Omidyar to back firms that address Covid-19 induced issues for MSMEs, migrants

Omidyar to back firms that address Covid-19 induced issues for MSMEs, migrants
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22 Jul, 2020

Impact investment firm Omidyar Network India has launched an initiative to invest in companies and solutions that solve Covid-19 induced issues of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and migrants.

The ReSolve Initiative will invest between Rs 3.75 crore ($500,000) and Rs 15 crore ($2 million)  in new solutions or institutions that can demonstrate large-scale relief for the aforementioned groups, a statement said. The programme, which is set to function for 12-18 months, is open to both for-profit and non-profit ventures, it added.

“The initiative is a response to the new challenges the pandemic and the consequent economic impact has created for Omidyar Network India’s focus segment, the Next Half Billion (NHB), or those in the lower 60% of India’s income distribution,” the statement said.

Additionally, the programme will also invest in companies that conduct marquee surveys and compile databases; help strengthen institutions, mechanisms and market infrastructure; and create digital infrastructure and ecosystems.  

“Both MSME and migrant worker issues are longstanding national priorities with a large unfinished agenda. ReSolve signifies our focus on reimagining and resolving some of the challenges in both sectors, as well as India’s resolve to build long-term resilience as we come out of this crisis,” Roopa Kudva, managing director of Omidyar Network India, said.

For MSMEs, it looks to back solutions that amplify the sector’s voice, stimulate capital in a risk-averse environment, promote digital infrastructure and pilot projects at a cluster or state level to seed system-level innovations, the statement said.

For migrants, it will choose projects that offer evidence-based narratives to inform public and policy; pilot projects in ethical employment practices, worker welfare, safety nets and inter-state collaboration; and provide ease of living for migrant workers, such as access to housing and civic services.

Omidyar said it is keen to partner with other investors and support coalitions that work on solutions. 

In March, the firm launched a short-term programme, Rapid Response Funding Initiative, to support solutions that addressed challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak. It set aside a corpus of Rs 10.75 crore, of which Rs 3.25 crore was contributed by the company employees. 

Last month, Omidyar announced that it has fully utilised the capital pool from the programme. It chose 67 proposals out of over 2,000 applications, it said. At 79%, a majority of the proposals focused on physical health, while about 3% sought to address mental health challenges. Nearly half of the proposals were technology-focused, primarily online and mobile-based solutions, it said.

The funds have been deployed for a mix of projects, such as direct relief work, grassroots awareness campaigns, on-ground programmes to mobilise volunteers and provide fact-based inputs to policy makers and influencers supporting the national housing bank, it added.