Unitus Capital is a financial advisory firm specializing in arranging capital for microfinance institutions (MFIs) and other social enterprises benefiting those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Based in Bangalore, India, Unitus Capital delivers a range of financial advisory and capital market services to clients in India and the rest of Asia, and is planning to expand soon to other markets.
A founding team member of Unitus Capital, Abhijit Ray transitioned from the Capital Markets team at Unitus, which he joined in early 2006. At Unitus, he worked with MFIs on debt and equity arranging transactions, along with providing financial advisory services. Prior to joining Unitus, Abhijit brought 13 years of diverse experience encompassing development finance, commercial banking and microfinance – most recently, he was AGM with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) where he oversaw SIDBI’s microfinance portfolio in the state of Andhra Pradesh, and also acted as the business development manager for SME projects. Abhijit has appraised more than 50 MFIs in India for debt funding and has assessed capacity building needs of more than 35 MFIs, spearheading most of the assessments. Abhijit started his career with the State Bank of India (SBI), where he worked in diverse areas, in six different locations within India. He has attended the School of Applied Microfinance Programme (Mombasa, Kenya) and the Strategic Leadership Programme in Microfinance at the Harvard Business School. Abhijit holds a Bachelors degree in economics from Kolkata University and is a Certified Associate (CAIIB) of the Indian Institute of Banking and Finance.
Anshu Gupta founded Goonj in 1998, an organisation which recycles anything that is discarded as an urban “waste” into a resource for others in the rural and calamity-hit areas.
Goonj collects about 20,000kg of clothes every month across India, and turns them into something useable for the very poor - clothing, bags, sanitary napkins, etc. - and reaches them to the needy across 20 states. Goonj achieves this by running collection drives (called ‘Vastradans’) in urban India where people donate clothes which they do not use anymore, but which are in good condition and can be worn. The clothes are processed and sorted in centres run by Goonj across the country. The processed clothes are then channelized through grass root NGOs and provided either free or under the ‘clothes for work’ scheme.
Anshu Gupta is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, and Masters in Economics. Anshu Gupta is an Ashoka Fellow and Ashoka Global Ambassador. For his work, he has been the recipient of Changemakers Innovation Award 2004 & 2006, World Bank’s Development Marketplace Award 2007, NGO of the Year Award 2007, etc.
Ashoka Fellow & Social Entrepreneur of the Year '08
Founded by Arbind Singh (a post-graduate in Sociology and LLB from Delhi University) in 1996, Nidan builds profitable businesses and ‘people’s organizations’ that are led by assetless, informal workers. A range of cooperatives, Self Help Groups (SHGs), trade unions, and individual and community businesses launched by Nidan have positioned unorganized workers as legitimate competitors in globalizing markets of India. Nidan works in Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi and Rajasthan.
In 13 years, Nidan has launched and promoted 20 independent businesses and organizations that are governed and owned through shares by 60,000 urban and rural poor members, impacting the lives of 360,000 poors. The enterprises include 4618 SHGS, 75 market committees, 19 co-operatives, two societies and one company—all envisioned and led by a complex of waste workers, rag pickers, vegetable vendors, construction labourers, domestic helpers, micro-farmers, street traders and other marginalized occupation groups.
Trustee & Member of Investment Board
Aavishkaar India Micro Venture Capital Fund
Arun Diaz graduated with an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur in 1973, and has worked for 28 years with Standard Chartered Bank in India, Europe, Middle East and the Asia Pacific Region.
Since leaving SCB in late 2001, Arun was briefly Head, Reuters Consulting South Asia. He, now, volunteers his time to entrepreneurship development through Aavishkaar India Micro Venture Capital Fund of which he is a member of the Management and Investment Committees. The fund invests in small businesses which are socially relevant, environmentally friendly and economically viable.
