The Omidyar Network, established by Ebay Founder Pierre Omidyar, has recently invested in two more companies in India. The first investment is in a learning solutions company; the second is a three year $950,000 grant to another education provider, the Askshara Foundation. In 2010, the Omidyar Network planned to invest up to $200 million in for-profit and non-profit companies in India by 2015. It has so far invested $85 million across 24 companies in India, of which a total of five focus on education. Omidyar Network provides philanthropic capital to help launch ventures while it invests commercial capital to help them scale. The organization focuses on initiatives that are innovative, scalable, and cost-effective, and hopes to further enhance employment opportunities through funding for rural business outsourcing, agriculture, and vocational training.

Omidyar Network started funding projects in India about two years ago with plans to invest up to $200 million in five years

Mumbai: Omidyar Network Commons LLC, the philanthropic investment firm controlled by eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar, has invested an undisclosed amount in English language learnings solutions company EnglishHelper Inc. and extended a three-year grant of $950,000 to Bangalore-based public charitable trust Akshara Foundation, which focuses on elementary education.

These investments are consistent with Omidyar Network’s philosophy of supporting both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations.

Omidyar’s education portfolio in India has now expanded to five investments, which also include pre-school chain Tree House Education and Accessories Ltd; livelihood opportunities firm Anudip Foundation and employability assessment company Aspiring Minds Assessment Pvt Ltd.

Omidyar Network started funding projects in India about two years ago with plans to invest up to $200 million in five years. It has so far deployed $85 million across a portfolio of 24 companies in India, 70% of which are for-profit investments and the rest grants to non-profit organizations.

EnglishHelper offers a combination of English language reading and writing technologies and has helped over 10,000 learners across the country. “EnglishHelper has developed an innovative, scalable and cost-effective technology that addresses a multi-billion dollar global market for English language training,” said Mallika Singh, principal, investments, Omidyar Network India Advisors, adding that inadequate English speaking skills hinder the aspirations of millions of people to access quality jobs.

Akshara has developed a technology platform, Karnataka Learning Partnership, as a tool for non-profit bodies, corporations, academic institutions and citizens to get involved in improving government schools in Karnataka.

While philanthropic capital can launch ventures, it’s only commercial capital that can fuel their growth, said Jayant Sinha, partner, Omidyar Network India Advisors.

“Commercial capital is the locomotive that can take a train forward. All investors need to have a shared vision of ecosystem development,” said Sinha.

In its bid to enhance employment opportunities in India through impact investing, Omidyar Network also plans to support rural business process outsourcing, agriculture and vocational training projects.

Investments targeting the bottom of the pyramid will increase once investors make profit on such deals, said Vineet Rai, chief executive, Aavishkaar India, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on rural India. “It will become mainstream in a short span of time. We had nine exits, with at least five of them offering returns of five times to 15 times on the capital invested,” said Rai.