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Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad’s (IIMA’s) centre for innovation, incubation, and entrepreneurship (CIIE) has launched a US$25 million seed fund named ‘Bharat Inclusion Initiative’, which aims to mentor and invest in early stage tech startups over the next three-four years, reported Economic Times.

The initiative will focus on incubating and backing startups that work in areas such as financial inclusion, livelihood, education and health.

With seed support from Tata Trusts, the initiative has received an initial commitment of $12.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Omidyar Network. This includes a $5 million commitment for providing catalytic support to start-ups through a series of acceleration programmes, focused research, training workshops and piloting partnerships. In addition, CIIE will also invest in seed and pre-Series-A start-ups through a dedicated Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund – which announced its initial closing at $7.5 million, and is expected to make a final close at $15 million by July, 2018.

“The Bharat Inclusion Initiative aims to provide a continuum of solutions to inclusion-focused tech entrepreneurs across the pre-incubation, seed and scale-up stage and help them jump to the next orbit. It is heartening to see the support for this initiative from all the partners,” said Neharika Vohra, chairperson, CIIE Initiatives.

Pawan Bakhshi, India Lead, Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “At Gates Foundation, we are committed to creating a disproportionate and sustained impact on some of the most critical challenges facing the nation today.”

Through in-depth research to build knowledge about the under-served, incubating new start-ups in this space and providing access to soft and patient capital as these ventures take root, the Bharat Inclusion Initiative will seek to catalyse entrepreneurs who are building disruptive solutions for Bharat.

According to Santhosh Ramdoss, director, India programmes, at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, a large portion of urban poor families in India do not have any formal access to financial services. “We are presented with a landmark opportunity to take on this challenge, given India’s leadership in building a cutting-edge public technology infrastructure that can be used to seamlessly deliver a variety of critical digital services to low-income families.”

Speaking about Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, in February, the foundation has led the $13.5 million (~ Rs 87 crore) funding of Bengaluru based edtech startup IMAX Program.

In August 2017, it was reported that the foundation is looking to launch incubator for startups in India. And for same, the foundation is reportedly in talks with IIM-Ahmedabad’s CIIE.

CIIE was founded to support entrepreneurs and turn business ideas into viable businesses models. It partners with industry experts, mentors, corporates, IIMA community and investors to help incubate early-stage start-ups.

In the past, CIIE incubated startups include Razorpay, Hashcube, Rolocule, and Thrillophilia, among others. In 2015, the centre had launched India’s first Food & Agri-Business accelerator for startups in food and agri-business sector.

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Suman Chaudhary
An engineer by education and writer by profession, Suman keeps tab on startup ecosystem of India and leads the research team of IndiaWeb2 for covering funding deals, merger & acquisition and market reports.

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