Omidyar Network Backs Two More Indian Firms

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mumbai: Omidyar Network Commons LLC, the philanthropic investment firm controlled by eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar, has invested an undisclosed amount in English language learnings solutions company EnglishHelper Inc. and extended a three-year grant of $950,000 to Bangalore-based public charitable trust Akshara Foundation, which focuses on elementary education.

These investments are consistent with Omidyar Network’s philosophy of supporting both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations.

Omidyar’s education portfolio in India has now expanded to five investments, which also include pre-school chain Tree House Education and Accessories Ltd; livelihood opportunities firm Anudip Foundation and employability assessment company Aspiring Minds Assessment Pvt Ltd.

Omidyar Network started funding projects in India about two years ago with plans to invest up to $200 million in five years. It has so far deployed $85 million across a portfolio of 24 companies in India, 70% of which are for-profit investments and the rest grants to non-profit organizations.

EnglishHelper offers a combination of English language reading and writing technologies and has helped over 10,000 learners across the country. “EnglishHelper has developed an innovative, scalable and cost-effective technology that addresses a multi-billion dollar global market for English language training,” said Mallika Singh, principal, investments, Omidyar Network India Advisors, adding that inadequate English speaking skills hinder the aspirations of millions of people to access quality jobs.

Akshara has developed a technology platform, Karnataka Learning Partnership, as a tool for non-profit bodies, corporations, academic institutions and citizens to get involved in improving government schools in Karnataka.

While philanthropic capital can launch ventures, it’s only commercial capital that can fuel their growth, said Jayant Sinha, partner, Omidyar Network India Advisors.

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Base of the Pyramid, venture capital