Thanks to a catalytic capital infusion facilitated by NICEorg, MeMeraki is successfully digitising 3000+ Indian arts and crafts and triggering an increase in artisan incomes.
via Network of Indian Cultural Enterprises (NICEorg)
Convertible Notes are short term loans that eventually convert to equity under certain predetermined circumstances. Investors loan money to an organisation and rather than get their money back with interest, they get a discount in valuation during a subsequent financing round. The price at which such notes convert to equity is usually capped making this a founder-friendly instrument.
(or lesser if MeMeraki raises another round of funding)
NO. OF ARTISANS
MeMeraki is India’s first ‘culture-tech’ platform using technology to unlock sustainable artisan livelihoods. They are on an ambitious mission to digitise over 3000 heritage crafts and skills of artisan-creators across India by creating online and offline experiences for the new-age consumer; these include live workshops and masterclasses by artisans, research-led storytelling and art-based lifestyle products. Most art and craft forms are traditionally passed down from generation to generation. MeMeraki formalises this intellectual and cultural capital by not only enabling traditional folk artists and artisans to become digital creators and educators but also exposing consumers to the intrinsic value of Indian craftsmanship. Their platform also serves as a new channel of revenue for artisans, helping them to receive both fair compensation and recognition for their work and knowledge.
To date, they have conducted 700+ live, paid, art workshops, seeing participation from 16,000 people, and in the last financial year alone have raised ₹50 lakhs ($62,500) for their artisans. 50% of MeMeraki’s revenue flows back to the artisans.
MeMeraki’s decentralised approach champions co-creation and has empowered 200+ artists specialising in 70 different art forms from around the country, resulting in a 50% increase in their income.
Their content-driven commerce approach of creating well-produced, pre-recorded masterclasses of diverse arts and crafts of India has been instrumental in building a brand that sparks customer interest and drives conversion. Some of MeMeraki’s videos have garnered more than 3 million views, creating awareness and generating demand for artisans’ work. Their 16,000+ strong Patron community regularly attends workshops, paving the way for cultural appreciation with the commercial benefits of the same flowing back to the artisans.
To capitalise on this interest, MeMeraki needed to invest in scaling their teams, content creation, tech spend, and bettering their marketing and distribution. Tech platform models are expensive — producing high quality content and developing a marketplace added to their expense. This could not be churned out at speeds typical for product or tech-based market models. More than 50% of funds raised would be directed towards building and refining their edtech platform where patrons and attendees can access masterclasses and live workshops. At least a third of the funds raised would go towards hiring the right professionals for tech and marketing to help scale the model.
Investors had to understand the challenges of investing in a category creator, appreciate the different brand of social impact created, its inability to scale like mainstream tech platforms, and would need a higher risk appetite.
As an ecosystem enabler that nurtures cultural and creative entrepreneurs, NICEOrg, through its #NICEAngels program has curated mission-aligned investors who understand the nature of creative and cultural enterprises. NICE facilitated investments for MeMeraki by connecting them with credible, experienced investors who are a part of the NICE Angel Network. Some of them went on to invest between ₹5 lakhs - ₹50 lakhs ($6,250 - $62,500) each into MeMeraki.
These investors are realistic, patient, and comfortable with ambiguity. They are flexible with their investment approach and do not expect quick and easy gains or exits, comfortable with a 5 - 10 year horizon for return on investment.
MeMeraki opted for a Convertible Note as their preferred instrument of investment. Since the amount for a convertible note for each investor is limited to ₹25 lakhs ($31,250), they have used a Rolled-Up Vehicle (RUV) by Angelist India to pool funds for their angel investors.
Phanindra Sama, a widely known and respected Angel Investor was willing to invest long term, accept higher risk and lower than venture-scale returns since MeMeraki is working towards a social cause. Phanindra’s infusion of patient capital can help MeMeraki’s artists see an income growth of 30 - 40%. He also plans to make his extensive and influential networks in India accessible to MeMeraki, helping them access the mentorship and business support they need in their growth journey.
“I think there will be serious opportunities for wealth creation in the creative sector as well. Fabindia is such a big success story. As far as my investment goes, anything above a Mutual Fund is good. Since MeMeraki is also socially inclined, I’m comfortable even if I do not get venture-size returns.”
— PHANINDRA SAMA, NICE ANGEL INVESTOR
“While NICEorg’s angel investors expect the same kind of returns as they would from tech startups, the difference is they understand that the time to get those kinds of returns may be longer than in hyper growth tech startups. Even if they don’t explicitly say it, they definitely think of it as patient capital.”
— YOSHA GUPTA, CEO & FOUNDER, MEMERAKI
Provide founder-friendly capital that enables them to create new categories and innovations in India’s cultural economy.
Features of catalytic capital in this case:
Patient + Founder-Friendly: Investor understands that a category creator in emerging creative sectors will take time to establish itself and scale and thus supports the HCM with a financing instrument suitable for early stage enterprises looking to scale but not want to prematurely put themselves up for valuation.
Willing to Accept High-Risk and Uncertainty: Despite there being no benchmarks to assess MeMeraki's growth potential or predictability around returns, the Angel Investor supports an innovative solution by using <5% of his total wealth, earmarked for high risk investments.
Purpose-aligned: Traditional impact investors focused on BoP (Bottom of Pyramid) did not consider the MeMeraki culture-tech model — that focuses on socio-cultural and livelihood improvement — “impactful” enough.