Incofin IM raises more than 50 million euros in a first investment round for its new impact fund focused on rural development and financial inclusion in India. The fund makes private equity investments in the Indian agri food value chain and in financial inclusion for rural entrepreneurs in India. The fund made its first investments in three growing enterprises. 

India as an impact investment destination holds great promise. It is a country with an aspirational, young population (86% of the population is younger than 55 years) focused on enriching their lives through hard work and entrepreneurship. At the same time, the country faces serious challenges like inequality (gender, education, family wealth) and a lack of technology,  organised supply chains, and access to capital. Although 65% of India’s population lives in rural areas, private equity investments have largely focused on urban companies. As a result, many budding entrepreneurs fail to realise their full potential.

The Incofin India Progress Fund (IPF),  wants to change this and supports these promising entrepreneurs to increase their chances of success through patient capital, mentoring and access to a global network. IPF will focus on two sectors which make the deepest social impact in the Indian context – financial inclusion and the agri-food value chain.

The committed capital comes from a diverse set of private and institutional investors including Korys, CDC, Proparco, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO), the SDG Frontier Fund, the King Baudouin Foundation and several Belgian family offices.

Agri Food Value Chain

Today, vegetables or grains often have to go through many intermediaries before they get from the producer to the store shelves. The long food chain leads to higher costs and generates significant food waste. There are plenty small agro-tech companies that can shorten the supply chain but they have difficulty accessing capital. The Incofin India Progress Fund intends to fill the gap. A more efficient supply chain with fewer handling points will also lead to more transparency and a reduction in food wastages.

The fund has made its first two investments in the young agro-technology companies Unnati (https://www.unnatiagri.com/) and SuperZop (http://www.superzop.com/).

Unnati is Hindi for “progress”. The company, founded in 2010, lives up to that name by guiding farmers through the entire agricultural process more easily using digital means.

This can range from providing quality seeds and other agricultural inputs at cheap prices, to advice on which inputs to use at a particular time, to how to protect their plants and maximize the production.

Through the uStore app, the farmer has access to a network of more than 11,000 points of sale – one of the largest networks of its kind in India. In this way, 4 million farmers find a market for sugar cane, maize , wheat, cotton, mustard and pulses.

SuperZop

 

Financial inclusion

According to the World Bank, in 2017, India still had some 190 million adults who did not even have a bank account. The only country with more people without access to financial services is China. India has made good progress in this area in recent years, but it is mainly entrepreneurs in rural areas who are finding themselves closed to reliable capital sources and financial services.

Entrepreneurs therefore often fall back on informal sources of credit, which greatly increases the cost and risk of financing. In rural India, 84% of the credit needs of independent traders and SMEs are met informally. Traditional banks are more interested in large loans and are not very keen on doing business with rural customers. Using their services in rural India is much more complex and expensive than in cities: in an environment where business is often done informally, it is not easy to be able to produce formal documents.

Namdev Finvest is the first entity in which the fund has invested to increase financial inclusion.

 

More about Incofin India Progress Fund

One of India’s leading staples agri-tech commerce platform SuperZop, has raised USD 4 million Series A funding from Incofin’s India Progress Fund. Thanks to the platform, ten thousands of small retailers and restaurants can buy staples directly from farmers and food processors, leading to a more efficient agri-food value chain.

SuperZop, founded by Raghuveer Allada, Prithwi Singh and Darshan Krishnamurthy, has developed the largest stapels agri-commerce platform for B2B customers. The company enables more than 20,000 retailers to directly source staples from farmers, multiple producer organisations and processors from 13 states across India.

SuperZop combines advanced technology with innovative business process and is using a vertically driven product understanding approach to build farm-tech brands with greater sourcing linkages of the back-end staples supply chain. Our Farm-tech staples brands have also been extremely well received as there is a huge whitespace in branded staples, even in large consumption categories such as rice, wheat, pulses, dry fruits” said Prithwi Singh, Co-Founder of SuperZop.

It is an incredibly interesting point in time for the Agri-tech landscape in India and we are excited to partner with the team at Incofin, which brings a lot of depth and expertise in Food & Agri. We have built the business in an extremely capital efficient manner and this investment from Incofin will help us scale up in existing and new geographies including Tier-1 cities, invest in technology and further expand the product offering within the category”, said Raghuveer Allada, Co-Founder of SuperZop.

