July 2, 2021

3 key factors in financial modeling for microfinance

Group loan clients in Cambodia being served by a Maxima loan officer / Taejun Shin

I recently completed the financial modelling process for Gojo, and thought that the process might be of interest to other investors in financial inclusion, or anyone interested in the economics of microfinance.

The financial modelling of MFIs is not complicated. Financial Revenue is the key item amongst the other P&L items to understand the structure and assess the scalability of microfinance businesses. It is calculated as interest rate multiplied by Loan Portfolio. In this blog, I would like to focus on the Loan Portfolio because the other factor, the interest rate, is capped by regulators in some countries, and is not always a parameter which MFIs can freely change.

The loan portfolio can be broken down as follows. The 3 items colored in red are the key indicators on which I would like to elaborate further.

  1. Productivity (# of disbursed loans / LO): One of the most important factors is Productivity, which here means the number of loans disbursed per loan officer. This indicator shows how many loans a loan officer can handle at a time, or how many new loans a loan officer can disburse in a certain period.

    This indicator can be further broken down by branch or product. The productivity is highly correlated with branch vintage, i.e. the productivity tends to be lower at a newly opened branch but it improves as time goes by as officers get trained and become more experienced. Also, this indicator can be further improved through streamlining operations / processes through technology, such as the use of a Digital Field Application, automated underwriting, cashless payments etc. 

    One example of this at Gojo is a Digital Field Application called Bridge, developed by our tech team, whose MVP succeeded in significantly reducing the registration and loan approval time from 3 days to just 40 minutes! With the device, the loan officers are able to spend more time on client sourcing instead of becoming engaged in unproductive paperwork.
  1. Loan size: MFIs are willing to offer larger loans to customers who have repaid previous loans, as they can see more of the customer’s credit history than before. But for the MFI to be selected as the customer’s lender of choice, they need to keep a good relationship with customers through close and constant communication, otherwise the customers would end up changing their lenders. The MFI offers larger loans when the MFI is confident enough that the customers will repay the loans.

    Therefore, to offer larger loans, it is critical for the MFI to have a deep and up-to-date understanding of customers, including but not limited to, their business, financial situation and personal events. Considering this, although I mentioned the role of technology above, the microfinance industry will not immediately transition to fully tech-equipped services, unlike many other industries, but "tech & touch" will be the key concept for MFIs at least for several years going forward. Given that many MFI customers still do not own smartphones/smart wallets, data about their business situation, financial needs and other life events cannot be collected through these kinds of devices but needs to continue being collected through human touch to some extent. Modelling loan size therefore means we have to take into account the MFI's current and future capacity to collect data on customers and assess their creditworthiness.
  1. Branch expansion (# of branches): Room for branch expansion largely varies by country. For instance, in some countries such as Bangladesh, financial services have already spread widely to the bottom of the pyramid, but other countries still contain large numbers of underbanked or unbanked people. In more competitive markets, the MFI needs to have some unique selling point or advantages compared to existing players, whereas in less competitive markets they would be able to enter more easily.

    The decision on whether to open a branch depends on potential demand for credit, risks, economics, the competitive environment, and many other factors. An additional factor to take into account is the strategy of a MFI, as some MFIs focus more on urban areas while others target rural areas. There are financial institutions which do not have physical branches, rather operating through agent networks. For such institutions, we would possibly use the number of agents instead of the number of branches.

Although obviously there are many more factors to be considered when developing a financial model, such as operating expenses, fundraising and so on, I believe these three items above are the most critical and impactful items to microfinance businesses. At Gojo, we have seven partners as of now and while each partner has a different business model, the key financial success factors for most of them are the three I have outlined above.


Ryo Satake is an accountant and works in Gojo's finance and strategy and analytics teams. He recently led the process of financial modelling for Gojo's overall business and has helped to formalise the budgeting and financial reporting processes for Gojo's partner companies.

July 2, 2021

3 key factors in financial modeling for microfinance

Group loan clients in Cambodia being served by a Maxima loan officer / Taejun Shin

I recently completed the financial modelling process for Gojo, and thought that the process might be of interest to other investors in financial inclusion, or anyone interested in the economics of microfinance.

The financial modelling of MFIs is not complicated. Financial Revenue is the key item amongst the other P&L items to understand the structure and assess the scalability of microfinance businesses. It is calculated as interest rate multiplied by Loan Portfolio. In this blog, I would like to focus on the Loan Portfolio because the other factor, the interest rate, is capped by regulators in some countries, and is not always a parameter which MFIs can freely change.

The loan portfolio can be broken down as follows. The 3 items colored in red are the key indicators on which I would like to elaborate further.

  1. Productivity (# of disbursed loans / LO): One of the most important factors is Productivity, which here means the number of loans disbursed per loan officer. This indicator shows how many loans a loan officer can handle at a time, or how many new loans a loan officer can disburse in a certain period.

