In this series we want to highlight some of our scouting partners who have been of great value in finding the brightest start-up talents from all around the globe. Leading start-up hubs, accelerator programmes and entrepreneurship competitions have shared their enormous worldwide networks with us. In this episode we focus on Intellecap, the advisory arm of the Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group. We talked to Kanika Kumar from Mumbai, Associate Vice President, about their entrepreneurship-based approach towards development.

What is your view on social and green entrepreneurship?
“As Intellecap, we believe this is the only way business can work. Or should work, rather. If you want to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, you have to make business become more responsible, more sustainable, and more environmentally efficient. So we are very committed to that. But the ecosystem needs to start working for them. And more capital needs to be made available in the right structures, and more talent needs to enter the space. That is also why we are so excited about the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge and share its message in our own network. The competition aims to reach out to the brightest ideas with the biggest impact potential, no matter where they are.”

"It’s great to see that a lot of innovations are coming from emerging markets, probably because they are closer to the problem" 

What does Intellecap do?
“Intellecap was established 17 years ago with the intent to build an ecosystem for entrepreneurs that will accelerate scale and growth in their businesses and thereby create greater impact. We focus on three critical areas:

The primary aspect, of course, is to meet the capital challenges for these enterprises. Over the last fifteen years, we have built an entire portfolio of capital vehicles, all the way from micro finance to venture capital and equity financing. We do the whole spectrum, from 50 dollars to 5 to 10 million.

Research and Advisory Services
Secondly, we do a lot of research in sectors like climate change, green business, agriculture, healthcare and off grid energy. We have built knowledge that we use for our advisory work, capacity building and technical assistance. We work with large corporates to help them partner better with small enterprises, innovations and entrepreneurs. We also work with foundations, multi-laterals and governments to design and implement their inclusive business and innovation programmes.

Network events
And thirdly, we bring everyone together on a global platform for greater collaboration and conversation. We organise an annual meeting called the Sankalp Forum. This is a conference that we host in India, in Indonesia, and in Kenya. We have about 3,000 global stakeholders who come across these conferences, and we have showcased over 200 enterprises that have cumulatively raised $250 m over the last 10 years.”

From your perspective, what do you see as trends and challenges in the green start-up space?
“Each of the markets that we are present in - India, Indonesia and Africa - are at varying stages of entrepreneurship development. And while the challenges entrepreneurs face around the world are similar, the context in which they operate are significantly different and require more contextual support to grow and scale. Capital is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs and at Intellecap, we work across these markets to identify suitable capital vehicles, from debt and grant to equity and blended finance, to match the enterprise’s growth needs.For instance, in both India and East Africa, we recognised the need for a more-than-money approach for entrepreneurs in their early stages, therefore we set up an angel network to facilitate seed funding for these entrepreneurs from domestic investors.

"A lot more people are willing to join start-up innovations, but we still have a long way to go"

Domestic HNIs are able to provide the enterprises with more strategic support in the form of networks, context of doing business, etc., which is as valuable as the capital they invest. Another big challenge we see is that of scale.Markets like India and Africa are great hotbeds for innovation, but oftentimes these innovations end up being limited to their hyperlocal markets and require more strategic, long-term support to scale up. Finally, talent is another growing challenge for these enterprises. There has definitely been a shift in the last ten years; a lot more people are willing to join start-up innovations, but we still have a long way to go.”

 Do you have a start-up that you are particularly excited about?
“It is hard to pick, but a special one for us is NEPRA, one of the first fully automated end-to-end dry waste recycling companies in India. The reason why this is so exciting is that the problem of waste management is really huge in India and the challenges are manifold. NEPRA has managed to build a value chain that addresses these from end to end and is able to scale quickly. NEPRA exemplifies the core investment philosophy of our group, where scale, sustainability and impact go hand in hand. We built a thesis around an investment in waste management, backed the founders of NEPRA at a very nascent stage and have been continuously investing in this company since 2013. It currently has a capacity of processing 100 tonnes of waste per day in Ahmedabad and will be extending its geographical presence to new cities soon.”

What would you say is unique about the markets Intellecap is active in?
“I think demographic dividend is quite unique in India, Africa and Indonesia, where Intellecap is active. The young people are definitely a big added bonus, with their appetite to achieve the best and their willingness to contribute. And one very important thing we are starting to see is that big problems like water scarcity, climate change and food shortage are not just the problems of the developing world. They are the problems of the world. We need to start focussing on financing the best solutions for these problems, respective of where they are. And what is great to see is that there are a lot of innovations coming out of these emerging markets, probably because they are closer to the problem. They are able to provide a solution in a more economical and low-resource setting. That is very unique about these markets. We are working with the City of The Hague in the Netherlands to build a corridor for businesses and innovation from India and Africa to move into the Netherlands and vice versa.”


Intellecap Kanika Kumar
Kanika Kumar, Associate Vice President at Intellecap

Intellecap team
Intellecap team