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Catalyst Fund and Rukula to bring machine learning to financial inclusion in Sri Lanka


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Rukula Ltd. has announced its selection as a Catalyst Fund company and in doing so has established itself as the first Sri Lankan company to become part of this global inclusive fintech initiative. 

Rukula is the now three-year-old start-up founded by Reeza Zarook, who inspired Sri Lanka’s e-commerce industry by launching Anything.lk/WOW.lk.

Catalyst Fund (www.catalyst-fund.org) is a philanthropic grant fund providing capital and tailored advisory engagements to fintech companies, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co, with Rockefeller Philanthropy Associates functioning as fiscal sponsor. Catalyst Fund looks for early-stage startups that have the potential to scale innovative approaches to financial inclusion, and seeks to share lessons from its direct work with fintech companies. 

The Catalyst Fund is managed by BFA, a global consulting firm specialising in using finance to create solutions for low-income populations. To date, 10 companies have been included in the program, from which only two have previously been in India.

“Rukula is the first company in our portfolio from Sri Lanka and we’re excited about bringing machine learning and artificial intelligence to their credit scoring process,” said Catalyst Fund Program Director David del Ser. “Rukula scaled a business in three years without external funding, and in the process garnered real data on 17,000 customers. These rich datasets will lead to insights on scaling fintech approaches in emerging markets.”

Brian Cayce, a Venture Capitalist from Grey Ghost Ventures who sponsored Rukula for Catalyst Fund, said: “I liked Rukula’s approach and was particularly intrigued with the opportunity to match some of the artificial intelligence and machine learning tools developed within the Catalyst Fund to the business model developed by Rukula. The combination should be a big win for Rukula’s targeted customers, as it will further lay the foundation for highly-scalable growth going forward.”         

Founder CEO Zarook said: “To be accepted into Catalyst Fund is a huge stamp of approval from the global social impact community that Rukula’s innovative approach to financial inclusion can make a difference. We started Rukula because we saw that a significant segment of the population was excluded from acquiring basic household durables – items that most of us take for granted. To date we have helped over 19,000 people improve their quality of life by being able to buy small goods on instalments without the need for payslips, guarantors or collateral. We hope that the engagement with the Catalyst Fund team at BFA can continue to propel our growth exponentially.”

Rukula Ltd. is a micro-credit retailer providing instalment plans to the financially excluded community of Sri Lanka on a range of consumer durables from a network of SME and nationwide retailers.


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