    This indicator can be further broken down by branch or product. The productivity is highly correlated with branch vintage, i.e. the productivity tends to be lower at a newly opened branch but it improves as time goes by as officers get trained and become more experienced. Also, this indicator can be further improved through streamlining operations / processes through technology, such as the use of a Digital Field Application, automated underwriting, cashless payments etc. 

    One example of this at Gojo is a Digital Field Application called Bridge, developed by our tech team, whose MVP succeeded in significantly reducing the registration and loan approval time from 3 days to just 40 minutes! With the device, the loan officers are able to spend more time on client sourcing instead of becoming engaged in unproductive paperwork.
  1. Loan size: MFIs are willing to offer larger loans to customers who have repaid previous loans, as they can see more of the customer’s credit history than before. But for the MFI to be selected as the customer’s lender of choice, they need to keep a good relationship with customers through close and constant communication, otherwise the customers would end up changing their lenders. The MFI offers larger loans when the MFI is confident enough that the customers will repay the loans.

    Therefore, to offer larger loans, it is critical for the MFI to have a deep and up-to-date understanding of customers, including but not limited to, their business, financial situation and personal events. Considering this, although I mentioned the role of technology above, the microfinance industry will not immediately transition to fully tech-equipped services, unlike many other industries, but "tech & touch" will be the key concept for MFIs at least for several years going forward. Given that many MFI customers still do not own smartphones/smart wallets, data about their business situation, financial needs and other life events cannot be collected through these kinds of devices but needs to continue being collected through human touch to some extent. Modelling loan size therefore means we have to take into account the MFI's current and future capacity to collect data on customers and assess their creditworthiness.
  1. Branch expansion (# of branches): Room for branch expansion largely varies by country. For instance, in some countries such as Bangladesh, financial services have already spread widely to the bottom of the pyramid, but other countries still contain large numbers of underbanked or unbanked people. In more competitive markets, the MFI needs to have some unique selling point or advantages compared to existing players, whereas in less competitive markets they would be able to enter more easily.

    The decision on whether to open a branch depends on potential demand for credit, risks, economics, the competitive environment, and many other factors. An additional factor to take into account is the strategy of a MFI, as some MFIs focus more on urban areas while others target rural areas. There are financial institutions which do not have physical branches, rather operating through agent networks. For such institutions, we would possibly use the number of agents instead of the number of branches.

Although obviously there are many more factors to be considered when developing a financial model, such as operating expenses, fundraising and so on, I believe these three items above are the most critical and impactful items to microfinance businesses. At Gojo, we have seven partners as of now and while each partner has a different business model, the key financial success factors for most of them are the three I have outlined above.


Ryo Satake is an accountant and works in Gojo's finance and strategy and analytics teams. He recently led the process of financial modelling for Gojo's overall business and has helped to formalise the budgeting and financial reporting processes for Gojo's partner companies.

December 3, 2020

3 painful pieces of investor feedback

From 2016 until recently, I was fortunate enough to meet many investors for Gojo’s equity financing rounds from Series A to D. 

This blog post aims to share a few painful moments when I received candid feedback from potential investors. I now see these pieces of feedback as a gift, and hope that the following three gifts I received can help those looking to raise funds, especially for startups. All three are true stories. 

1. “You are like a messenger boy.” 

I will never forget this message and genuinely appreciate him giving me such straight forward feedback. This message in the very early days of my fundraising journey helped me a lot. 

At that time, we were about to close a deal with one of the best-known VCs in Japan. The VC was not a lead investor. Given VC financing practices in Japan, follower investors do not have much room to negotiate a share subscription agreement's terms and conditions. 

The venture capitalist understood the limitations and conceded on most terms while requesting a few minor points where he could not compromise. As the person in charge of negotiating with the VC, I consulted our legal counsel, and we decided to push back on his request.  

He accepted our comments, but at the end of the conversation, he told me, "I understand your attorney is doing a great job, and I can understand his points. But I haven't heard your views on my request in  your own words. Please explain why you think your company should not accept our offer. You are now representing your company in front of me. We are now turning the final corner of this deal because I believe in your team and you. Give me your own words instead of a lawyer's textbook answers. "

I could not answer well because I had relied only on the legal counsel's comments and had not thought deeply about it myself. Then he told me,"You are like a messenger boy. I say sorry, but messenger boy has no value to me." 

My takeaways: 

  • Speak with my own words, not borrowing from others, even if it is about a technical matter.
  • During negotiations, I represent the current shareholders in front of a future shareholder. I need to give confidence to my counterpart, who will become a shareholder soon after this negotiation. 

2. “See you again someday after you study us.” 

