Diversity and Inclusion in Emerging Markets

A number of companies across Quona’s core global markets are stepping up to prioritize diversity and inclusion among their ranks.

Creditas, the largest fintech-focused on secured lending in Brazil, serves a vastly diverse population of Brazilians. To do that means cultivating a company culture that’s as rich and diverse as the country’s population of more than 213 million. It’s a massive undertaking for a company as big as Creditas, which boasts 2,000 employees, but its founder and CEO, Sergio Furio, has prioritized diversity and inclusion through strategic recruiting, onboarding, and internal support efforts. “Companies are a critical part of the social fabric that gradually transforms society,” says Furio. “The responsibility is huge and permeates multiple areas, from education through to innovation, diversity and values.”

And Creditas is not the only one. Across Quona’s core markets — Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, India, and Indonesia — diversity and inclusion efforts, often new territory for many of these companies, are becoming a crucial part of their growth strategy. With unique local and cultural challenges from one geography to the next, these companies are taking deliberate, participatory, and employee-based approaches to strengthen inclusivity across the board.

How Quona portfolio companies are approaching diversity and inclusion:

Based in a market with a complex racial history, Creditas spent months consulting across its team, from staff-led peer groups like Blacks@Creditas to weekly town hall meetings. Initiatives focused on inclusion have been core to Creditas’ culture from the outset, and in early 2020 the company pushed to incorporate metrics on diversity, salary, and promotions into inclusion efforts. Similarly, BizCapital, a Brazilian digital micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) lender, has incorporated a People and Compensation Committee into its board, with a specific focus on discussing approaches to hiring and salary inequities.

Companies are also working to create a more inclusive and flexible workplace to better support female employees simultaneously juggling parenting and careers. At NeoGrowth in India, this comes in the form of adding a work-from-home day to the schedule and providing maternity benefits for up to an additional three months over the government-mandated six months. NeoGrowth also created a “second innings for women” program targeting women who took career breaks. “The field presence required for NeoGrowth’s tech and touch model has historically been male-dominated,” says Arun Nayyar, CEO of NeoGrowth. “However, we recognize the strengths that women bring to the table, and we are focused on working to not only create an inclusive culture, supported by diversity hiring-focused training for field leadership, but also to provide flexibility where family is concerned.”

Companies across Quona’s portfolio are seeking out ways to attract more diverse candidates for open positions. Creditas is offering programming training to ten female employees over the next two years to help build the pipeline of women in technical roles. ZestMoney, a digital point of sale financing platform in India, now offers coaching opportunities to middle management to encourage more women to transition into leadership roles in the company. And BizCapital started to hire more women to balance gender numbers and started a pilot coaching program with women leaders who can be inserted in the company’s top management.

KoinWorks, a peer-to-peer lending company in Indonesia, has put a greater focus on searching for qualified female candidates to add to the applicant pool for open positions by actively seeking them out and recruiting via LinkedIn. And South Africa-based payments startup Yoco is taking a long term view and prioritizing diversity over speed in its hiring process. The organization was forced to restructure its team due to COVID-19, leaving the engineering team without female members. The company has set an OKR to complement its hiring ambitions of having 80% of new leadership hires, and 70% of new technology hires identifying as female.

Building a diverse pipeline often requires using external playbooks or partnerships to help establish best practices and reach candidates who might otherwise go unnoticed. At Klar, a Mexico-based challenger bank, for every 20 male engineering job candidates, the company gets just one female candidate. To change this dynamic, Klar signed the United Nations’ Women Empowerment Principles, which was used to create an internal set of objectives and goals around hiring more women for technical roles and building a more inclusive environment. Meanwhile, BizCapital has partnered with a software development school working specifically with low-income students to help tap and hire new staff members.

Konfio, which offers digital banking and software to MSMEs in Mexico, leveraged its partnership with IDB Invest to create an 18-month working plan focused on increasing the diversity and inclusion of Konfio internally, and within their target market. Today, 33% of the company’s disbursed loans are to women-owned companies, a number founder and CEO David Arana is actively working to expand. With 90% of those female-run companies falling into the sole proprietor category, Konfio is taking a more deliberate approach to better suit a diverse market. “Without a doubt, it is necessary to analyze in detail the current scenario in terms of gender equity in order to propose real solutions that allow men and women to have equal opportunities and thus promote access and prosperity,” said Arana. “It’s a win-win situation at its best.”

Quona Capital is a venture firm specializing in financial technology for inclusion in emerging markets. Learn more at quona.com.