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Gender bias creates gender-lens investment opportunities in ethical fashion in Indonesia

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
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The best investors see opportunities where others don’t. To see the unseen, a new crop of investors is going beyond “trusting your gut” and building gender-bias analysis into their investment decision-making.

In the booming global fashion industry, one set of investors is turning a better understanding of implicit gender bias into opportunities. Patamar Capital and Kinara Indonesia are surfacing and investing in companies solving a range of workers’ rights and environmental challenges in Indonesia’s high-flying fashion industry.

Last month, the duo completed its third impact accelerator, awarding $25,000 each to four women-led ethical fashion companies in Indonesia through a peer-selected investment model. The Impact Accelerator Program, supported by Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian Government, backed Astungkara, which connects business owners, fashion designers with local artisans to produce customized fashion products; the eco-focused baby clothing platform MinikinizzKostoom, an on-demand tailor service; and corporate wear upcycler HeyStartic.

“We identified the inefficiencies in the market and the opportunities for these entrepreneurs to grow their businesses,” said Patamar’s Ellen Nio. Formerly Unitus Impact, Patamar manages a $45 million fund with more than a dozen investments in companies serving the working poor in South and Southeast Asia. Kinara Indonesia is an early-stage venture capital firm in Jakarta that manages one of Indonesia’s first impact-business accelerators.

Fashion is particularly booming in South and Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, apparel exports now top $12 billion annually and could reach $75 billion by 2030. Indonesia is one of the top ten garment suppliers globally.

The industry is also ripe with exploitation, putting expected returns at risk. In Indonesia, for example, women make up over 80% textile workers. They work long hours for little pay, work on short-term contracts and suffer abuse at the hands of their employers. These inequalities and violations of human rights are exacerbated when gender intersects ethnicity, class and other identities and realities.

Many venture capital firms are blind to such issues or avoid the fashion industry altogether. Patamar Capital and Kinara Indonesia are finding value in companies that fight fast fashion, protect worker rights and pay workers well, are focused on environmental sustainability, use local talent and ensure the sustainability of culture, promote recycling, energy efficiency, and waste elimination, and use innovative technology that helps stakeholders be more efficient.

Read the full article at ImpactAlpha.