Over our Series B financing period in 2017, we looked for a strategic investor who could create business synergies with us, rather than only injecting capital. Very luckily, we got the chance to meet with a top executive of a multi-billion dollar company, which sells consumer products globally. As usual, we prepared by studying their website, his book, and past newspaper articles before meeting him at their office.  

At the executive’s office in a Tokyo skyscraper, we discussed the potential for business synergies after a brief corporate presentation. Our idea was to collect market data through our multi-national microfinance business network, which the company or market research firms would not usually be able to obtain because we targeted only low-income mothers in rural areas. They would become the company's future main client segment. We confidently said to him, "Why don't you obtain data from our company to track the consumer trends while collaborating with us? That could be a unique selling point for your marketing. Since we work in developing markets, we could bring you the contextualised data if you were to become our strategic investor." 

He answered, "Oh, that sounds like a good idea. Could you let me know what feedback you’ve heard from clients on our product in these countries? Or could you share some personal spending data you’ve collected so far about our product segment? I'm sure you must have studied several samples before coming to me."

Unfortunately, we could not answer because we hadn’t researched the issue sufficiently before our first meeting. He seemed confused by our poor preparations. He said, "See you again someday after you study us."  

Needless to say, the meeting ended 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, and the deal didn't happen. Instead, we wrote a letter apologizing for taking up his precious time.  

My takeaway: 

  • Lack of preparation means a lack of effort. We should be as prepared  as possible so that we can inspire investors. 

3. “I understand your vision, however, you look like a swindler to me.” 

By November 2016, two years and four months had passed since Gojo's inception. We were sourcing Series A investors, targeting mainly individual angels. The minimum ticket size for angel investors was 10 million JPY, approximately USD 90K at that time. At just two years and four months, our company didn't have a brilliant track record. However, we had to offer a reasonably high valuation to preserve our founders' ownership and avoid the mission drift seen in the microfinance sector in the early 2010s. 

In many cases, for start up financing, personal introductions are the most powerful way to expand your pool of investors. The key is to create a network of supporters to get these connections. I contacted many old friends and acquaintances and made many pitches. 

I met a 60 year old veteran executive of a company which he had run for 25 years with stable growth. He welcomed me, and we had a casual catch-up, then I made a presentation to ask him whether he could consider an angel investment in our company.  

He questioned our top line, bottom line, top-line growth rate, and valuation. Right now, our current valuation comes from a combination of our past track record and future expectations. At that time, our valuation mainly relied on a dreamy goal: our future expectations. 

He told me, "I believe that a business should be valued based on past performance, and if there is no track record, it should be a reasonable price. Come to me again when you achieve numbers that can justify your valuation. I understand your vision and passion, however, you look like a swindler for now." 

My takeaway: 

  • While it may be pretty obvious, not everybody can value our beliefs and thoughts as we do. There is no one pricing for start up financing. Try tapping a number of investors until we find those who can understand the value of our offering. 

In conclusion

Painful feedback is food for better performance. Our ability to accept it honestly depends on our determination to achieve the vision. As long as we are determined to achieve our vision, we can happily receive this feedback as a gift even though emotionally it’s not easy. 

There are so many hard things in the fundraising process that we can not imagine just from reading success stories in outlets like TechCrunch. 

Adding shareholders to the cap table is similar to marriage. I hope those who read this blog post can overcome hard things and find the best partner to change the world with you!  

From left to right: me, Takeshi Minamoto (the investor from my first story), and our CEO Taejun Shin.

Postscript

The investor who told me I was like a messenger boy founded his own venture capital firm after spending two years as a shareholder of Gojo. After his first investment in Gojo, he connected us with his own networks of investors built throughout his career, and we can attribute around 25 million USD of funds successfully raised to his introductions. He also invested in Gojo again from his new venture capital firm. Fast learning can attract additional investment and strong support from investors. As our CFO Kohei says in his recent blog post, fast learning creates credit with investors. Credit translates into the capital to change the world.


Natsuki Sugai has worked at Gojo since 2015. In that time, he has worked as a country representative for Myanmar and has led Gojo's fundraising efforts from Series A to C. He currently works on the Operations team, where he develops and refines Gojo's governance processes.

December 3, 2020

3 painful pieces of investor feedback

From 2016 until recently, I was fortunate enough to meet many investors for Gojo’s equity financing rounds from Series A to D. 

This blog post aims to share a few painful moments when I received candid feedback from potential investors. I now see these pieces of feedback as a gift, and hope that the following three gifts I received can help those looking to raise funds, especially for startups. All three are true stories. 

1. “You are like a messenger boy.” 

I will never forget this message and genuinely appreciate him giving me such straight forward feedback. This message in the very early days of my fundraising journey helped me a lot. 

At that time, we were about to close a deal with one of the best-known VCs in Japan. The VC was not a lead investor. Given VC financing practices in Japan, follower investors do not have much room to negotiate a share subscription agreement's terms and conditions. 

