“The success of the microfinance model inspired us to replicate a similar approach
in healthcare and education, which are as critical to rural India as credit.”
– Srikrishna Ramamoorthy of Unitus Ventures
Image Source: Indiatimes.com
Microfinance typically aims to provide low-income or impoverished communities with access to capital. They are often in the form of small business loans with the goal of helping communities and businesses become self-sufficient. A recent Forbes article notes that the success of microfinance projects in India has resulted in larger-scale impact investments, including the funding of impact/ESG-oriented tech startups.
Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, a partner at Bangalore- and Seattle-based impact venture investment firm Unitus Ventures, reflects on his experience: “The success of the microfinance model inspired us to replicate a similar approach in healthcare and education, which are as critical to rural India as credit. Our experience in microfinance has allowed us to understand the problems of this class of people better, and conceptualize scalable, profitable ideas.”1
With this background and vision, Unitus Ventures recently invested $500,000 of seed capital in an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven chatbot company called Utter. Education technology entrepreneur Ninad Vengurlekar founded Utter and developed the smartphone app, which teaches basic functional English to blue-collar workers, using both AI-powered bots as well as humans.2
Image Source: www.utter.in
During a time of accelerated urbanization and increased internet access in India, there is high demand for this type of English language instruction. Since only about 10% of the 1.3 billion person population is estimated to be fluent in the language, the ability to communicate in English greatly improves the economic opportunities for many Indian citizens.
Although Vengurlekar realized this trend, his team ran into formidable challenges in securing funding. Eventually he connected with Unitus Ventures which saw the opportunity to invest in a business with a product that could be leveraged to provide scalable impact. The app now has over 800,000 registered users and is being downloaded at a pace of more than 100,000 per month.3