UnLtd India

Why invest in early-stage social entrepreneurs? : “They are the ones who see opportunity in big problems; they are the ones who are driven to create massive change… They are the leaders of tomorrow”. – Pooja Warier

UnLtd India


Established in 2007

The Journey

UnLtd India was inspired by the work of UnLtd in the UK, sharing the belief in the power of the individual to bring about social change. UnLtd India is a separate organisation to UnLtd which is based in Mumbai and provides support to early stage social entrepreneurs .

In 2006, Pooja Warier and Richard Alderson (UnLtd  India co-founders) organised a learning exchange journey to India with social entrepreneurs and leaders. It became clear that social entrepreneurs existed and were already making a difference in India, but there were gaps in the ecosystem, especially for early stage social entrepreneurs.

 UnLtd India now finds, funds and supports exceptional individuals, helping them create high-impact, sustainable ventures to tackle some of India’s greatest social challenges. They focus on early-stage social entrepreneurs and guide them on their journeys from idea to self-sustaining venture. From 2007 - 2012, UnLtd India supported more than 118 social entrepreneurs primarily in the Mumbai region, who have in turn reached more than 650,000 beneficiaries and created over 3,200 jobs.  The organization is now is scaling it up through its affiliate network in other regions of the country, as well as providing valuable support to organisations setting up outside of India, such as UnLtd USA

Support for Social Entrepreneurs

The team at UnLtd India believes in providing comprehensive and tailored support that helps build the capacity of social entrepreneurs and their ventures. 

Their incubation programme currently offers:

Seed Funding:We provide seed funding to pay for critical early start-up costs and support for social entrepreneurs as they launch their ideas.  

Coaching: We pair every investee with one of our associates, who provides hands-on coaching the development of the investee and his or her venture.

Leadership Development: We believe that great social ventures start with great people. That’s why we focus on building the capacity of our investees to be effective social venture leaders.  

Access to Funders & Experts:We leverage our network of outside donors and investors to help our investees suceed. 

Training:We offer our investees training through UnLtd India staff and outside experts on issues relevant to their ventures.

Peer Learning:We facilitate peer learning sessions that empower investees to share learnings and resources with their peers—helping build investees’ confidence and problem-solving abilities.

UnLtd India has three levels of support:

Level 1 support for social entrepreneurs looking to start or pilot a new initiative

Level 2 support for social entrepreneurs looking to propel existing high-potential early-stage projects towards greater impact and sustainability

Growth Challenge is designed to provide social businesses with the loan capital they need to grow.

Top tips for supporters around the world

ü  Build a team whose skill sets and strengths complement those of the founder

ü  Understand the local context and the needs of social entrepreneurs in your region

ü  Conferences and events help build profile before formally establishing.

ü  Start collecting data on impact from the very beginning

ü  Become a great story-teller to raise funds and support

ü  Build partnerships where possible instead of reinventing the wheel

ü  Establish a board with valuable connections

ü  Create feedback loops to understand the value of your support offerings to investees and adapt the support accordingly

ü  Start now! Never been a better time. 

Challenges & Opportunities

In India, people still struggle to understand what social entrepreneurship really is and the term is rarely heard outside the sector. However, both social development and entrepreneurship are concepts that are understood and supported. The challenge is to move these two closer together. There is an opportunity to build the gap by encouraging cross-funding between mainstream development and entrepreneurship. There is also a challenge to promote the creation of new legal structures in India that are better suited to social entrepreneurship.

Although UnLtd India was inspired by UnLtd in the UK and shares the same values and branding, fundraising remains a challenge as many funders assume that UnLtd India receives financial backing from UnLtd UK, when in reality it is a separately funded and governed organisation.

At an organisational level, finding and holding onto staff members with the right skills and who are affordable is a challenge. We want to focus on building leadership among local people.

UnLtd India’s affiliates programme has enormous potential to bring about change and have impact in regions where it is impossible for UnLtd India to reach. It is proving to be an effective strategy to promote social entrepreneurship in a large and developing country.


It was important for UnLtd India to be able to measure its impact before thinking about scaling its work through the affiliate network.

In 2012, UnLtd India published an external impact evaluation (conducted by Dalberg) to review the first four years and help put in place a strong impact evaluation framework.

The evaluation found that:

UnLtd India has the only incubator in India with financial and non-financial support for all types of social entrepreneurs from the very earliest stages of development. UnLtd India's personal coaching appears to be the most highly valued offering.

For every Rupee invested by UnLtd India, each investee programme, on average, goes on to raise Rs 14.5 of further funding

Investees' ventures have created 3,200 jobs to date and have reached out to more than 4.2m beneficiaries through their work

The Social Entrepreneurs

Under the Mango Tree:

For us, UnLtd India's support in mentoring, vision building, building our capacity to deliver, moving from a particular level to the next level, as a business, as an enterprise -- I think those are the big things.

- Vijaya Pastala, Under the Mango Tree

Avanti Fellows:

"UnLtd India has played a significant role in Avanti's progress by helping us strategically think through key decisions and providing us access to valuable advisors and connections. Most importantly, UnLtd India has helped me derive energy and resilience from interacting with an incredible group of investees.”

-        Krishna Ramkumar 

Partnerships & Financial Sustainability

UnLtd India has received support from a broad range of donors – primarily foundations including GIZ, Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, Rockefeller Foundation and KPMG.

Another revenue stream is its co-working space, Bombay Connect, and loan repayments for Growth Challenge investees.. 

UnLtd India has built important strategic partnerships, ranging from UnLtd in the UK to the Unreasonable Institute in the US.  Through its affiliate network, UnLtd India is broadening the reach of support for early stage social entrepreneurs.

UnLtd India set up a co-working space to fill an important gap in the ecosystem. Bombay Connect offers affordable working space, personal and professional growth development and member-focused events. Bombay Connect provides a cross-subsidized pricing model allowing low income entrepreneurs and established ventures to co-exist in the same space. Although currently an initiative under UnLtd India, the idea is for Bombay Connect to be financially sustainable and become a separate legal entity. 


Sarah Allen, Richard Alderson & Pooja Warier

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Useful Tools

The Global Social Entrepreneurship Network is an initiative launched and incubated by UnLtd                                 Get in touch by email or on twitter 

UnLtd is the trading name for The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs                                                                                                 Join the network

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