SuperZop’s proprietary technology includes the ordering app, a logistics optimisation engine and other tools , like an application to evaluate the quality of commodities through an image and machine learning.

“We have developed right tools like an AI based quality assessment platform and logistics optimisation engine that works for the B2B staples category. One of the key areas of fund deployment will be to build on data science and enhance systems for greater scale”, said Darshan Krishnamurthy, Co-founder of SuperZop.

Rahul Rai, Partner of Incofin in India announces proudly the first agri-tech investment of the recently launched Incofin India Progress Fund:“We are delighted to partner with the high-performance founders of SuperZop who are making an impact by bringing MSME food processors and Kirana stores more closely integrated, thereby delivering value to both farmers and retail consumers. Incofin looks forward to supporting them as they execute on this unique Agri-Tech opportunity.

The India-focused fund of Incofin IM makes private equity investments in the Indian agri-food value chain and the financial inclusion sector. Incofin’s current investments in India include Sohan Lal Commodity Management, SAVE Solutions, Faircent, Light Microfinance and Namdev Finvest.

 

Incofin invests USD 4.7 million in Series A round of the Indian financial services provider Namdev. This investment is done from the recently launched Incofin India Progress Fund (IPF).

Jaipur-based Namdev Finvest Private Limited (Namdev), was founded in 2013 and has rapidly established itself as one of the leading non-banking financial companies in North West of India. The company focuses on impact lending to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and has presence in rural and semi-urban areas in the northwestern region of India. Namdev services currently more than 13,000 borrowers and aims to reach 100,000 clients in the next five to seven years. Founder and Managing Director of Namdev, Jitendra Tanwar labels this investment as a milestone for Namdev: “We are glad to partner with a world class impact investor as Incofin IM. The funding from IPF will strengthen our organic expansion plans. We would leverage Incofin’s strategic and deep impact support in our mission to provide affordable and qualitative financial services to our clients.

Aditya Bhandari, Regional Director Asia for Incofin comments: “Namdev provides a rare combination of deep social impact, a solid management team and a strong balance sheet. This is our first investment out of our new India focused equity fund IPF. India’s growth story depends largely on tech-enabled solutions for MSMEs and in-turn for rural prosperity. We are pleased to collaborate with Namdev in its vision to support first-time borrowers and women entrepreneurs in rural India.

Incofin has a strong presence in India with two local offices (one in New Delhi and one in Chennai). Besides Namdev, current investments in India include Sohan Lal Commodity Management (agri-to-finance integrated group), SAVE Solutions (one of the largest business correspondent networks), Faircent (largest peer-to-peer lending platform) and Light Microfinance (leading microfinance company focused on rural women entrepreneurs).

Incofin cvso disburses a EUR 2 million to Light Microfinance, so the financial institution can continue to support its clients.

Light Microfinance reaches over 200,000 clients – exclusively women in rural and semi-urban areas.  Loan sizes are small and used for productive purposes in the underserved markets of west India. The biggest group of their clients are dairy farmers (70%) who are part of local cooperatives. The collection centers in the villages are the places where those farmers can deposit the produced milk. The dairy sector in India cannot be underestimated. The country has the world’s largest dairy herd and is first among all countries in both production and consumption of milk.

Chauhan, for example, has been a member of Light Microfinance for over five years. As the primary wage earner of a six-member family, she was in dire need of income augmentation. She didn’t start in cattle rearing, but with the first of her loans from Light Microfinance, she started vegetable farming. Eventually, her business acumen enabled Chauhan to expand. Her income increased and she has even planned to hire two employees.

Light Microfinance offers a single loan product via a joint liability group model. Groups are typically made up of three to ten women. The financial institution constantly evaluates and adapts its single product offering to ensure that it remains relevant to the target client base.

Nasreenbano always wanted to support her family financially but didn’t have the means to do so. She came to know about Light Microfinance through other women in her village and joined a lending group served by the institution. She availed the loan to set up a power loom business, which provided her a good monthly income and gives her a strong say in the family decision-making.

Besides loans, Light’s product includes life insurance and medical insurance  as well as financial literacy for all clients via group trainings.

Alex Jeffery, Investment Associate of Incofin Investment Management comments: We are delighted to conclude this investment in Light Microfinance. We believe more and more underprivileged women will benefit fro mthis investment and improve their livelihood.