Business / Economy

Finance companies launch new funding program for female entrepreneurs

By Wang Wen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-05 08:37

China's first funding program aimed at providing finance exclusively to female entrepreneurs has been launched by a group of heavyweight finance organizations.

International Finance Corporation, Ant Financial Services Group, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Goldman Sachs Foundation will jointly run the program.

The funds to be offered - through loans from Ant Financial Services' microcredit arm Ant Credit, with the backing of IFC and Goldman Sachs - are expected to benefit around 46,000 female entrepreneurs. The program has 500 million yuan ($80.13 million) available to it.

"The market opportunity for financial products designed specifically for female entrepreneurs is huge", said Ji Min, deputy director of finance research institute of the People's Bank of China, with few, if any, currently on the market.

Karin Finkelston, IFC's vice-president for Asia Pacific, said women starting out tend to invest their business knowhow in different directions from their male counterparts, for instance into family-oriented fields, including children's education and family healthcare, which often represent appealing prospects for financial companies.

On the flipside, however, research shows that women entrepreneurs have traditionally found it hard to get financed, and if they do, the amounts approved can be tiny, even as little as 10 percent of what they are seeking, said Finkelston.

She claims her own organization, however, is female-friendly when it comes to financial support, a philosophy shared with its partner in the new fund, Ant Financial Services, which already has a strong client base of female-led startups, many of which run their businesses on Alibaba's online market platform.

Yu Shengfa, Ant Financial's vice-president, said that just over half of the business owners using Alibaba's online market platforms are female.

IFC provided 1 billion yuan in senior loan funding to Ant Credit in 2014 which it loaned, in turn, to 62,000 micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises across China.

Online-based Ant Credit's role is to evaluate potential borrowers' creditworthiness based on their transactional and behavioral data, without the need for deposits, it says, or using any assets as guarantees.

By the end of March 2014, Ant Credit had loaned 190 billion yuan for more than 700,000 small and micro-business.

Ding Qinyan, 26, an Ant Credit customer, started her online apparel store on when she was still in college.

Her first online business loan was granted in 2013, for the deposit needed to join an online sales campaign.

Based on Ding's sales records and credit history, the application was approved within a minute at an interest rate of 0.0005 percent per day.

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