Athena Global, (Athena) is a US-based, woman-owned, niche consulting firm with over 10 years experience applying private sector financing approaches to solve traditional development challenges. Athena has expertise in gender lens investing (GLI), structuring impact finance funds (debt and equity), investment vehicles and products, financial institution risk management, and impact investing advisory to use finance as a tool for positive social change. Athena’s business focus is selective, supporting primarily projects that are commercially viable and investments that help narrow the gap in access and utilization of financial services for vulnerable populations.
Based on decades of experience in emerging markets and closing financial transactions in nearly 60 countries, Athena has identified a clear gap in the financial products available for small and growing businesses (SGBs), and in particular those led by women (known as wSGBs). wSGBs are typically too large for microfinance lending, yet too small to meet the requirements of commercial lenders. This is because most financial intermediaries, in order to protect their own risks, are unable or unwilling to develop financial products that meet the actual business needs of SGBs. Additionally, these traditional financial products requiring standard collaterals and audited financials posit an unintentional bias against wSGBs, where in conservative contexts like Indonesia, women are unlikely to own assets or receive financial loans without permission from male family members.
To close the gap in serving wSGBs in Jakarta (Indonesia), Athena developed a proof of concept that combines new financial products and business advisory services. Launched in March 2019, BIDUK seeks to demonstrate that flexible, commercially priced, debt products are incredibly well suited to meet the needs of wSGBs in Indonesia (and potentially, throughout Southeast Asia).
Examples of flexible financial products include the introduction of a grace period for principal payments, considering moveable assets as collateral, and having variable repayment schedules based around actual cash flows. These products also reduce the focus typically placed on exit strategies for equity investments, as traditional liquidity events may not be realistic in these markets. Loan sizes for the proof of concept phase range between USD $15,000 and $75,000.
However, BIDUK is more than just financial products. The entire model is built around GLI, while utilizing blended finance. Building on years of experience and market research, we recognize that women value relationships heavily and seek partners with whom they can grow the business. Subsequently, BIDUK makes efforts to build relationships with clients and engage them into larger local wSGBs ecosystems. The project will also attempt to capture larger social equity impact through specific metrics, voluntarily reported by investee companies. This metric experiment will attempt to show actual positive correlation between transparency in reporting and reduced risk, which may eventually lead to showing causality between valuing women — as SGB business owners, in leadership roles, and as employees — to reduced business risk.
Within the given context, BIDUK will attempt to reduce the credit gap for wSGBs in Indonesia by piloting financial products and developing relationships that will help wSGB run better businesses — thereby minimizing or eliminating barriers to these businesses accessing capital from the formal financial sector.
 BIDUK is an abbreviation of Berinvestasti Dalam Usaha untuk Kemajuan (BIDUK), which translates to “Investing in Business for Progress”.