SAMRIDH has leveraged $300 million to support over 60 social entrepreneurs, and counting

Recognising the gaps in health systems, Sustainable Access to Market and Resources for Innovative Delivery of Healthcare (SAMRIDH), a blended finance (BF) facility, supported by USAID and implemented by IPE Global, was initiated amidst the pandemic. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID/India and Himanshu Sikka, Project Director, SAMRIDH and Chief Strategy and Diversification Officer, IPE Global in an interaction with Kalyani Sharma talks about this facility and its mission

What prompted the creation of SAMRIDH and what is its underlying purpose and mission?

Reddy:  When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was an urgent need for healthcare solutions in the hardest-hit, and hard-to-reach communities.  That’s where the SAMRIDH Blended Finance Facility was born.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) worked with public and private sector partners across India to build sustainable and responsive solutions.  By increasing researchers’ and incubators’ access to markets and funding streams, SAMRIDH helped to scale their life-saving initiatives.  SAMRIDH is a story of collaboration and innovation in the face of adversity, and the solutions developed here in India have the potential to serve as best practices across the world.  We’re proud to say that SAMRIDH innovations have already reached millions, and are ready to be taken globally.

Why did USAID choose to partner with IPE Global for this initiative? Please explain the organisation’s role under this initiative.

Reddy: When we recognised the scope of the challenges posed by the pandemic, IPE Global stood out as an ideal partner, with the experience and expertise to create a sustainable environment for health innovation and to scale up solutions to maximise impact across India. Together, we engaged India’s dynamic start-up ecosystem and collaborated with stakeholders from the government, academia, and the private sector to develop SAMRIDH.

What is blended financing and how does it help in the last mile reach of affordable and quality healthcare?

Reddy: Blended financing combines public and philanthropic funds with commercial capital to fund innovative solutions at all stages of the process, from program design to implementation at a widespread scale. As the needs of any single entrepreneur will vary, using blended finance tailors financing or support to match individual needs. Through SAMRIDH, we were able to rapidly support and scale innovative healthcare solutions, reaching India’s most vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, including poor and tribal areas, tier 2 and 3 cities, and urban areas that struggle to access quality healthcare facilities and services.

What are some of the interventions implemented by SAMRIDH that make sure healthcare is reaching the hard-to-reach populations?

Sikka: Through SAMRIDH, IPE Global and USAID have helped develop a range of innovative healthcare solutions that have increased access to primary healthcare for even the hardest-to-reach communities. For example, a key challenge is delivering healthcare services and devices to remote populations and populations that don’t always have access to a reliable power supply.  To overcome this, we worked with partners to redevelop key diagnostic and life-supporting medical devices to be portable, battery-powered, and reasonably priced.  This has revolutionised the ability to detect and address health problems early through diagnostic tools, including RT LAMP-based COVID-19 testing, genome sequencing, artificial intelligence-enabled platforms, and even a portable ECG monitor that has dramatically increased patients’ chances of survival by allowing doctors to intervene early, which has been deployed in 1,000 clinics and small hospitals to date.

How can philanthropic investment be used to improve healthcare challenges?

Sikka: As Veena has articulated, the blended financing model helps channel private investment to healthcare enterprises with innovative and catalytic ideas.  Philanthropic investment unlocks access to private capital through financial instruments like partial risk guarantees, social success notes, interest subvention and returnable grants.  This helps mitigate the risks inherent to commercial investments and incentivise healthcare enterprises by unlocking greater pools of capital. Philanthropic capital can also help to establish or strengthen a social enterprise’s credibility and reputation, which in turn can increase their eligibility for other funding opportunities.

So far, how has SAMRIDH helped strengthen the healthcare systems in India?

Reddy: SAMRIDH has leveraged $300 million to support over 60 social entrepreneurs, and counting.  The high-impact solutions they’ve developed through this support have cumulatively served more than 25 million people across India, improving access to quality and affordable healthcare services for those who need it the most.

How can SAMRIDH be sustained beyond USAID support, and what measures are you taking to ensure the same?

Sikka:  As the first blended finance facility of its kind, SAMRIDH has gained momentum and recognition not just in India, but around the world.  The initiative won the prestigious P3 Impact award, and was recognised by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s top 50 COVID-19 last mile responders. And, this is just the beginning, with tremendous potential for scale.  We can realise this potential by raising more grant capital for programs in India; using SAMRIDH as a model to establish similar structures in low-resource locations in Africa and Asia; and expanding the platform for use in other areas – like education and engagement on the climate crisis – where technology can expand access to life-changing resources.

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