Bengaluru, September 7th, 2020: India’s leading venture fund that supports early-stage tech start-ups with national scale and global potential, Unitus Ventures published their bi-annual impact report. The report presents a series of impact stories of Unitus’ portfolio companies. Challenged by the pandemic, these start-ups were fast to pivot, mobilise and adopt business strategies to still stay committed to their business objective – create impact for low income populations.
Most of these start-ups are in the early growth stage and were founded to create impactful and sustainable solutions for the masses. Pandemic-induced lockdown of businesses and the resulting slowdown of the economy affected their operations as well as their customers’ lives significantly.
Earning INR 25,000/month in Bengaluru, Dayanand, a driver with DriveU, could not escape the initial impact as India ground to a halt. DriveU’s leadership, however, was quick to analyse and modify their business to forge new partnerships. Instead of a layoff and total loss of income, Dayanand’s personal motorbike was repurposed for e-commerce deliveries of groceries and other essentials, which were allowed during the lockdown. He was trained to follow health and hygiene precautions. Although his income dropped to INR 15,000/month, it was still enough for him and his family to survive.
Meanwhile in Tamil Nadu, Grace Banhu initiated a project to get food to people without ration cards. The government issues ration cards, against which, depending on the number of family members, a fixed amount of essential food supplies is provided to the holder. The ration cards provide them access to subsidized food shops under the targeted Public Distribution System, one of India’s primary food safety nets. Grace is India’s first publicly transgender engineer and a leading trans activist. As someone who understood the plight of transgender people who do not hold a government ID and are thus unable to obtain a ration card, she utilised her position to raise the money. Using Milaap, Grace raised over INR 3.8 million in total and helped over 1,500 people, providing food to them for one month.
In the month of July, COVID-19 diagnostic scans per day nearly doubled in number. In Kerala, 47-year old Aarushi (actual patient names remain anonymous for privacy) was forced to go to the hospital during this time. Her abdominal pains were unbearable, causing her to faint several times. The emergency room doctor was concerned and ordered a CT scan of Aarushi’s abdomen. The radiologist from north India was connected to the hospital in Kerala through 5C Network. He reviewed the scan and discovered something was seriously wrong. Considering the urgency of the situation, 5C Network quickly activated their COVID-19 Radiology Response Team. They immediately asked Aarushi’s doctor for another CT scan. This time, of her chest. What they saw were tell-tale signs of COVID-19. The team urged the doctors in Kerala to initiate a COVID-19 test and to place Aarushi in an isolated ICU for treatment. Over the next several days, 5C Network radiologists monitored Aarushi through CT scans, with the local doctor tracking her recovery as the infection reduced.
Will Poole, Managing Partner, Unitus Ventures, said, “Our portfolio companies are not out of the woods yet but we wanted to share a few compelling stories from their work, highlighting in particular, the impact they were able to create. We can already see that many of these businesses have adjusted to the “new normal” and are poised to emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. While it’s far too soon to declare success, the stabilization of the portfolio and their continued ability to serve those that need them most is a testament to our Profits and Values approach and impact-centred thesis of resilient investing.”
Senior Partner at Unitus Ventures, Surya Mantha said,
“There was an urgent need to address challenges startups faced in a COVID stricken economy. Investors and startups worked together to adapt businesses to the new conditions. Many millions of families too came under tremendous stress as a result of loss of livelihoods. At such a time of great need, it was equally important for us to work closely with our companies to ensure that they stayed focused on continuing to serve their end customers.”
Unitus Impact Report 2020 showcases the human stories behind early-stage businesses in times of crisis, the true impact we all wish to pursue.
About Unitus Ventures
Unitus Ventures is the leading venture fund in India that supports early stage fintech, healthcare, and jobtech startups with India scale and global potential. Launched in 2012, Unitus Ventures is a founding member of Capria Network, the leading global network of emerging market fund managers collaborating to deliver superior returns and scaled impact. Unitus Ventures is based in Bangalore and Seattle. More at: https://unitus.vc and http://capria.vc/network