by Faten Alqaseer (WG ’15) and Salimah Nooruddin (WG ’15)
Dana Cita won the inaugural Social Impact Prize at this year’s Wharton Business Plan competition.
What is Dana Cita’s mission?
Dana Cita strives to overcome the financial barriers to higher education for youths in Southeast Asia, starting in Indonesia. At our core, we want to make higher education accessible to as many aspiring students as possible by making affordable financing available. Dana Cita is the first to offer affordable educational loans to all post-secondary students, simultaneously helping to solve the problems of student financing, social mobility and the growing talent gap in the Indonesian economy.
We are a social business – our commitment is to tackle specific deep-rooted societal problems, and we are doing so via a market-led and profitable venture. We aim to do well by doing good – for our Indonesian students, partners, team and not least our investors.
Can you describe its business model?
Current financing options for higher education in Indonesia are very limited and not scalable, with no student loan market. Dana Cita aims to raise a mix of philanthropic and commercial capital to make education loans affordable for students. Our model relies on operational alliances and risk-sharing mechanisms with our partners which include capital providers, education institutions, and employers of the students we support.
What inspired its creation?
As a first generation college graduate, I am one of the fortunate few from Indonesia who are able to pursue a world-class university degree, largely thanks to scholarships. Those formative years empowered me to grow as an individual and also put me on a path to be successful professionally. For many Indonesian youths, they never have this opportunity. Dana Cita means “Aspiration Fund” in Indonesia and we want to make a difference by funding one would-be student’s aspiration at a time.
Have you had to make any pivots from your original vision?
The problem facing the higher education market is actually two-pronged: on the one hand, students can’t get financing to pay for higher education; on the other hand, employers find it difficult to find talent to fill knowledge positions. The original vision was to tackle both financing and employment gaps at the same time. However, in the initial stage we will focus more on the financing gap with an eye towards addressing the employment gap at a later stage.
How do you expect Dana Cita to grow over the next 10 years?
The vision for Dana Cita is to become the preeminent higher education financing platform in Indonesia and in the region. We hope to expand into other regional markets and to expand our product offering to include other types of educational loans. More broadly, we hope to facilitate the creation of an ecosystem where student borrowers have access to not only financing, but also training, support, and a network of mentors to help them be successful in the workplace and give back to future generations.
How has Wharton contributed to Dana Cita’s genesis so far? What role do you see it playing in the future?
The entrepreneurial and social impact communities at Wharton played a tremendous role in shaping Dana Cita, from providing resources to inspiring direction. Certainly in conceptualizing the idea, I benefitted greatly from the support and counsel of fellow aspiring entrepreneurs at Wharton, who enthused me with their own tenacity and grit – and from faculty and staff who lent their unwavering encouragement and support. More widely, developing Dana Cita at Wharton affords crucial credibility when speaking to potential investors and capital providers, and also sheds new light on the school as a catalyst of social impact. Going forward, we hope our efforts, and opportunities to further work with Wharton, will help to highlight the tremendous potential in finance and more broadly business approaches in leading social change.
How do you plan to measure the success of Dana Cita as an impactful start-up?
We don’t see a distinction between our commercial success and our social impact. At its core, our social value is intrinsic to our commercial success: more loans made translate directly to more social impact and profit. We will be earning a return for our investors while simultaneously enhancing the social mobility of our student borrowers and empowering them to improve their livelihoods. Our model reflects our belief that there is a way to do business that can simultaneously make profits and serve social needs. In fact, this is the direction we envisage successful businesses will have to take in the future and we are thrilled to be part of this new generation of start-ups and entrepreneurs.