Co-Founder & Managing Director
Having lived in France, India, Russia and the US, - and having worked with P&G and Danone - Ashish Rajpal blends a successful track record at Fortune-500 companies with a passion for education. A co-founder of iDiscoveri, he has an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur (92batch) and an Ed.M (Mind, Brain and Education) from Harvard University. Drawing upon his inter-disciplinary background in education, management and cognitive psychology, Ashish has done innovative work in the areas of school curriculum, teacher education, leadership, and creativity. He was also listed among the "50 Leaders Re-Shaping Indian Education" by Education World in '06.
Discoveri is a social enterprise with a mission to renew education in India. iDiscoveri was founded in 1996 and is now a leading enterprise in the spaces of school education, enterprise leadership development and outdoor education. iDiscoveri continues to innovate on its cutting edge curriculum and teaching methods and is poised for significant scale up across India and other countries.
Akshara Foundation is a Bangalore-based Public Charitable Trust with the mission to ensure that every child is in school and learning well. Established in the year 2000, Akshara Foundation has a range of programmes that provide multiple solutions for universalizing elementary education.
Akshara is a part of the Pratham Education Initiative and has replicated Pratham’s approach of comprehensive, scalable, replicable and cost-effective education solutions. Akshara works in Bangalore, North Karnataka and will soon expand its work to reach the entire state of Karnataka through its close partnership with the Education Department of the Government of Karnataka and the different school administrations.
All Akshara’s programs are child-centric and are designed to ensure that:
To date, Akshara has impacted over 3,50,000 children in and around the state of Karnataka through its programmes.
Ashok Kamath has taken over as Chairman from July I, 2008. He has been actively involved in the strategic planning, analysis and expansion of programmes at Akshara Foundation since 2003. An alumnus of IIT, Mumbai, he was formerly the Managing Director of the Indian operation of Analog Devices. He opted to leave behind a successful career in the corporate sector and involve himself in the development sector. Ashok is also a trustee of Pratham Books and PROOF.
Dr Ashwin Naik
Co-Founder & CEO
Vaatsalya Healthcare Systems Pvt Ltd
Vaatsalya is India's first hospital network focused on Tier II and Tier III towns. Vaatsalya provides affordable healthcare services to thousands of families across Karnataka through hospitals in Hubli, Gadag, Bijapur, Mandya, Raichur, Hassan, Mysore, Gulbarga and Shimoga. Aavishkaar was the first investor to come on board at idea stage, followed by Seedfund and Oasis Fund.
When Dr. Ashwin Naik, 36, came up with the idea for Vaatsalya Healthcare in 2004, his dream was to get young doctors to come to small-town India. It was also the key to the success of his rather unique business model: world-class healthcare for rural and semi-urban consumers at rock-bottom prices.
Dr Balaji Utla
Health Management & Research Institute
Dr. Balaji Utla has over 24 years of experience spanning industry, non- profits and academia in the areas of learning, organization development and strategy, and corporate social responsibility. Since January 2007, Dr. Utla is the CEO of Health Management and Research Institute (HMRI).
Health Management and Research Institute (HMRI) is a nonprofit organization working towards improved access and quality of healthcare services for all. HMRI leveraging state-of-the-art information and communication technologies and modern management practices to transform healthcare delivery by creating the world’s largest integrated digital health network. Its State-of-the-art health helpline that provides the 80 million people of Andhra Pradesh with round-the-clock, qualified and standardized medical information, advice and counselling
Chandra Shekhar Ghosh
Chairman & Managing Director
Senior Ashoka Fellow & winner of Microfinance Award '09,
Chandra Shekhar Ghosh is an M.Sc. in Statistics and has over 25 years of relevant industry experience. He is a “Senior Ashoka Fellow”, and is a member of the the Governing Board of SA-DHAN – the primary association of Microfinance Institutions of India. He is also one of the Committee Members of the Core Team that Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has formed for its Partner MFIs to advice in the policy making process, on the board of READ India and occupies an Advisory Board seat in other MFIs. Mr. Ghosh is also a member of ‘State Level Review & Co-ordination Committee on Credit Delivery Innovations’ constituted by NABARD.
