Nepal impact fund halfway to target

Dolma Impact Fund, the Nepal-focused private equity fund, held a first close on $21 million last week and is targeting agribusinesses across the value chain.

Dolma Impact Fund, a private equity fund focused on impact investments in Nepal, is just over halfway to its $40 million target, having held a first close on $21 million last week.

The fund has so far attracted commitments from development finance institutions from Europe and some high net worth individuals. But the fund is now targeting more high net worth individuals and family offices.

“We’d like to remain attractive to all types of LPs including institutional and development finance institutions, which form the majority of our first close. For our final close we are also interested in opening the fund to family offices and high net worth individuals, especially those with a vertical interest in our sectors such as agriculture and clean energy and/ or the region of South Asia itself,”

Tim Gocher, chairman and co-founder of Dolma Impact Fund, told Agri Investor.

The fund has a five year investment period over its 10 year life, with investments ranging from $500,000 to $3 million per project. It hopes to invest in 12-15 projects overall and expects to make two within the first two years, according to Gocher.

The fund is not using a placement agent to source opportunities, but is employing a strategy it believes will put the finance element of the fund first, and deliver appealing returns to investors, said Gocher.

Target investments within agri are agribusinesses that also generate jobs and businesses for downstream enterprises in the value chain. “An example of an agribusiness we’re interested in is a livestock feed company,” Gocher told Agri Investor. “Making an investment there would link the company to regional farmers that can buy and sell the feed themselves. That helps to improve the supply chain within Nepal, rather than importing everything from other countries like India.”

The macroeconomic attraction is also compelling according to Gocher. “Many Nepalis work as migrant workers inthe GCC Middle East countries, Malaysia and elsewhere” he said. “They send hard currency to their families providing them with disposable income which, in the first instance, will be used to buy food.”

Gocher first considered using his investment experience – he worked at JP Morgan and Deloitte in the past – and his family links to Nepal to do some good after the civil war ended in 2006; a war that paralysed foreign investment into the country.

“On a macro level, we’re looking to develop an institutional investment track record for Nepal. We want to positively impact how capital markets view Nepal and that goal has garnered important support from the Nepali government and regulators,” he said.

Gocher founded and managed the Dolma Development Fund in 2003, a non-profit operation providing education and healthcare facilities to Nepali villages in remote locations. But this is the first time he has launched a return-seeking impact fund.

Dolma will use local newspaper advertisements to source some of its deals.