The venture capitalist understood the limitations and conceded on most terms while requesting a few minor points where he could not compromise. As the person in charge of negotiating with the VC, I consulted our legal counsel, and we decided to push back on his request.  

He accepted our comments, but at the end of the conversation, he told me, "I understand your attorney is doing a great job, and I can understand his points. But I haven't heard your views on my request in  your own words. Please explain why you think your company should not accept our offer. You are now representing your company in front of me. We are now turning the final corner of this deal because I believe in your team and you. Give me your own words instead of a lawyer's textbook answers. "

I could not answer well because I had relied only on the legal counsel's comments and had not thought deeply about it myself. Then he told me,"You are like a messenger boy. I say sorry, but messenger boy has no value to me." 

My takeaways: 

  • Speak with my own words, not borrowing from others, even if it is about a technical matter.
  • During negotiations, I represent the current shareholders in front of a future shareholder. I need to give confidence to my counterpart, who will become a shareholder soon after this negotiation. 

2. “See you again someday after you study us.” 

Over our Series B financing period in 2017, we looked for a strategic investor who could create business synergies with us, rather than only injecting capital. Very luckily, we got the chance to meet with a top executive of a multi-billion dollar company, which sells consumer products globally. As usual, we prepared by studying their website, his book, and past newspaper articles before meeting him at their office.  

At the executive’s office in a Tokyo skyscraper, we discussed the potential for business synergies after a brief corporate presentation. Our idea was to collect market data through our multi-national microfinance business network, which the company or market research firms would not usually be able to obtain because we targeted only low-income mothers in rural areas. They would become the company's future main client segment. We confidently said to him, "Why don't you obtain data from our company to track the consumer trends while collaborating with us? That could be a unique selling point for your marketing. Since we work in developing markets, we could bring you the contextualised data if you were to become our strategic investor." 

He answered, "Oh, that sounds like a good idea. Could you let me know what feedback you’ve heard from clients on our product in these countries? Or could you share some personal spending data you’ve collected so far about our product segment? I'm sure you must have studied several samples before coming to me."

Unfortunately, we could not answer because we hadn’t researched the issue sufficiently before our first meeting. He seemed confused by our poor preparations. He said, "See you again someday after you study us."  

Needless to say, the meeting ended 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, and the deal didn't happen. Instead, we wrote a letter apologizing for taking up his precious time.  

My takeaway: 

  • Lack of preparation means a lack of effort. We should be as prepared  as possible so that we can inspire investors. 

3. “I understand your vision, however, you look like a swindler to me.” 

By November 2016, two years and four months had passed since Gojo's inception. We were sourcing Series A investors, targeting mainly individual angels. The minimum ticket size for angel investors was 10 million JPY, approximately USD 90K at that time. At just two years and four months, our company didn't have a brilliant track record. However, we had to offer a reasonably high valuation to preserve our founders' ownership and avoid the mission drift seen in the microfinance sector in the early 2010s. 

In many cases, for start up financing, personal introductions are the most powerful way to expand your pool of investors. The key is to create a network of supporters to get these connections. I contacted many old friends and acquaintances and made many pitches. 

I met a 60 year old veteran executive of a company which he had run for 25 years with stable growth. He welcomed me, and we had a casual catch-up, then I made a presentation to ask him whether he could consider an angel investment in our company.  

He questioned our top line, bottom line, top-line growth rate, and valuation. Right now, our current valuation comes from a combination of our past track record and future expectations. At that time, our valuation mainly relied on a dreamy goal: our future expectations. 

He told me, "I believe that a business should be valued based on past performance, and if there is no track record, it should be a reasonable price. Come to me again when you achieve numbers that can justify your valuation. I understand your vision and passion, however, you look like a swindler for now." 

My takeaway: 

  • While it may be pretty obvious, not everybody can value our beliefs and thoughts as we do. There is no one pricing for start up financing. Try tapping a number of investors until we find those who can understand the value of our offering. 

In conclusion

Painful feedback is food for better performance. Our ability to accept it honestly depends on our determination to achieve the vision. As long as we are determined to achieve our vision, we can happily receive this feedback as a gift even though emotionally it’s not easy. 

There are so many hard things in the fundraising process that we can not imagine just from reading success stories in outlets like TechCrunch. 

Adding shareholders to the cap table is similar to marriage. I hope those who read this blog post can overcome hard things and find the best partner to change the world with you!  

From left to right: me, Takeshi Minamoto (the investor from my first story), and our CEO Taejun Shin.

Postscript

The investor who told me I was like a messenger boy founded his own venture capital firm after spending two years as a shareholder of Gojo. After his first investment in Gojo, he connected us with his own networks of investors built throughout his career, and we can attribute around 25 million USD of funds successfully raised to his introductions. He also invested in Gojo again from his new venture capital firm. Fast learning can attract additional investment and strong support from investors. As our CFO Kohei says in his recent blog post, fast learning creates credit with investors. Credit translates into the capital to change the world.