Mr. Ghosh heads Bandhan, one of the leading MFIs of the country, ranked 2nd in the world as per Forbes magazine. Bandhan is operating in 14 states of the country through a network of above 1,000 branches with more than 2 million poor women and with a work force of over 6,000 employees. Loan outstanding stands at Rs. 1,080 crores and repayment rate is recorded at 99.91%. In a short span, Bandhan has received due recognition for all its work viz. Pro Poor Innovation Challenge (PPIC) Award by CGAP, Skoch Challenger award for financial inclusion, and the Micro Finance India Award 2009 under the category of ‘Institution of the Year’.
Jaipur Rugs Foundation
Devendra Shukla is the Director of Jaipur Rugs Foundation, a public trust formed in 2004, and works with the purpose to uplift the underprivileged communities through sustainable employment in carpet weaving.
JRF was formerly known as the International Research and Development Institute (IRDI), it aims generate and spread the art of carpet weaving to underprivileged and deprived communities. Being a welfare initiative of Jaipur Rugs Company, this foundation aims to develop the rural artisans and weavers in a way that enhances their capacity to grow and sustain a better standard of living. At present, it operates in 12 states of India touching more than 40000 lives and plans to expand its spheres globally.
General Manager (New Initiatives)
ITC- Agri Business Div
GN Murthy has experience of 27 years in various functions at different levels. Currently he is involved in setting up a supply chain system for our Horticulture business and Bio Mass based power generation as a part of extension in the echoupals.
Before joining ITC Limited in Nov 1990 worked with organization dealing in the processing of oilseeds and marketing in the finance function with focus on operations and information systems. In 1990, he joined ITC Limited in the Finance Function for heading the Oilseed processing operation. For the initial period of 8 years he was involved in setting up the processes and systems for supply chain management and monitoring the processes of procurement and processing. He was also involved the plant operations and logistics with focus on management information systems and implementation of Information Technology, export documentation.
As a head of branch played a key role in initiation and implementation of the echoupal network in Madhya Pradesh, which has the challenges of identification of villages, sanchalaks, setting up the infrastructures, communication of the concept of echoupal and training on the usage of the IT systems by the farmers. Worked out processes for procurement of commodities directly from the farmers through the echoupals network and setup standard operating processes.
Kirti Prasanna Mishra
A Master in Statistics, Kirti has been with MART for the past 14 years, leading various research and consulting assignments of MART in development sector. His area of expertise is in using marketing to provide strategic solutions for livelihood promotion.
Kirti has participated in the development of the MART 3M Model for improving livelihoods. The objective was to create and strengthen rural marketing platforms, such as the haat, to facilitate agricultural produce marketing among bottom-of-pyramid entrepreneurs and establishing a mass marketing format to enable Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Common Interest Groups. He has also been one of the architects of the SHG-Hindustan Lever initiative titled ‘Project Shakti’, which marked the first-of-its-kind coming together of corporate sector and development sector players. Kirti led the pilot initiative of Project Shakti in Andhra Pradesh, and the initiative is now running successfully in 12 states.
He is currently leading MART’s collective marketing initiate in tribal pockets of Orissa and Jharkhand. This has successfully engaged 7500 women from 500 villages to market for forst, agri and horti commodities and by now achieved a cumulative sale of Rs 6.5 crore. With an average price increment of 10% across 15 commodities, the initiative has accrued additional income to these women and there are many other larger impacts like creation of marketing cader, NGO’s getting into this it is helping micro finance, people are getting into supplying standard produce to organized buyers etc.
