Good Business | November 25, 2019

Sankalp Global Summit keys in on entrepreneurial solutions to the Global Goals

Smarinita Shetty
Guest Author

Smarinita Shetty

ImpactAlpha, Nov. 25 – More than 1,100 participants from 20 countries will descend on Mumbai this week for the Sankalp Forum. Now in its 11th year, the global forum from Intellecap, the advisory arm of the Aavishkaar Group, brings one of the world’s largest spotlights to entrepreneurs and enterprises serving lower income segments and emerging middle classes across Asia and Africa.  

As many global conferences highlight investors as levers for change, Sankalp Forum stays laser focused on social entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs will be joined by investors, corporations, multilaterals and policymakers to take stock of the new ideas, innovative business models and investable opportunities to drive progress on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

“We aim to keep the social entrepreneur at the core of what we do, linking them to the knowledge, capital, and networks needed to make them successful,” says Urvashi Devidayal, who leads Sankalp India at Intellecap.

On the agenda: India’s Social Stock Exchange, impact tech, gender lens investing and innovative finance to fill persistent capital gaps. 

Social innovation

This year’s forum will play host to one of the first public discussions about India’s Social Stock Exchange, a platform still in the concept stage and one that will help direct capital to listed social enterprises. Members of the committee formed to draft regulations and suggest structures, including Mohandas Pai of Manipal Global Education, Bain Capital’s Amit Chandra, Aavishkaar’s Vineet Rai and Usha Thorat, formerly with Reserve Bank of India, will talk about what the exchange means for the impact investing ecosystem.

India is a hotbed of innovation for “impact tech,” which will feature in curated tracks on digital financial inclusion, water, agriculture and clean energy. Last month, for example, Gurgaon and Seoul-based startupTrue Balance raised $23 million to expand mobile payments to rural India.

Given its focus on entrepreneurs, Sankalp attracts the who’s who of impact investors and funders from around the world. Geeta Goel of Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Jayesh Parekh of Jungle Ventures, Virginia Tan of Teja Ventures and Beau Seil of Patamar Capital will discuss opportunities to fill capital gaps among other impact investing trends in Asia

“Sankalp attracts not just social entrepreneurs looking for funding but also investors looking for partners – whether it is for exits for their investee companies or new opportunities to fund,” says Devidayal. In September, Aavishkaar, with portfolio assets of more than $1 billion, raised $37 million from Dutch development bank FMO to fuel its expansion in Asia and Africa. Last December, the India impact investor raised $32 million from Nuveen.

Blended finance, gender-lens investing, India’s climate finance ecosystem, and investing in the value chain beyond toilets are among the other finance sessions on the agenda. Joining the discussions are representatives from Women’s World Banking, India Climate Collaborative, Children Investment Finance Fund, Yunus Social Business, Asha Impact, USAID, UKAID, UNDP and others.

Global goals

With the second largest population in the world, India faces mounting challenges delivering healthy food, clean water and equitable economic opportunities. That elevates the importance of issues like agriculture, sanitation and gender, representing at least three of the 17 U.N. Global Goals. In September, for example, Dutch banking giant Rabobank and impact investment firm Caspian launched a $2 million debt fund to provide working capital to India’s agtech startups.

Sankalp participants will also take up topics such as the role of the private sector in sanitation, making a business case for gender mainstreaming in agriculture, and circular opportunities in the textile value chain. 

In agriculture, participants will speak to the role and efficacy of agri-social enterprises, their investability as well as trade-offs between the social and commercial goals of the business. On the gender front, early stage investors adopting a gender lens will look to go beyond just enhancing access to finance for women-led businesses.

DOEN Foundation and Aditya Birla Retail Fashion have partnered to introduce a track on Circular Fashion. The goal is to create an industry platform that will integrate sustainable textiles and circular-fashion social enterprises into the mainstream retail value chain. 

The two-day event will end with a Circular Fashion Show highlighting circular and sustainable clothing designs.  This will be interspersed with the announcement of the Sankalp Awards – where five innovative enterprises will be recognized for their work. The five winners will be chosen from the 17 semi-finalists who hail from Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and India. 

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Smarinita Shetty is cofounder and CEO at India Development Review.