Kolkata-based Aashiyaan Housing & Development Finance Pvt. Ltd, which is yet to start housing finance for low-income families, said it has raised around $2 million (Rs 13.5 crore) in a seed round led by foreign social-impact investors Insitor and The Netherlands-based Oikocredit. The firm, yet to apply for a housing finance firm licence, was set up by Shubhankar Sengupta in 2016, who is founder and former CEO of Arohan Financial Services, a microfinance institution.
Journalist Swaminathan Aiyar, Columbia University professor Neeraj Kaushal and others also participated in this round, said Aashiyaan. Boutique investment bank Unitus Capital was the financial advisor to Aashiyaan for this transaction.
The funding will enable the company to apply for a housing finance firm licence, it added.
After getting licence, Aashiyaan will initially provide affordable housing finance in semi-urban and rural areas in east and then go pan-India.
It will focus primarily on households with monthly incomes in the range of Rs 15,000-35,000.
"While the penetration of affordable housing in India is increasing, given the government stimulus to enhance investments in the sector, growth has primarily centred around the southern and western parts of India. The eastern region remains highly under-penetrated," said Sengupta.
The housing finance space has witnessed significant investor activity in the past years, with favourable measures coming in from the government. Around two years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Housing for All’ scheme to provide housing facilities to everyone in urban areas by 2022. During the Budget 2018 speech early this year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said a dedicated Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) linked to National Housing Bank will be launched. The AHF will be funded through fully serviced bonds authorised by the government.
Insitor is a social-impact venture capital firm financing companies that offer low-income families options for increased access to healthcare, education, affordable housing, water, sanitation and clean energy. The firm invests in India, Myanmar, Cambodia and Pakistan.
Early in February, Insitor also invested in Delhi-based Aviom India Housing Finance Pvt. Ltd, which provides housing loans to low-income individuals and families.
Other companies backed in India include BioSense Technologies, Mera Gao Power and SustainTech India.
Oikocredit is a global cooperative and social investor providing funding to the microfinance sector, fair trade organisations, cooperatives as well as small and medium enterprises. Its India investments include Guwahati-based RGVN (North East) Microfinance Ltd and Thrissur-based ESAF Microfinance and Investments Ltd.