This Investor Explains Why he Invested in These Social Impact Start-ups

He bets on entrepreneurs who have genuine intent, earnestness and integrity, and... a sense of humour!

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Partner at seed stage impact investment firm Unitus Seed Fund, Ramamoorthy understands what it takes for an idea to have a resounding social impact; after all he was among the founding members of perhaps India’s biggest microfinance firm Ujjivan Financial Services. He has been investing in impactful ideas since 2009 and bets on entrepreneurs who are able to strike a chord with him for their genuineness of intent, earnestness and integrity, and...sense of humour! “If you are not able to laugh and laugh at yourself then challenges won’t be easier to climb,” he suggests, while pointing out the next three stars that he has bet on.

Welcare Health Systems – First Move Advantage

A 2015 study by World Health Organization reported that around 550 million Indians are suffering from vision-related ailments. The situation is pressing largely beyond metros and tier I cities where there is a dire need for tele-ophthalmology technology. Chennai-based Welcare has expanded to a network of 1,200 centres where it offers affordable ophthalmology service in remote diagnostic mechanism. “We found that no one else was doing something which is similar to this concept,” says Ramamoorthy. He backed the start-up in 2014 after looking at the model’s simplicity. “It is a massive market because there are not enough ophthalmologist screening services happening in smaller cities. If you have diabetes then chances of your retina getting damaged and leading to blindness is very high.” Moreover, Welcare now is already profitable, so that’s a no brainer for Ramamoorthy to back the start-up again. “It has the ability to scale and get many other devices for telediagnosis on the platform,” he adds.

LabinApp – Building A Virtual Platform

The practical experiments carried out at secondary and senior secondary classes are as essential part of class room teaching. Unfortunately 75 per cent of schools for XI and XII grades, and 58 per cent schools for IX and X grades don’t have proper science labs, based on a 2014 survey. Hubli-based LabInApp cracks this problem through its 3D virtual lab that provides 3D simulation of physics, chemistry, and biology experiments. “We liked the 3D simulation of curriculum aligned experiments that they had created. Their target customers are the schools and not individual students. It is a seamless way of enabling students to perform these experiments without the need for physical labs,” explains Ramamoorthy. For schools it is better than building physical labs. Currently, its virtual lab tool is present in around 20,000 class rooms. Unitus seed fund backed it in 2014.

iSTAR Skill Development – Asset Light Model

All India Council for Technical Education in March this year said that more than a whopping 60 per cent of around eight lakh annual engineering graduates don’t get a job. Despite technical education offered, the problem has persisted which the Bengaluru-based iSTAR is looking to solve. The start-up offers job oriented content and training to B.Com and BBA students enrolled in tier-II and tier-III cities’ colleges. “This employability training is more relevant to banking and financing services vertical than what engineering colleges provide which could be things like basics of banking, tally, excel etc,” says Ramamoorthy. This is unlike finishing schools that target graduates. “It is a very asset light and a high gross margin business as iSTAR uses college infrastructure instead of having their own. Colleges also benefits as their placement rate goes up,” adds Ramamoorthy.

(This article was first published in the July issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)