Phnom Penh-based retail technology social enterprise iCare Benefits Group has raised up to $15 million impact facility from Singaporean-based FinTech firm Helicap.
iCare Benefits was established as a comprehensive retail, buy-now-pay-later and leasing social enterprise focused on low-income women factory workers in developing countries.
The investment will enable iCare to continue supporting workers at the bottom of the economic pyramid through iCare’s comprehensive retail solution with flexible repayments.
iCare’s partnerships with manufacturers, distributors, banks and factories enable factory workers to obtain affordable access to basic life-changing products and services that drastically improve their quality of life.
Molika Meas, Co-founder & Group Chief Executive Officer at iCare Benefits said: “We will be able to improve the lives of more factory workers and their families by partnering with Helicap. Our main goal is to improve access to essential home appliances and electronics, quality healthcare and medical services, and educational materials, to holistically enhance the lives of our customers.
“We are dedicated to helping these hardworking women who are either mothers or daughters working to provide for their family and are delighted to be able to expand our reach through our partnership with Helicap,” she added.
iCare’s Co-founder and Group Chief Financial Officer Pablo F. Alonso Caprile explained to Cambodia Investment Review the company had been actively fund-raising since early 2021.
“iCare Benefits Group will utilize the new funding to lean into the growth of its retail technology and leasing businesses. With plans to re-start the onboarding of factory partners into its platform to serve more and more women factory workers in Cambodia and Laos,” Pablo said.
“The iCare story and its benefits to women factory workers are tangible and real destruction of the poverty cycle. Helicap’s vision is aligned with iCare in pushing for sustained financial inclusion for the millions of low-income, women factory workers that are currently underserved and unbanked,” he added.
Technology key for Cambodia’s non-banking sector
Helicap commented that while the tech sector and startup ecosystem are still developing, the firms see great potential for technology companies to partner with and improve traditional businesses, including in the highly developed Cambodian non-bank financial services industry.
Quentin Vanoekel, Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Helicap said: “Helicap’s founding goal has always been to break down traditional barriers for those who need capital and those who provide it. Providing factory workers with targeted retail and financing programs, iCare enhances their after-work lives and creates real impact for this under-served community.”
iCare is backed by Emerging Market Investment Advisers (EMIA), whose investors include the International Financial Corporation and European development financial institutions such as DEG and FMO that promote development and investment in emerging markets.
Also supporting the company is Clermont Group, an international business group that builds industry-leading businesses in healthcare, financial services, and aerospace.
Sugasini Kandiah, Senior Investment Officer at Emerging Market Investment Advisers added: “We are glad to see iCare getting validation from international investors to continue to grow its business and drive towards real financial inclusion for these low-income women factory workers. The support from Helicap will allow iCare to move to the next stage of growth.”
Cambodia on regional investor’s radar
Cambodia’s developing startup sector is increasingly becoming a destination for international investors, including from Singapore, attracted by the high growth potential, dollarized economy, 100% foreign ownership, ease of capital flow and market diversification the country offers.
Tomas Pokorny Secretary-General. Cambodia Association of Finance and Technology commented CAFT was happy to see international venture capital firms investing in Cambodian companies, and it is always a proud moment, especially when such firms are our members.
“The deal shows that Cambodia’s FinTech sector is prime for investments and with plenty of opportunities, specifically in the technology space. iCare has been leading the way in the retail technology sector and relevant tech and financial solutions for some time now, and their growth has proven the effectiveness of their model,” Pokorny said.
“I hope, and trust at the same time, that deals like this will be beginning of the trend of VC support to the Cambodian finance and technology sector,” he added.
Investing in Cambodia’s startup ecosystem is considered key for Cambodia to achieve its aims to reach upper-middle-income status (GNI per capita between $4,036 and $12,475) by 2030 on par with regional neighbors Thailand and Malaysia.