Founded in 2013

Initial investment in 2013

Board member: Jyotsna Krishnan

'Varthana provides infrastructure and project loans to help affordable private school entrepreneurs grow and improve their schools'

Company overview

Varthana empowers affordable private schools in India that have local credibility and a strong track record within their communities by offering secured and unsecured loans based on a cash-flow underwriting model that is customized for this segment. These loans are used for a variety of projects: new classroom space, dedicated bathrooms for girls, computer and science labs and new didactic materials, to name a few.

Community served

Varthana focuses on affordable private school entrepreneurs in India with credibility in their communities. The target segment comprises schools that charge a monthly fee of US$5 – US$25 per student. These school entrepreneurs typically launch schools using their personal finances and tend to run out of capital. Many of these school entrepreneurs use personal land / property to set up their schools - reflective of the strong personal commitment towards the business. There are an estimated 400,000 such schools in India working with over 80 million students. The additional enrollments in these ‘private schools’ is high due to a rising aspiration for ‘English medium, higher quality’ education, making school fees a high priority household budget item particularly for women in low income communities - despite availability of free education in Government run schools. This is indicative of the immense potential for growth in this segment.

About 40% of all enrolled students in India study in affordable private schools, some with fees as low as $5 a month.


Steve Hardgrave, Founder and CEO, brings a unique mix of operating experience, entrepreneurship, international development and investment expertise. He played a key role in the conceptualization, launch and oversight of Indian School Finance Company (ISFC) and also successfully built early stage social venture portfolios as a Managing Director for Gray Ghost Ventures and as an investment manager at Omidyar Network. Prior to that, he also launched a successful Mexican microfinance institution.

Brajesh Mishra, Founder and COO, spent close to 2 decades across multiple senior roles within retail financial services. He spent 14 years with ICICI Bank across segments like retail finance, car and two wheeler loans and agri-banking. Prior to founding Varthana, he was a core member of ISFC’s founding team and was instrumental in laying the foundation for their business in India.