In a first-of-its-kind initiative, a group of impact investors and alumni of IIM and IIT have come together to invest an undisclosed amount in Aakar Innovations, a portfolio company of IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) working in the domain of affordable sanitary napkins for rural Indian women.
The investment round was led by CIIE with further participation from Artha Platform, a leading philanthropy community in India. The investment was carried out under the ACT for Impact Programme at CIIE, focusing on using alumni connections to bring more angel capital into the ecosystem. The program was supported by eminent philanthropic foundations including the Rockefeller Foundation, Omidyar Network and Dasra.
Vipul Patel, senior manager, CIIE Initiatives, said, “CIIE is excited to be partnering with IIMA alums driven by a strong desire to create social impact along with generating financial returns. These angels bring a diverse set of expertise and shall bring enormous non-monetary value to the company.”
Aakar is a hybrid social enterprise that manufactures high-quality, compostable and hygienic sanitary pads, which are priced below other branded, competitive products. These pads are produced and sold by women entrepreneurs in their own villages. Their not-for-profit arm trains rural women to run manufacturing units and create awareness about menstrual hygiene.
As a part of this arm, Aakar has started a crowd funding campaign called “Freedom from Shame” to raise donations. “Over 100 donors have already given their support and we are looking to raise additional donations to support more women entrepreneurs,” said, Sombodhi Ghosh, co-founder, Aakar Innovations.
They have so far sold 22 machines across India of which 15 units are operational and the rest seven will be functional by mid-December. These machines, which are usually set up in rural villages and urban-slum areas, has led to the direct employment of over 200 women.
On investing in Aakar, Geeta Goel, Director, Mission Investing at Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, said, “Both at a personal and professional level, I have been amazed at the power of the market in trying to bridge inequalities in access, quality and income levels.”