JICA Looking Out to Fund Indian Social Enterprises


The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) recently launched SDGs Business Co-Creation Lab – Tsunagaru Lab – in India to connect Japanese companies with Indian social enterprises.  The lab is a platform meant to help India achieve its  SDGs goals. SDGs are 17 social development goals the United Nations announced in 2015. They are meant to be achieved by 2030. The term “Tsunagaru” means “To connect” in Japanese.

India has a major role to play in achieving global SDG targets. This platform would be of great help in accelerating it.  JICA believes that social enterprises are better than NGOs when it comes to solving or mitigating social and economic issues as they are more open and adept at applying innovative business models in fields such as healthcare, education, agriculture, waste, and energy.

NGOs tend to be slow change-agents while businesses are more focused on profits. Social enterprises world over have proven that a sustainable balance of economic and social interest can be achieved only through them. But governments, particularly in emerging markets like India, have not explored social enterprises’ potential. In fact, in many ways they restrict them.

JICA’s Lab could be a catalyst in giving these enterprises a boost by giving access to resources they need to multiply their impact. JICA India has partnered with Intellecap Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd. and ARUN LLC for identifying Indian social enterprises and also to offer support in enabling the partnership process.   

JICA is one of the world’s largest bilateral donor agencies and works as a bridge between Japan and developing nations. It provides assistance in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans, grant aids and technical cooperation programs to support development in emerging nations. In India, JICA has extended ODA Loans of over 5,730 billion Japanese Yen (approximately Rs. 3,50,000 crores) since 1958 for development across various sectors.

Here’s a brief chat between Katsuo Matsumoto, chief representative, JICA India with Benedict Paramanand, editor of SustainabilityNext

What was the motivation to start this initiative?

 Traditionally, national and local governments, bilateral and multilateral development agencies including JICA, NGOs have been the main players in solving social problems in less-developed and developing countries. In recent years, there is a growing interest in “social enterprises” that aim to maximize the social impact while creating economic returns through sustainable businesses.

While social enterprises and related funds are attracting funds from companies in Europe and USA, we don’t have many examples of investment and business development partnerships between Japanese companies and Indian social enterprises. We, JICA India office believe that social enterprises partnering with diverse actors can make social impact by addressing the social and developmental challenges in India including Covid-19 pandemic issues through their innovative approaches.  This is the reason behind launching the SDGs Co-creation Lab (a.k.a. Tsunagaru Lab) to facilitate collaboration between Japanese companies and Indian social enterprises.

Is the collaboration between Japanese companies and Indian social entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs on both sides?

We aim to facilitate primarily the collaboration between Japanese companies and Indian social enterprises. There is also a possibility that the interaction between social entrepreneurs of both countries are facilitated by this platform. We are in a position to connect valued resources such as human, products, management know-how and finance among organizations.

What are the targets for next 3 years?

We target creating good practices of business partnership (about 10-15) in the next 3 years. We will hold seminars, workshops to attract more Japanese companies, to come and join the platform and provide them services like introduction of social enterprises in the areas/sectors of their interest.

What is the nature of partnership, technical, grant or investment?

The nature of partnership can vary from business partnership, technical cooperation, research and development, investment in CSR activities.

Technologies and financial resources of Japanese companies are attractive factors for social enterprises. Social enterprises’ local networks, ability to identify the local needs, and know-how of the local business practices have the potential to make a significant contribution to Japanese companies, especially for those trying to reach out to new areas and rural settings. The partnership between the two companies will enable them to reach the last mile, which may not have been easy to access, and provide products and services that are needed for India and may give rise to new business models.

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