Vice President (Marketing)
International Development Enterprises-India
Niraj Subrat heads the marketing initiatives of IDEI, a not-for-profit organization (established in 1991), committed to providing long-term solutions to fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
IDEI is engaged in development of small scale irrigation and rural mass marketing of simple, affordable appropriate and environmentally sustainable technologies to small and marginal farm families through private marketing channels. It stimulates a sustainable and free market by creating demand for affordable technologies and ensuring a sustainable supply chain. Committed to providing long-term solutions to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, presently IDEI has operations in selected districts of 15 states.
Founder & CEO
Villgro Innovations Foundation
Paul Basil is founder and CEO of Villgro (Formerly known as Rural Innovations Network), an organization committed to commercializing rural innovations that benefit rural consumers and contribute to sustainable wealth creation. Over the last eight years, He has worked with hundreds of innovators and innovations. He co-founded the Lemelson Recognition and Mentoring Program for Innovators in collaboration with IIT-Madras. He has also co-founded Villgro Store (Samruddhi), a unique rural retail chain for innovative products that markets innovations to and for the rural poor.
Paul was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002 for his outstanding social entrepreneurship in establishing RIN. He has also been conferred the Samaj Seva Bhushan Award by The Subharam Trust and the Star Entrepreneur Award by the Indira Innovation Summit. He is a member of the Promotion Board of the Technopreneur Promotion Program, an initiative of the Indian government's Department of Science and Technology.
Paul Basil was one of the earliest team members at the marketing department of the Kerala Horticulture Development Programme, a programme of the EU and Kerala Government. He has also worked with the tree growers project of the National Dairy development Board. He is a mechanical engineer and postgraduate in management from the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, India.
Pravin Mahajan is founder member of Janarth, the organization he is working with since 1986. He has long experience of visioning and implementing projects. From 1992 to 2000 he also held additional charge as Regional Co-ordinator of ActionAid (UK) for the state. In 2000 he resigned from ActionAid to concentrate full time on Janarth as Executive Director. He is heading Janarth Sakhar Shala initiative, a part of the movement for providing access to seasonal migrant children as their fundamental right.
Pravin Mahajan, graduated from Fergusson college, and was awarded his Masters degree in Economics from University of Pune in 1977. He joined CDSA, an outfit for Development studies as faculty member and was responsible for assisting Research activities and also had teaching assignments to students of PG diploma in Planning. In 1980 he joined OXFAM as Field Officer and worked in Central India for four years and later in North India for two years. In 1986 he was selected as Director, Large Project Initiative, by ActionAid (UK). Pravin based himself in one of the most backward districts in Maharashtra State viz. Aurangabad.
Janarth, meaning “for the people” is a registered voluntary organization. Established in 1986, the organization took the challenge of working in Gangapur Block of Aurangabad district, a chronically drought prone area. Having implemented several projects successfully over last two decades; the organization is now concentrating their efforts in three major areas viz. Education of Seasonal Migrant children, Community based Rehabilitation of the challenged persons and Agro commodity marketing and processing.
The organization has also undertaken a research study that will highlight the issues concerning the seasonal migrants.
The organization is running full time schools for the migrant children at over 100 places, spread over three states viz. Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The organization is also running hostels for the children of migrant laborers in their native villages, this year they are covering over 2000 children in 39 villages.
Dr Rukmini Banerji
Dr Rukmini Banerji is responsible for Pratham’s work in several major states in north India. Pratham is the largest non governmental organization working to provide quality education to the underprivileged children of India. Pratham was established in 1994 to provide pre-school education to the children in the slums of Mumbai city, and has now grown to reach more than 33mn children across rural and urban India though its various programs.
She is also a lead member of the team that conducts ASER (Annual Status of Education Report). ASER is the largest annual study ever done by Indian citizens to monitor the status of elementary education in the country. In 2008, this citizen’s audit reached over 7,04,000 children in 16,198 villages of India. In the four years since it was initiated, the ASER is referred to by the Central and State Governments for formulating various plans and policies. Pratham is also represented in important policy making bodies both at the Central and State levels, including the Governing Council of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Initially trained as an economist in India, Dr Rukmini Banerji was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and completed her PhD at the University of Chicago. She did her post doctoral work at the Population Research Centre at the University of Chicago and later worked as a program officer at the Spencer Foundation before returning to India in 1996.