Natsuki Sugai has worked at Gojo since 2015. In that time, he has worked as a country representative for Myanmar and has led Gojo's fundraising efforts from Series A to C. He currently works on the Operations team, where he develops and refines Gojo's governance processes.

December 3, 2020

Trust and Credit

From March to April this year, amid the Covid-19 turmoil, Gojo & Company successfully raised JPY 2.3 billion yen (US$ 22mn) from existing stakeholders and secured enough excess funds to deal with the crisis. The reason we were able to do this is, in my view, was our diligence in communicating both the good and bad news about our management situation to our shareholders. 

Looking back on the past, this full-disclosure principle is similar to the way I thought about investor relations at LIFENET, the insurtech company, where I served as CFO while it was still a start-up. The life insurer was forced to face a global financial crisis soon after it commenced operations in May 2008. I still vividly remember the days and nights visiting shareholders and communicating closely with them one by one to let them know how things were going. In those days, I was running around so much that my leather shoes were torn to shreds within six months.

In his recent book Trailblazer, Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of Salesforce, emphasizes the importance of trust, saying, “Success is built on trust. Trust starts with transparency.” This motto also appears at the top of their community website. My personal belief resonates with this simple statement. When a company is in its early stages, nothing helps to secure the continuous support of stakeholders like transparency. 

Gojo & Company, through its affiliated companies, provides financial access to those who are excluded from traditional financial systems. Although the majority of our current revenue comes from microcredit, which is the extension of microloans to impoverished borrowers who typically cannot provide collateral, most of our clients lack sufficient verifiable credit history. 

In a sophisticated financial system, when people buy homes with mortgages, purchase goods using credit cards, or when companies borrow from banks, these transactions rely heavily on credit, which is a measure of how well you have done in the past (be it in terms of income, sales, or repayment history). In other words, credit reflects your past. The word "credit" also refers to historical achievements, such as a unit of an educational course you successfully completed, or a list of people who helped to make a film.

In contrast, trust is predominantly about your future, or something which others believe you will deliver. We can think of credit as a more objective evaluation based on past performance, and trust as a more subjective evaluation based on expectations for the future.

In this sense, microcredit starts with trust, building on all the data points we collect to assess creditworthiness. Trust within the community; trust among a group of people who come together to obtain loans; and trust between the loan officers of Gojo group companies and borrowers. 

Gojo & Company is paying forward the trust which we received and will continue to build with our stakeholders by extending trust to our clients and building our credit together with them. As our clients build their credit history, so does Gojo build credit with our own stakeholders. I’m proud to be part of this ecosystem, and feel the responsibility to secure continued trust from our stakeholders, so as to contribute to extending financial access and making Gojo’s vision a reality.


Kohei Katada is Gojo's CFO. He leads Gojo's fundraising, finance and admin teams. Prior to joining Gojo, Kohei served as the Senior Vice President of Finance at SmartNews and as CFO at LIFENET INSURANCE COMPANY.

December 3, 2020

Trust and Credit

From March to April this year, amid the Covid-19 turmoil, Gojo & Company successfully raised JPY 2.3 billion yen (US$ 22mn) from existing stakeholders and secured enough excess funds to deal with the crisis. The reason we were able to do this is, in my view, was our diligence in communicating both the good and bad news about our management situation to our shareholders. 

Looking back on the past, this full-disclosure principle is similar to the way I thought about investor relations at LIFENET, the insurtech company, where I served as CFO while it was still a start-up. The life insurer was forced to face a global financial crisis soon after it commenced operations in May 2008. I still vividly remember the days and nights visiting shareholders and communicating closely with them one by one to let them know how things were going. In those days, I was running around so much that my leather shoes were torn to shreds within six months.

In his recent book Trailblazer, Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of Salesforce, emphasizes the importance of trust, saying, “Success is built on trust. Trust starts with transparency.” This motto also appears at the top of their community website. My personal belief resonates with this simple statement. When a company is in its early stages, nothing helps to secure the continuous support of stakeholders like transparency. 

Gojo & Company, through its affiliated companies, provides financial access to those who are excluded from traditional financial systems. Although the majority of our current revenue comes from microcredit, which is the extension of microloans to impoverished borrowers who typically cannot provide collateral, most of our clients lack sufficient verifiable credit history. 

In a sophisticated financial system, when people buy homes with mortgages, purchase goods using credit cards, or when companies borrow from banks, these transactions rely heavily on credit, which is a measure of how well you have done in the past (be it in terms of income, sales, or repayment history). In other words, credit reflects your past. The word "credit" also refers to historical achievements, such as a unit of an educational course you successfully completed, or a list of people who helped to make a film.

