Investors have committed at least Rs 400 crore to a government-backed fund that will provide capital to new ventures serving the needs of India’s low-income communities. The fund, whose eventual size is envisaged at more than Rs 5,000 crore, is the first such by the government, which is taking increasing interest in venture capital investing.

The India Inclusive Innovation Fund, first announced in 2011, is expected to receive Cabinet approval in the next few weeks, said Sam Pitroda, the chairman of the National Innovation Council and the man regarded as the father of India’s telecom revolution. “We will begin operations as soon as we receive approval,” said Pitroda whose council will manage the fund. “NIC is in talks with banks and foreign lending agencies, including government-backed funds in the UK, to raise capital.”

The government will provide seed money of 15-20% of the total corpus that will be used to provide early-stage capital to ventures building innovative products and services in areas such as healthcare, education, water, sanitation and agriculture. The social venture sector in India has mostly been the preserve of a few specialised funds such as Aavishkaar Venture, Acumen Fund and Lok Capital. Increasingly, more mainstream investors are making a cautious entry into a segment that most investors had turned away from following the microfinance crisis of 2010.

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