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Social venture capital investor Acumen Fund has invested $1 million (Rs 5.2 crore) in GUARDIAN (Gramalaya Urban and Rural Development Initiatives and Network), a Tamil Nadu-based microfinance institution focusing on lending to communities who lack access to water and sanitation facilities, the firm has disclosed today.

The fund raised would be used by GUARDIAN to build its portfolio and transition from a partially grant-funded NGO to a fully self-sustaining microfinance institution (MFI). In addition, the capital raised would be utilised to scale up potentially path-breaking models for expanding water and sanitation facilities across poor communities, the statement added.

Founded by Paul Sathianathan, the microfinance company also offers micro loans for purchasing water and sanitation assets for domestic use, connections to municipal water supply, toilet construction, rainwater harvesting equipment and household water purifiers. It also provides loans to women’s self-help groups and the amount ranges between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000.

“Although access to clean water and adequate sanitation is not yet a reality for many impoverished communities, organisations like GUARDIAN, with their innovative financial solutions, can create sustainable models to provide access to safe water and sanitation for all,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund.

Incorporated in 2001, Acumen Fund is a venture capital firm specialising in growth, direct equity investments, debt, guarantees, quasi-equity and lab investments. It primarily invests in water, healthcare, energy, agro, cleantech and housing segments, and prefers to invest in India, Pakistan, South Africa, East Africa (focus on Kenya) and West Africa (focus on Ghana and Nigeria). The firm typically invests between $0.3 million and $2 million in equity or debt, with exit period ranging from five to seven years.

Acumen’s investments in India include Kochi-based ayurvedic chain Ayur Vaid Hospitals, Hyderabad-based LifeSpring Hospitals, Mumbai-based ambulance start-up service ‘Dial 1298 For Ambulance’ and Drishtee, a rural communications company.

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