In contrast, trust is predominantly about your future, or something which others believe you will deliver. We can think of credit as a more objective evaluation based on past performance, and trust as a more subjective evaluation based on expectations for the future.

In this sense, microcredit starts with trust, building on all the data points we collect to assess creditworthiness. Trust within the community; trust among a group of people who come together to obtain loans; and trust between the loan officers of Gojo group companies and borrowers. 

Gojo & Company is paying forward the trust which we received and will continue to build with our stakeholders by extending trust to our clients and building our credit together with them. As our clients build their credit history, so does Gojo build credit with our own stakeholders. I’m proud to be part of this ecosystem, and feel the responsibility to secure continued trust from our stakeholders, so as to contribute to extending financial access and making Gojo’s vision a reality.


Kohei Katada is Gojo's CFO. He leads Gojo's fundraising, finance and admin teams. Prior to joining Gojo, Kohei served as the Senior Vice President of Finance at SmartNews and as CFO at LIFENET INSURANCE COMPANY.

Newsletter

Sign up for our semi-regular round-up of our latest news and blog posts here.

Shridhar Hitnalli

Technology

Shridhar is an electronics engineering graduate with a degree from Shivaji University, India.

He has over 12 years of experience in developing and designing software solutions.

After graduating from university, he joined HSBC Global Technology as a software engineer. Prior to joining Gojo, he was working in the UK, and has previously worked with Danske Bank, Scala Inc, and Syntel Ltd.

Shridhar also helped build a cloud-based IoT product for a startup based in Norway.

He writes code for living and is learning about the mind and mindfulness. In his free time, he likes to watch web series and spend time with his family.

Works in: India

Takao Takahashi

Head of Corporate Planning and HR

At Gojo, Takao leads corporate planning, strategy setting, and HR. Before joining Gojo, Takao was an Investment Officer at International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, based in both Washington DC and Jakarta. In his 7 years with IFC, he led investments in microfinance institutions, banks and fintech startups in emerging markets. Before IFC, Takao worked as the Bhutan Prime Minister’s Fellow, developing microfinance regulations and financial inclusion policy to contribute to Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH). He also worked for 4 years as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company based in Frankfurt and Tokyo.

Takao graduated from Georgetown University, USA, with a Master of Science in Foreign Service and completed his Bachelor of Laws from Kyoto University, Japan.

Takao loves singing, both opera and karaoke. Tennis is his favorite sport. He has authored a book in Japanese, the English translation of the title being; ‘What is true happiness? Thoughts from Bhutan’

Works in: Japan

Yung-Han Chang

Corporate Planning

Yung-Han graduated from the National Taiwan University, Faculty of International Business Department and completed her post-graduate diploma in Social Innovation Management at Amani Institute in Kenya.

Prior to joining Gojo, she was working at NISK Capital, a pioneer East African investment bank founded by a group of enthusiastic African investment bankers, aiming to alleviate the financial burdens of local SMEs and to support their growth. Before moving to Kenya, she worked at Yuanta Investment Consulting Firm in Taiwan. As an equity research analyst, she was involved in industry analysis, financial modeling, equity valuations, and investor communications in the downstream technology sector.

At Gojo, together with the team, Yung-Han is working on Corporate Planning, Impact Measurement, and Fundraising & Investor Relations (Mandarin-speaking investors). Yung Han is proficient in English and Mandarin, good enough in Japanese and Taiwanese, and survival level of French. She loves outdoor sports, and you can find her around the ocean when on holiday.

Works in: Japan

Praachi Gandhi

Social Performance Management /
Cerise External SPI4 Auditor

Praachi, a Sociologist from the Delhi School of Economics, joined Gojo in 2014. She manages social performance at Gojo partners by working and training the teams to streamline operational processes as per industry standards of client-centric responsible lending. Praachi is a Cerise accredited Social Auditor who leads the social audits at Gojo partners for the ethical treatment of staff, society, and the environment, thereby balancing financial and social sustainability.

Praachi had earlier been a Lecturer at Delhi University since 1994 and a Corporate Trainer since 2012. Alongside this, she has worked with NGOs and international developmental projects with Johns Hopkins University, USA, the MacArthur Foundation, her focal interest being women's health and autonomy. Gaining extensive knowledge and insights, while interacting directly with low-income group women, using the 'daily health diaries' methodology, Praachi worked towards reducing the high financial burden that poor women incurred on health expenditure. She went on to study alternative systems of healing and received an honorary Doctorate in alternative therapies, to serve and treat the underserved women.

Praachi has the unique ability to connect seamlessly with people from all walks of life and age-groups. She resides in India with her family. For Praachi, laughter, and music is the source of immense energy in the universe.

Works in: India

Cheriel Neo

Impact Measurement

Cheriel works on initiatives to measure and learn from the impact of Gojo's partners' products and services on our clients' lives. She has a BA (Hons.) in History and English from Exeter College, Oxford University, and an MSc. in Translation Studies from the University of Edinburgh. Cheriel got started in the world of social impact during her time in Oxford, where she ran a homeless outreach, and helped found what would become a national student-led charity for social justice.

