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B-Briddhi Panel Discussion on How to Use Innovative Financing Instruments to Support Women-led and Women-focused Enterprises

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The Editor
November 16, 2022
B-Briddhi Panel Discussion on How to Use Innovative Financing Instruments to Support Women-led and Women-focused Enterprises

The Biniyog Briddhi programme (B-Briddhi) has been playing an inspiring role in the Bangladesh ecosystem in promoting the growth of impact investing and gender inclusion. Stepping into its third year, the programme hosted a panel discussion on how innovative finance can unlock more capital for women-led and women-focused enterprises. This hybrid event in Dhaka (Bangladesh) on September 29th came in collaboration with Bangladesh Angels Network (BAN) and Bangladesh Women Investors Network (BWIN). Supported by esteemed speakers, B-Briddhi provided a great blend of international expertise  and local know-how in the panel discussion:

1. Shuying Tang – Partner at Patamar Capital, Co-Founder & CEO at Beacon Fund

2. Anita Ghazi Rahman – Founder & Partner at The Legal Circle

3. Ridma Khan – Director at Bangladesh Women and Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI)

4. Sharawwat Islam: Managing Director at Truvalu Enterprises Ltd

Maxime Cheng, Ridma Khan, Sharawwat Islam, and Anita Ghazi Rahman engaged in a panel discussion on using innovative financing instruments to support women-led and women-focused enterprises
Maxime Cheng, Ridma Khan, Sharawwat Islam, and Anita Ghazi Rahman engaged in a panel discussion on using innovative financing instruments to support women-led and women-focused enterprises

Shifting the Dialogue from the ‘What’ to the ‘How’ of Gender Lens Investing (GLI)

Gender Lens Investing (GLI) rapidly grew to a value of USD 5.3Bn in 2020 according to Project Sage. However, while the discourse in Bangladesh is largely focused on supporting female entrepreneurs, GLI takes into consideration gender-based factors across the entire investment process.

Corinne Henchoz Pignani,  Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh, addressing the stakeholders
Corinne Henchoz Pignani, Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh, addressing the stakeholders

Corinne Henchoz Pignani – Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh – stressed that thinking beyond female entrepreneurs and leaders is essential for Gender Lens Investing (GLI). She also highlighted the other 5 lenses that should be considered.

“Incorporating a gender lens for economic or gender inclusion includes a spectrum that covers workplace equality, women as investors, women in supply chains, women in leadership, women-focused products and services, and women getting access to capital.”Corinne Henchoz Pignani

While GLI is rooted in empowering and supporting women, it is not a ‘women only’ approach. Men play a critical role in harnessing the growth of GLI. According to an IFC report on gender diversity, private equity and venture capital funds with gender-balanced senior investment teams generated 10% to 20% higher returns as compared to funds that have a majority of male or female leaders.

Challenges for Female Bangladeshi Entrepreneurs Despite Gender-Inclusive Policies

The Women Entrepreneur Development Unit (WEDU) of Bangladesh Bank (BB) aims to –

  • Render business-friendly services to women entrepreneurs
  • Raise awareness for women’s empowerment
  • Monitor and evaluate women-focused development initiatives

However, the mere existence of policy tools is no guarantee of their effectiveness, as highlighted by Ridma Khan. In fact, substantial gaps in implementation and monitoring lead to a very different reality. Here, the biggest hurdle is access to finance underpinned by a knowledge gap.

Staff sitting at gender development desks are not friendly towards female entrepreneurs. When a rural woman who is not very educated goes to the bank, they tend to use big words which confuse her and prevent her from ever going back.” – Ridma Khan

Ridma Khan,  Director at Bangladesh Women and Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI) highlighting the challenges faced by rural women
Ridma Khan, Director at Bangladesh Women and Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI) highlights the challenges faced by rural women

Sharawwat Islam further sheds light on this hurdle. Inadequate knowledge distribution often leads to female entrepreneurs not being aware of women-focused loans and favorable rates. Additionally, female entrepreneurs also require patient capital for growth, while banks mostly offer working capital loans. There is a strong need for capacity-building support and backward linkage activities for female entrepreneurs so they can build an investment-ready business.

Sharawwat Islam, Managing Director at Truvalu Enterprises Ltd, shared her insights

Innovative Financing as an Approach to Mend the Adversities

Innovative financing can effectively target the “missing middle” of women-owned and women-led businesses that do not fit the growth profile of venture capitalists. While the innovative catalytic funding instruments provided by B-Briddhi – the Impact Ready Matching Fund (IRMF) and Social Impact Incentives (SIINC) – are simple and efficient, they also integrate impact milestones into the investment principle. Another highlight is the growing trend for Revenue Sharing Agreements, BNPL (buy now pay later) mechanisms, and P2P (peer-to-peer) lending opportunities. Additionally, innovative finance can also come in the form of capacity building. It has been demonstrated by the voucher scheme programme of B-Briddhi.

Innovative funding doesn’t just have to be in cash but can also be in kind. That is also an innovative way of funding.” – Anita Ghazi Rahman

Stakeholders networking during the event
Stakeholders networking during the event

Find the original and a more detailed version for in-depth reading on the Biniyog Briddhi website:

How to Invest Smarter with Innovative Financing Instruments to Better Support Women-led and Women-focused Enterprises?


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WRITTEN BY: The Editor

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