Wadhwani Foundation and Frontier Markets announce a strategic partnership to empower up to 10,000 women of rural India

by Shrutee K

       Funding by the Wadhwani Catalyst Fund (livelihood focused impact fund) to enable and empower “Saral Jeevan Sahelis” to achieve sustainable livelihoods

       Wadhwani Catalyst Fund sees immense potential in the underserved $5-6bn value e-commerce market slated to grow to $40bn by 2030

       Wadhwani Foundation and Frontier Markets are in strong alignment that this is an investment in the soul of India - its women, its children, and its future

10th Nov 2021: Wadhwani Foundation and Wadhwani Catalyst Fund today announced a strategic partnership with Frontier Markets to empower and support up to 10,000 women in rural India over two and half years by helping them to earn income independently.


Referred to as ‘Saral Jeevan Sahelis’, these are local women from villages who will be sourced, recruited and skilled, and then provided an opportunity to earn a livelihood. Sahelis are an integral influencer in rural communities, especially their villages. So, by enhancing their income opportunities, the objective of the Wadhwani Foundation and Frontier Markets is to improve rural households' overall quality and enable investments in their children's future.


Rural women crave for sustainable livelihoods, but consistent opportunities for them are few and far. To fulfil their mission of empowering Sahelis, Frontier Markets to expand to new geographies (from the current 2 to 7 states), make a significant investment in their tech platform and add new Sahelis as they move to new geographies. The long-term objective is to catalyze the achievement of onboarding thousands of Sahelis in 5-6 years.

This funding is in sync with the mission of the Wadhwani Catalyst Fund of amplifying impact through catalytic funding aimed at large-scale job creation. This partnership endeavors to grow the income of Sahelis to Rs. 7,000-10,000/month so that they can lead an independent and dignified life. In the rural areas, this is a significant additional income for a family. 

Speaking on the funding closure, Sanjay Shah, Chief Operating Officer, Wadhwani Foundation - India/SEA, said, “Wadhwani Foundation is excited to partner with Frontier Markets. From selling only clean energy and agri products in 2011, they have managed to add multiple categories, including consumer durables products and essential services, by leveraging their social commerce platform and by simply listening to the pulse of rural consumers. Frontier Markets is changing the way villages buy products and services, and the way business is done across the hinterland by building an army of rural women salesforce (or Sahelis), armed with smartphones and deep consumer insight. They are driving change, creating an impact while managing to make money and profits. We certainly look forward to leveraging the Wadhwani ecosystem to help them grow their network and touch more lives.”

Frontier Markets is a rural social commerce platform providing quality products in 3000+ villages through a network of ~10,000+ rural women entrepreneurs (Sahelis) who earn stable & growing incomes. Its product basket includes clean energy solutions, energy-efficient home appliances/mobile phones, agri-products, FMCG and digital financial services.


Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO, Frontier Markets, said, “We are extremely excited about partnering with Wadhwani Foundation and the Wadhwani Catalyst Fund as they validate our mantra that investing in rural women is smart business and the key to driving SDG goals at scale. This partnership also becomes one of the first to showcase how blended capital can be leveraged to support social businesses and help drive accelerated scale.”                


Through a Phygital Modelthe ‘Sahelis’ understand customers and curate demand. The app collects customer data, showcases products, manages sales & inventory, while the ‘Saheli’ homes double up as stores/local touchpoints supported by branches of Frontier Markets, which serve as warehouses. It’s the first data-centric model leveraging insights to drive customized solutions for rural consumers.

About Wadhwani Foundation: Wadhwani Foundation was founded in 2000 by Dr Romesh Wadhwani, with the primary mission of accelerating job creation in India and other emerging economies through large-scale initiatives in entrepreneurship, small business growth, innovation, and skilling. The Wadhwani Foundation operates in 20 countries, including India, Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines), East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda), Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia), West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana), Egypt, and Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile). The Wadhwani Foundation works in partnership with governments, foundations, corporations, and educational institutes. For more details on Wadhwani Foundation, please visit https://www.wfglobal.org/


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