Menterra — Our genesis, Our vision, Our focus

More than 10 years ago, I was asked which sectors I would want to invest in, and I responded saying education and healthcare. This conviction came through personal and direct experiences which resulted in the deeply held belief that access to education opportunities and quality healthcare is necessary to reduce disparity. That conviction hasn’t changed in the intervening decade, and now, more than ever I see the enormous opportunity to do meaningful work while generating market returns.

My colleague Ganapathy (Guns) and I met with Paul Basil (Paul) at Villgro, and over many years, we immersed ourselves in the world of impact investing. Our diverse backgrounds — impact (Paul), operations and entrepreneurship (Guns) and investing (I) — and shared values helped us see the emerging opportunities for a fund focused on quality products, solutions and services for India’s vast underserved markets.

That became the inspiration for founding Menterra (land of the mentors) Social Impact Fund — supporting early-stage companies in education, healthcare and agriculture.

Menterra is a reflection of multiple trends:

  1. The unmet needs of a large under-served market with respect to delivery of quality health and education and radically improving the productivity of agriculture;
  2. The ability and aspirations of the under-served to participate through market models and choice-based purchases;
  3. The improving quality of entrepreneurs looking at providing high-quality services at affordable prices;
  4. The requirement of early-stage companies for deeper involvement and support beyond risk capital;
  5. The opportunity to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of philanthropic capital; and
  6. The commitment and experience needed to balance the impact and profits.

With a clear understanding of the market dynamics, we set about the business of raising a seed-stage fund, and over the course of the last 12 months, we’ve managed to put together an incredibly diverse and yet uniformly mission-aligned set of investors, board members and advisors. As a first-time fund, I’m not just excited about being able to bring together government, HNIs, international foundations, corporates and Angel investors, but more importantly, how strategic our investor base is.

Foundations

  • The Lemelson Foundation has been supporting invention and innovation for decades
  • The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is the foremost name in education today

National Visionaries

  • Rohini and Nandan Nilekani have catalyzed ambitious and groundbreaking initiatives in the areas of technology and inclusion

Government

  • SIDBI (representing the MSME Ministry through ASPIRE Fund) is committed to supporting innovations in the agriculture space

Corporates with deep experience building companies in our focus sectors

  • Transasia Biomedicals has been a pioneer in the Indian med-tech space and Mr. Vazirani has been a major proponent of indigenous manufacturing to make healthcare affordable and accessible for masses
  • The Polaris team under the leadership of Mr Arun Jain does extremely impactful work through Mission Samriddhi
  • The Amrit Banaspati family has decades of experience in building strong market linkages and consumer-brands;

Prominent Angel investors

  • Chandu Nair (co-founder of Scope e-Knowledge) and Meenakshi Ramesh (Pratham Education Foundation) who are invaluable in helping steer both our strategy and our board.

From the beginning, we were clear that Menterra would stand for and support entrepreneurs making deep, scalable and sustainable impact. The years of work with early stage incubatees at Villgro, gives us a clear idea of who and what we will be investing in:

  1. Entrepreneurs with ambitious, innovative ideas about how to create impact in schools, colleges, hospitals and farms;
  2. Strong founding teams with sufficiently diverse and complementary skills;
  3. Product-based innovations;
  4. Companies that see government as a potential partner for scale and impact; and
  5. Businesses with strong fundamentals and defensible moats.

Now, at the point of our final close, we have 4 great companies in our portfolio — Biosense Technologies , Concept Learning , Curiositi Learning Solutions and Leap Skills Academy , an Investment Committee that keeps us focused and balanced and a great set of advisors.

Menterra is targeting big development challenges for the country. We are looking for entrepreneurs committed to impact, with the ambition and ability to achieve significant scale and build sustainable/ profitable models.

Is this as exciting to you as it is to us?

Connect with us — we’d love to partner on creating deep impact.

Mukesh Sharma (co-founder and managing director)