Founder and CEO
DesiCrew Solutions Pvt Ltd
Saloni Malhotra is the Founder and CEO of DesiCrew, "a non-urban, socially motivated" enterprise, which provides IT enabled service centers in rural areas, employ and train local people to meet the back office demands of clients. With a social mission driving the business, DesiCrew focuses on generating wealth in the rural economy rather than extracting wealth from the rural areas. DesiCrew services span industries, geographies and multiple Indian languages/ dialects. Our back office services cater to verticals such as Insurance, Market Research, Internet & Mobile, E-Governance, and the Social Sector. It currently employs over 130 people across 6 centers in Tamil Nadu.
Launched in 2007, Saloni's work with DesiCrew has been featured in leading newspapers and magazines across the globe such as BusinessWeek, BusinessToday, The Economic Times, Fast Company, The Hindu, etc. She was nominated for BusinessWeek's Asia's Youngest Entrepreneurs, MTV Youth Icon 2008, E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 and was also facilitated in the presence of the President of India by the CII.
Saloni is an engineer from the University of Pune, and started her career in an interactive media start up, Web Chutney in Delhi, before founding DesiCrew.
Founder & CEO
Ujjivan Financial Services Pvt Ltd
Samit Ghosh is founder & CEO of Ujjivan Financial Service (Ujjivan), a micro finance institution which as of August 31st, 2009, has 190 branches across India covering 12 States and over 448,000 poor working women as customers. They have disbursed over Rupees 5.3 billion of loans and have a repayment rate exceeding 98.9%. Samit is also a founder member and the Secretary of the Association of Karnataka Microfinance Institutions (AKMI).
Samit Ghosh was a career banker spanning 30 years and worked both in South Asia and in the Middle East. He started his career with Citibank in 1975 and was part of Citibank’s pioneering management team to launch consumer banking to the middle class in India in 1985-90 and the Arabian Gulf in 1990-93. He led the launch of Retail Banking in South Asia and Middle East for Standard Chartered Bank during 1993-96. In 1996 as Executive Director of HDFC Bank he initiated their Retail Banking business. His last banking assignment was as Chief Executive of Bank Muscat in India from 1998 to 2003.
He is a graduate of Economics from Jadavpur University, Kolkata; and Master of Business Administration from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Founder & Managing Director
Sandeep Farrias founded Elevar Equity “to provide equity to entrepreneurs who challenge discrimination, help them prove their business model, establish the right governance, and raise additional capital to grow.” Elevar Equity is a leading global growth investor focused on the underserved four billion at the base of the pyramid in developing countries. We make equity capital available to entrepreneurs providing microfinance, financial and other services to customers at the base of the economic pyramid in emerging markets. Our companies understand that customer focus, innovation, growth, and profitability combine to create opportunity and prosperity in local communities. The Elevar philiosophy revolves around investing for social and economic returns: returns based on open access for everyone to life changing services.
Sandeep came to the microfinance world from Nishith Desai Associates (NDA), one of India’s leading law firms where he founded the firm’s development sector practice, incubated new practice areas and led its corporate law practice (mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and investments). He also established the firm’s offices in Palo Alto, California and Bangalore, India. Sandeep’s work after the Gujarat earthquake in 2000 on behalf of American India Foundation helped NDA win the Asian Law Firm of the Year (Pro Bono) Award by the International Financial Law Review.
Prior to co-founding Elevar, he founded Unitus’ India operations in 2004, and also served as its Chief Innovation Officer at Unitus, test piloting ideas and projects on a global basis shaping Unitus’ long term strategy. He also serves as a Director of Madura Microfinance and has served as a Director of Ujjivan and Comat Technologies. In different capacities, Sandeep has represented or advised organizations such as Google, Amazon, Ashoka, Singapore Telecom and IL&FS Trust Company. Sandeep has an integrated law & arts honors degree from the National Law School of India University in Bangalore, India.
