith in us, which we don’t take lightly. There’s much more to do in the world if we are to see deep-rooted change happen and we are raring to make 2016 count for more.
Happy New Year!