After graduating, she joined Social Finance, a social investment financial intermediary, where she designed Impact Bonds in the UK, Cameroon and the West Bank, and helped create an app to track young people’s outcomes after leaving state care. She is a founding director of Proof Bakery, a social enterprise training and employing refugee women in the UK.

In her spare time, Cheriel enjoys reading, snacking, and exploring her neighbourhood. She is an accomplished knitter and an avid home cook.

Works in: Japan

Momoko Nagayoshi

Internal Audit

Momoko is responsible for internal audit function in Gojo Group, collaborating with the internal audit functions at each Gojo partners. She is a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

Before joining Gojo, she has experience of 14 years at Prudential Financial Inc. (PFI) where she was a Senior Audit Manager; (International Audit Group), handling internal audit activities and it's quality assurance checks for Prudential’s international businesses. She also facilitated audit methodology training sessions for the internal auditors in Prudential’s global locations, such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Latin America and also at the Institute of Internal Auditors Japan (IIAJ). Prior to PFI, Momoko worked at KPMG and conducted audit services for financial institutions, including banks, security investments and insurance.

Momoko graduated from Waseda University, Political Science and Economics. She likes sports, especially swimming and yoga, and is fond of singing.

Works in: Japan

Sohil Shah

Investment team

Why did you join Gojo?
Prior to joining Gojo, I worked with one of India’s largest impact investing groups covering many sectors like healthcare, financial services, agriculture, education etc. After 5 years, I felt the need to build deep expertise in a particular area so as to make a meaningful contribution. With financial inclusion as its core theme, Gojo not only gave me an opportunity to work directly on the field but also think about how I can make real impact.

What does a day in your life look like?
Even after a year at Gojo, my days are still intellectually stimulating! Typically I have a bunch of calls/meetings on various issues – managing partner companies, fundraising, building investment pipeline, technology strategies for a group, etc. Initially, it did look overwhelming, but I like the fact that it gives me an opportunity to cover multiple facets related to building a strong foundation for the group. There are also a lot of casual chats with colleagues between meetings which make for a fun day!

What do you find challenging and rewarding about your job?
The only challenge I see at Gojo is our remote style of working. Throughout my career, I have worked with colleagues co-located in a physical office so this was definitely new to me. But the rewards outweigh the challenges and make it all worthwhile. The opportunity to understand the hardships of our clients, experience their lives, and constantly strive to make them better keeps me going. You feel that you’re making a dent in the universe, in your own small way, and that feeling has been very satisfying for me.

A word for prospective team members
Despite the large scale, Gojo still operates like a start-up. If you want to make a difference to the society while working in a flat organization with a high level of ownership, then this is the place for you!

Marco Giancotti

Technology team

Why did you join Gojo?
I come from a science/tech background, but originally I was making satellites and web platforms for satellite data, not financial services. Working on tech projects was great in itself, but I felt that I wanted to channel that fun to solve non-first-world problems as directly as possible. I started looking to pivot my career in that direction and found Gojo to be the perfect match for that. Even better than I hoped, actually.

What does a day in your life look like?
When there is no pandemic bringing the world to its knees, I usually work from Gojo's office in Tokyo. Otherwise, I work from home. My team is scattered around the globe, so we communicate online most of the time anyway.

What do you find challenging and rewarding about your job?
In the half-year that I've been working here (it flew by like a flash!) I've learned lots already, and it's really fun to work with the best of the best professionals from very different fields. Everyone is both highly-skilled and committed to doing good. No one is fooling around. Best of all for me, they are all simply nice people. Of course, working with team members spread across many countries and cultures is not easy. You have to step up your interpersonal skills and get used to the overheads. But if you can do that, it's extremely rewarding and, I repeat, fun. We get to meet our clients, team up with our partners, and solve some of the toughest problems of our society. What better job can I wish for?

A word for prospective team members
You have to be a little crazy and very empathic to work at Gojo. If you are, you are going to love it!

Yoko Shigekura

Cambodia country officer

Why did you join Gojo?
I have always wanted to do something that could bring hope to the most vulnerable people. Before joining Gojo I worked in a financial advisory firm, and had the opportunity to visit one of Gojo's partner companies. Seeing how microfinance delivers change in people’s lives, I was convinced that Gojo is the place for me to develop my business management skills while at the same time engaging with the issues that I have been hoping to tackle.

What does a day in your life look like?
I work in the head office of Maxima Microfinance Plc., Gojo's partner company, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Work starts at 7:30 and ends at 16:30 at Maxima (you will get used to being an early bird!). I work with the local staff in various areas: analyzing our business situation, enhancing internal controls, communicating with external stakeholders, and providing problem-solving support on anything that will improve our business. I visit our branch offices once a week to listen to our clients and have discussions with branch staff.