Director, South Asia Partnerships
Ashoka Innovators for the Public
Sohini Bhattacharya is Director for Partnerships, with the Ashoka Innovators for the Public, South Asia, an international organization pioneering and promoting the concept of social entrepreneurship, and directs institution building and development for Ashoka in South Asia. Sohini joined Ashoka in March 2000 to help expand the Venture program in West India. As the western India Regional Representative she brought together a diverse group of Fellows and ramped up the program in the area. Later as a Director for Venture in India, she built systems and created awareness and resources for Ashoka India.
Sohini has worked in the field of development with special focus on women for 10 years prior to joining Ashoka in 2000. She started out working with Child In Need Institute (CINI), a premier Mother and Child Health organization in India and later on helped in the launch of a new program within the organization working on income generation and micro-credit for rural women. As a program officer with Dastkar, a society for traditional craftspeople working on identifying the needs of craftspeople in India and brining them closer to the market, she worked with craftsgroups all over the country, understanding markets, issues in production and the struggle of the craftspeople. During 1996-1998, Sohini worked on setting up reporting and accounting systems for micro-credit and training women’s groups across the country on gender rights and micro-credit working with an Ashoka Fellow. In 1996 she also helped another Ashoka Fellow set up Sanhita, a Gender Rights Centre, in Calcutta and worked as the Trustee and the main program coordinator for the crucial first two years of the launch.
She serves as the president on the board of CREA, an organization working on enhancing women’s leadership and focusing on sexuality, reproductive health, violence against women and social justice. She is also an active member of the board of READ India, a branch of READ Global, a social enterprise working to build self-serving communities through libraries in rural areas.
Sohini holds a post-graduate degree in English Literature from Jadavpur University, Calcutta and loves traveling, theatre and photography.
Soumen Biswas is the Executive Director of PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action), with almost 25 years of experience in development sector.
A Graduate from IRMA, Soumen has worked with PRADAN since 1986 in various roles and across geographies, and has handled projects dealing with community development, promotion of SHGs, forest- and agriculture-based livelihoods, etc.
PRADAN is a non-government, non-profit organisation that works with India’s rural poor. Across seven of the poorest states in the country, PRADAN promotes Self-Help Groups; develops locally suitable economic activities; mobilises finances; and introduces systems to improve livelihoods of the rural poor and sustain their progress. PRADAN professionals work with over 112,900 families in 3,044 villages across seven of the poorest states in the country.
Vinay Kumar is the chief strategist at Digital Green. Digital Green is a young and dynamic organization that uses tools of information and communication technology for social change. It creates enabling environments for communities to adopt new and better behaviors to bring about sustainable change in the quality of life among populations living at the base of social pyramid. In its first intervention, it demonstrated immense potential in improving the lives of small and marginal farmers in a highly cost effective manner.
Prior to joining Digital Green, Vinay Kumar was Director of Operations for PATH, a Seattle based international development organization. In this role, he led, developed, directed, and oversaw operations (external relations, corporate communications, financial management services and administrative systems, human resources, contracting, and Information Technology) across a broad range of programs with an annual budget of over $ 20m. Prior to joining PATH, he was on the faculty of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA and directed administration and finance including initiatives in performance improvement in the Asia / Near East region.
Earlier, as the Vice President of JPS Associates, he has worked across a wide breadth of areas including environment, forestry, bio-diversity, education, rural development, urban planning and development etc. The firm saw a ten fold growth in its annual turnover during my tenure. He has also worked with RBI, and as the editor of Indian Management.
Vinay Kumar has an MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University, an M.Phil. in International Relations from School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and an M.A. in Political Science from School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.