Pramod Bhasin, Vikram Gandhi & others invest in Swarna Pragati
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Chennai-based housing finance company Swarna Pragati Housing Microfinance Pvt. Ltd has raised an undisclosed amount from a group of investors including Zephyr Peacock, Omidyar Network, Aavishkar Goodwill in a Series B round, a top company executive told VCCircle. 

The current round has also seen participation from industry veterans and co-founders of Asha Impact fund Pramod Bhasin and Vikram Gandhi who have jointly put in Rs 3.5 crore in the company. VCCircle could not immediately ascertain the investment size of other firms. 

A Ramesh Kumar, chairman and managing director, Swarna Pragati Housing Microfinance, said, “We are pleased to have the support of such well-respected business leaders like Pramod and Vikram. They have a tremendous passion for the social enterprise sector evident from their work with Asha Impact and decades of experience in building scalable businesses.” 

“Rural India faces a housing shortage of 40 million units and most of this is concentrated in the low-income population. Swarna Pragati has developed an innovative model that addresses the needs of rural customers in India as well as the difficult issue of land titles,” said Pramod Bhasin of Asha Impact. 

He said by leveraging the power of technology and using smart analytics, Swarna Pragati’s business model can be rapidly scaled up to provide effective mortgage finance to millions of people across rural India.

Vikram Gandhi of Asha Impact said that there is a vast opportunity for Swarna Pragati to generate positive financial returns while creating catalytic social impact for rural housing.

“Given the unpredictable nature of the agricultural incomes and the lack of clear land titles in rural areas, Swarna Pragati has developed an innovative underwriting framework that caters specifically to this market. Through our trust, Asha Impact has been engaging with policymakers on the issue of affordable housing in urban areas, which has seen a major policy boost through the PMAY (Housing for All) initiative,” he said.

In April 2015, Bhasin and Gandhi invested an undisclosed amount in Bangalore-based Unitus Seed Fund.

In March 2015, Gandhi co-invested with Ratan Tata and others in Grameen Capital's social impact debt funding arm.

Prior to the round in Swarna Pragati, Bhasin and Gandhi have jointly made five other investments to support social enterprises in India through the Asha Impact platform.

They have so far invested in companies such as Varthana, an NBFC that lends to affordable private schools, Avanti Learning Centers, which runs affordable technology-enabled IIT coaching classes, Greenway Appliances, a producer and distributor of clean cookstoves and other product for rural India and Vastu Housing Finance, an affordable housing finance company.

Founded in 2011, Swarna Pragati provides micro-mortgage loans ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 7 lakh and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) loans of Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 to families from the economically weaker sections (EWS) and low income groups (LIG) in rural India. The housing loans are provided both for self-built new construction as well as for renovation, repairs and up-gradation of existing houses.

It claims to have a portfolio of Rs 110 crore serving over 12,000 customers across four states and is rapidly growing its presence across India. 

Housing finance companies focused on lower strata of the society have been on the radar of investors given the opportunity the segment offers. Recently, Chennai-based Aptus Value Housing Finance India Ltd raised Rs 270 crore (around $40 million) in a follow-up round from WestBridge Capital Partners LLC and Caspian Impact Investment Advisors. 

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