BASIX: Microfinance is but a Part of the Solution
BASIX, headquartered in Hyderabad, was the brand name of a group of entities with 6,000 outlets offering financial and livelihood promotion services throughout rural India. Despite its impressive progress in poverty alleviation, raising funds to continue such work was increasingly challenging, as BASIX found when it sought to raise Rs 2.5 billion in capital from private equity investors in late 2010. Not only did the diffuse nature of its work make valuation complex (the standard method would have been to take the sum of its parts and add a premium for the synergies between the entities using the discounted cash flow method ), but investors preferred simpler business models where the service/goods sold broadly met the same set of needs. One that met such diverse needs and spread across so many sectors was harder to figure out, as well as harder to scale up, making investment less attractive. Without scale it was hard to get capital; without capital it was hard to scale up. The question that Basix is grappling with is how best to position itself going forward.
The case highlights the challenges of building a social enterprise in the context of microfinance. It makes the point that, on the one hand, without a complete solution that deals with all the aspects of poverty, the impact of microfinance is limited. On the other hand, providing a complete solution raises organization complexity, making it difficult to assess exposure to risk and potential profitability, making it difficult to raise capital.