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Social venture capital firm Aavishkaar invests Rs 18.6 crore in Mela Artisans

Social venture firm Aavishkaar Venture Management has invested Rs 18.6 crore in luxury lifestyle brand Mela Artisans, a company founded by India-origin entrepreneurs Navoze Mehta and Sonali Mehta-Rao.

Mela is headquartered in the US but sources products from artisan clusters in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, among other places."Mela was a compelling investment with its rare combination of established industry relationships with international retailers, significant backward linkages with artisan groups and excellent design capabilities culminating in an extremely competitive product," said Noshir Colah, partner at Aavishkaar.

Founded in 2010, Mela has launched its collections with a number of high-end retail boutiques and chains, including, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales, across the US, Europe and Latin America. It also retails through its website.

The latest investment will be used to expand its collections, grow its distribution channels domestically and internationally, and reach out to a wider range of artisan societies across India.

For Aavishkaar, the investment was made from the second impact investment fund—the $94-million ( Rs 583.4-crore) Aavishkaar II—which invests between Rs 3 crore and Rs 50 crore in early-stage ventures operating in the country's low-income states, such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. "Mela's eagerness to work directly with artisans and help them produce products of significantly superior quality has enabled artisan groups to upgrade their skills and earn more stable livelihoods, thus making the craft sustainable for them. This makes the investment incrementally attractive for Aavishkaar," Colah said.

The latest investment follows a spate of transactions made by the Mumbai-based social investment firm earlier this year. In January, ET was the first to report Aavishkaar's investments in four early-stage firms - HR Foods, CAOS Apparels, Mera Doctor and Nalanda Learning Systems.

The investment in Mela Artisans is the firm's twelfth transaction from the fund, which is backed by a host of global impact investment firms, such as International Finance Corp, the private investing arm of the World Bank; Rianta Capital and British development finance institutions CDC.

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