Acumen Blog

International-Womens-Day-Logo

Celebrating International Women’s Day!

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day by acknowledging the incredible female-led social enterprises that we have invested in over the years. Ranging from an ambulance service in India to a toilet franchise in Kenya, these women’s businesses are as broad as the audiences they serve.

Roshaneh Zafar, Kashf Foundation

Roshaneh is the founder and Managing Director of Kashf. Founded in 1996, Kashf was one of the firs microfinance institutions in Pakistan. It offers general, emergency, business and home improvement loans as well as insurance products. The organization allows for closely managed growth through a franchise model with branches in both rural and urban areas.

After meeting Muhammad Yunus, Roshaneh was inspired to quit her job and establish the Kashf Foundation. She believed the Grameen model could both empower women economically and socially in Pakistan. She started with her family’s funds, her personal car and a few volunteers, driving to distant villages to start microfinance centers.

Acumen has invested $2.7 Million in Kashf. Beginning with 15 clients in 1996, Kashf now operates 150+ branches across Pakistan. More than one million individuals and 306,000 families have been reached.

Lindsay Stradley, Sanergy

Lindsay co-founded Sanergy with two fellow students while getting her MBA at MIT Sloan. Before starting Sanergy, Lindsay spent three years at Google and 3 years on a Teach for America placement in New Orleans. Now, she is tackling sanitation in Kenya.

Sanergy builds a network of high-quality “Fresh Life” branded toilets and franchises them to local micro-entrepreneurs. Sanergy employees collect waste from the toilets daily and deliver it to a central processing facility where the waste is converted into organic fertilizer for farmers. “Sanergy has empowered a network of strong women – staff, partners, and customers. Those women are driving change in their communities and continuing to empower still more women,” said Lindsay.

Gayathri Vasudevan, LabourNet

Gayathri  is the CEO of Labournet, a firm that provides job training for the informal sector in India. LabourNet started with a simple idea “to look at an informal sector worker and match work to worker, operating as a simple B2C model.” The company delivers training at company operated centers and on-site at client operated locations, and has enabled livelihoods through training for over 50K people to date. Acumen made its first investment in 2013. Over time the company hopes to create an ecosystem of national certification for measurable increases in skills and real income.

Sweta Mangal, Ziqitza Healthcare Limited

Sweta is the co-founder and CEO of ZHL, founded in 2005 with a group of young professional friends who witnessed the disparity between emergency services in India and the U.S. ZHL operates state-of-the-art 24/7 call centers with ambulance tracking systems, and equips ambulances with personnel trained in basic and advanced life support.

Acumen has invested $2.6 Million since 2007. To date the company has served over 2 million people! You can watch her talk at our 2013 Investor Gathering about how ZHL scaled from 2 ambulances in 2005 to over 870 ambulances today.

Comments

How You Can Help: The Nepal Earthquake

On Saturday, April 25th, an earthquake with magnitude 7.8 shook the country of Nepal, as well as parts of northern India. Hitting south of Kathmandu, the earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and injured more than 7,100 as of Monday morning. It is the worst to hit the region in 80 years, and aftershocks and tremors continued to rock the country over the past 48 hours. [Read More]

Welcoming Naeem Zamindar as Acumen’s new Pakistan Director

We are pleased to announce Naeem Zamindar as Acumen’s new Pakistan Country Director. Naeem’s 25-year career combines experience in venture capital with multiple high-level operational and leadership roles. Naeem worked at Intel Capital in Silicon Valley, helping build companies in the digital, new media and wireless broadband space. In Pakistan, he was CEO of Wateen Telecom, where he restructured the publicly listed company, turned around the business and repositioned it for growth, to take the company from losing $2 million per month to generating $1 million in positive cash flow over a matter of three years. He was also a founding member of Pakistan’s leading telecom company Mobilink and, as a part of its senior leadership team, built a nationwide fiber-optic network through the acquisition of four companies that now form Mobilink’s broadband division. [Read More]

Catalyzing the Growth of Social Enterprises with SAP

To accelerate the growth of our social enterprises in East Africa and India, we have joined forces with global business software leader SAP. Leveraging SAP’s technology and global business expertise, this unique collaboration will bring together Acumen entrepreneurs working in different sectors and countries to deepen their business capabilities and expand access to solutions to help them address global poverty. [Read More]

Dispatch from Pakistan: Hope in Place of Fear

There is fear in the streets of Pakistan. I sit in traffic, just a few hundred feet from my hotel where my next meeting is scheduled. I could arrive at my destination in five minutes if I walked, but it is not advised to walk. On the right side of my car, four men pointing automatic weapons stand in the back of a police van. Just in front is a black SUV with four commandos in the back, each with AK-47s, I think, though I’m no expert in guns. Let’s just say they are very big and look very menacing. A few cars to the left is another gun-filled vehicle pushing other cars out of its way, presumably to join the caravan of the armed. Sirens are wailing. [Read More]

ANNOUNCING A NEW INVESTMENT, FIRST ACCESS

Acumen announces its new investment in First Access, a data analytics company improving access to formal financial services for low-income East African communities. In East Africa, only 22 percent of the population has access to formal financial services with the region’s poor having even less at 10 percent. First Access presents an opportunity to increase the ability of these low-income communities to save, manage risk responsibility, invest in such critical services as education, and ultimately rise out of poverty. [Read More]

ANNOUNCING THE 2015 PAKISTAN FELLOWS

Acumen is proud to announce the selection of our third cohort of Pakistan Fellows. After a competitive application process, we’ve chosen a diverse group of 20 leaders working in provinces across the country. This year’s Fellows are fighting poverty and changing lives across Pakistan through unique initiatives that range from advocating for vulnerable prisoners’ rights, to creating solutions to address low-quality education, to developing branchless banking channels for low-income customers, and more. Read more about each Fellow and their inspiring work below. [Read More]

Lean Data Goes Deeper

One of the most interesting questions we’re grappling with right now on the Impact team at Acumen is how to develop a more robust, rigorous, and transparent form of quantifying the social value our companies create. While I don’t believe we will ever fully understand all the social value created – and while there will always be room for debate and interpretation – I do think today we have the tools to get a lot closer to customers and hear how they value products. [Read More]