Creating opportunities for young deaf people in India
Mirakle Couriers, a widely-praised social enterprise that employs young deaf people in India with low incomes, is planning to scale up their courier services. As of 2018, the social enterprise receives support from the Capital 4 Development Partners (C4D) Asia Fund, a current partner of DGGF.
If deaf people in India (an estimated eight million) find work, it is mostly in the informal sector where they are poorly paid, only seasonally hired and mistreated for being deaf. A life-changing encounter with a deaf boy on a bus made Dhruv Lakra, a former investment banker at Merrill Lynch, start Mirakle Couriers, a social enterprise that employs young deaf people in India living on low incomes.
Mirakle Couriers doubled in size within six months
For several years, Dhruv Lakra, founder of Mirakle Couriers, had applied in vain for bank loans to fund his company. “Indian banks can be quite conservative. Mirakle Couriers hires people with disabilities and that is considered a big risk. They don’t really understand what we are doing in terms of direct employment. That was very, very difficult for us”, explains Dhruv. “People with disabilities don’t get enough attention in countries like India. They are right at the bottom of the ladder.”
In early 2018, ten years after the start of Mirakle Couriers, the Capital 4 Development Partners (C4D) Asia Fund, a current partner of DGGF, invested in Mirakle Couriers. Within six months, the social enterprise doubled in size to 120 employees. Soon after, they opened a second office and are now planning to scale up their courier services to open in five other big cities in India.
A boost to attracting commercial capital
“C4D was a remarkable boost for us”, says Dhruv, who compares C4D to an ‘elder brother’. “Whenever I have a big decision to take, I consult with Arvind Agarwal [Managing Partner of C4D Partners]. We are on the same page.” He met Arvind at a conference in 2017 and within a few months they struck a deal. C4D is now a shareholder and helps the business to develop.
With C4D on board, Dhruv expects to attract more commercial investors. “Notably”, says Dhruv, “investing in social enterprises is slowly getting off the ground in India. That is what I consider my biggest achievement so far: successfully introducing the idea that young people with disabilities can do anything.”
DGGF’s support to the C4D Asia Fund
In 2018, DGGF invested in the C4D Asia Fund, recognising the strong fit with its own purpose. Besides investing in innovative growth-stage SMEs in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, the fund integrates a gender lens into its investment strategy. The fund aims to invest at least 30% of its capital in SMEs owned or led by women.
“Working with the DGGF deal team has been a very valuable experience. The frequent interaction and discussions on specific deals and our investment strategy, sharpened our thinking and the quality of our processes,” according to Arvind Agarwal.
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