We recently returned from India, where we had the privilege of seeing the impact our capital is having on the ground during our visits with some of our current and past borrowers through the India Investment Initiative. We visited several social enterprises and met dedicated individuals working tirelessly to improve life for communities at the base of the pyramid.
Our visits included three outstanding social enterprises that receive funding from Calvert Foundation borrower IntelleGrow. IntelleGrow catalyzes social and environmental impact in India by providing customized loans to small and growing businesses that lack access to sufficient debt financing. More than 70% of IntelleGrow borrowers received their first loans from IntelleGrow.
One of our first stops was Intellegrow borrower Barefoot Power (BFP) India, a subsidiary of a global solar energy company that provides a wide range of affordable, high quality solar products to rural villages off the electric grid, including lights, fans, televisions and refrigerators. Headquartered in Bangalore, BFP India has a presence in over 15 Indian states and has impacted over 138,000 lives to date.
BFP India’s social and environmental impacts are myriad. By reducing dependence on wood fire cookstoves and kerosene lamps, they are helping to control deforestation, mitigate climate change, and improve health and safety, especially for girls and women. Increased access to electricity allows children to study for longer hours and creates new income-generating opportunities for weavers, shopkeepers, vendors and agricultural producers. In addition, BFP creates further earning opportunities by training village level entrepreneurs to sell their products and to provide post-sales tech and repair support.
Our second IntelleGrow borrower visit was with a very different type of social enterprise. EduSports is India’s first and leading sports education company, working with 500 private and government schools around India to integrate sports and physical education into the school day and reaching over 450,000 students. Importantly, EduSports builds sustainability into their approach by engaging teachers and parents in support of their programming and following a train-the-trainer model. In a country where sports are not traditionally prioritized in school curricula, EduSports is improving students’ health and helping them build essential life skills, including teamwork, self-confidence and leadership.
Our third IntelleGrow borrower visit was with SagGraha, a company working towards inclusive economic development by providing tailored and affordable financial services for India’s rural populations. SagGraha’s financial product offerings include microloans, MSME loans, savings accounts, and life insurance services. Their microfinance program focuses on women, creating life-changing income generating opportunities. Their group lending approach de-risks the lending process for these women and reduces defaults. So far, SagGraha has provided about $3 billion USD to over 80,000 clients in four Indian states, with an ambitious goal of reaching 500,000 clients by 2020.
If you want to learn more, be sure to check out IntelleGrow’s website, which details more of the innovative small businesses they are financing around India.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks to hear about our visits with more outstanding Indian social enterprises who are working to ensure that a low income doesn’t limit Indians’ ability to get vision care or high quality education.
And if you aren’t an investor yet, check out Calvert Foundation’s platform, where you can learn more and invest to support the India Investment Initiative and the social enterprise sector in India.