Upaya Social Ventures Programs
Upaya’s flagship initiative, the Life-changing Interventions for the Ultra Poor (LiftUP) Project, is a 24-36 month accelerator program that provides early-stage entrepreneurs with technical assistance and financial resources to launch and scale their businesses in a way that creates dignified employment opportunities for the “ultra poor.” Entrepreneurs are selected for the LiftUP Project based on their ability to create stable jobs, potential for scalable operations, commitment to serving the ultra poor, and willingness to track and report social metrics.
For those that do meet the stringent criteria, Upaya makes patient equity investments up to $75,000 for the duration of the partnership. Alongside that investment, Upaya works hand-in-hand with the entrepreneurs to provide operations consulting, assist with designing field interventions and pilots, oversee product development, and lead the construction of robust systems for tracking and analyzing social outcomes across 20-25 key metrics. As the business refines and scales its model, Upaya is there to help the company position itself for follow-on investment without compromising its ultra poor focus.
For Upaya, any returns generated by LiftUP Project investments flow back to the organization where they are restricted exclusively for re-investment in future LiftUP Project partners. Over the next five years, Upaya aims to create 65,000 jobs through 22 profitable, scalable enterprises in India via the LiftUP Project.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
In August of 2011, Upaya formalized its partnership with Lucknow-based Samridhi Agri-Products to create stable jobs for ultra poor women through a scalable community dairy business in rural Uttar Pradesh. Having worked with the company from its earliest days, the Upaya team is extremely proud to see that 73 women across four villages have been hired to maintain and milk cows and goats at an average daily salary of $2.25. This represents almost a two-fold increase in the average $1.18 per day income earned by the entire household when each was hired, and the predictability of the salary provides a stable financial foundation for the employee’s family. Individual Samridhi dairy facilities are each expected to employ 120 women, and the company expects to launch five new facilities before 2015.
Upaya is now looking to secure the necessary funding to replicate its success with Samridhi by adding additional partners. In the next 12 months, Upaya is looking to raise $350,000 that would enable the team to work with three additional LiftUP Project partners in North India. These funds will allow Upaya to make patient equity investments up to $75,000 per partner, and underwrite the cost of supporting partners through the launch and scale phases of their businesses.