What do you find challenging and rewarding about your job?
Every day is full of new challenges, and every day I ask myself, "What was I able to do that brought hope to our clients?" A colleague once told me that Country Representatives are expected to continuously deliver miraculous outputs that truly support the local management, and that is why we are there. Expectations is high and therefore challenging, but rewarding. The clients tell me how Maxima was the only institution that supported them when they really needed the support, and I feel honoured to be a part of that.

A word for prospective team members
Working at Gojo is tough, but fun and meaningful. I am always amazed by how talented my colleagues are, and whenever a Gojo member visits Maxima, I feel like my family is visiting me. I will be waiting for your visit to Cambodia!

Mubaraka Bharucha

Software Engineering

Mubaraka joined Gojo in August 2020 as a Full-stack Software Engineer. Mubaraka graduated from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Technology in Gujarat, India, with a Bachelor of Engineering in Information Technology.

After graduating, Mubaraka joined a smart energy startup - Gridscape Solutions in which she contributed to Smart Charging solutions in the IoT domain. Later on, she moved to PEaaS Finablr where she transitioned into financial product engineering. During her time at Finablr, Mubaraka was involved in a 100 million transaction & community engagement project, as well as overseas money transfers.

Mubaraka loves sports and travelling. In her free time, she can usually be found watching series or reading.

Works in: India

Ryo Satake

Accounting / Strategy & Analytics

Ryo is a Certified Public Accountant and works at Gojo as a Senior Accountant. Ryo has a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Keio. While at university he passed the CPA exam, the youngest to do so that year. He did an internship at Ernst & Young Philippines, where one of his clients was a microfinance institution and was impressed with the purpose of microfinance and its business model.

After graduating, he joined Ernst & Young in Tokyo, where he engaged in financial audits, internal control audits, operations/financial management advisory, and financial due diligence for potential M&A. He also spent 2 years on secondment at the EY Los Angeles office, where he was in charge of supporting a unicorn startup company headquartered in the United States. He has experience auditing under IFRS, US-GAAP, and J-GAAP.

Ryo is very fond of travelling, reading books, watching soccer, and going to the sauna.

Works in: Japan

Nina Shingai-Imoto

Head of Strategy & Analytics

Nina leads the Strategy & Analytics Department at Gojo from July 2021 covering Strategy, FP&A and BP&A.

Nina started her career at J.P. Morgan in 2007 at its Investment Banking Division in the Tokyo office and has over ten years of Investment Banking experience across cross-border M&A, global equity/debt offerings, and syndicated & leveraged finance. Most recently at her time at Goldman Sachs' Investment Banking Division, she engaged in cross-border M&As, global debt offerings (SEC-registered, 144A/RegS), and shareholder advisory work in the Healthcare and Financial Institutions sectors. At J.P. Morgan, she also served as Business Manager for the firm's Global Corporate Banking Division in the Tokyo office where she assisted the division in its client selection/prioritization strategy, budget preparation and performance management, and coordination with Legal & Compliance and Technology teams on CRM and pipeline tools implementation. She also acted as the coordinator for the Tokyo office’s Balance Sheet Approval Committee.

Nina holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Strategic Management and Finance and a Bachelor of Policy Management from Keio University. She has lived and studied in the U.S. and Switzerland for over 11 years.

Works in: Japan

Yoshinari Noguchi

R&D

Yoshi joined Gojo and currently is leading the company’s analytics projects. Having graduated from Tokyo University and worked for Dai-ichi Life Insurance for 2 years, he spent 10 years as a quantitative analyst at Goldman Sachs Asset Management where he used to work for Global Alpha, a hedge fund of the investment bank.

At Goldman Sachs, Yoshi managed quantitative global tactical asset allocation of the fund and developed various quantitative investment management products and tools. After leaving Goldman Sachs, he founded his own company and used to run a music studio business while providing consulting services for financial institutions. He loves finance theory, music, and skiing.

Works in: Japan

Jeet Dholakia

Software Engineering

Jeet graduated from City University of New York, USA, with a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial studies and completed his Bachelor of Engineering at Gujarat Technical University, India.

He works as a software engineer at Gojo. Prior to joining Gojo, Jeet was a lead mobile engineer at Finablr PEaaS. In his one and a half years with Finablr PEaaS, he led engineering projects for cross-border payments and money remittance, among other things. He also worked with startups like Ruvna and Locaholic while in the USA, as an intern and software engineer respectively. He carries an entrepreneurial spirit and works on his own passion projects, shipping them on the App Store.

Jeet loves fitness and is happiest when in the gym or jogging in the morning. He loves reading self help books and his motto is, “Whatever you can conceive, you can achieve”. His favourite sport is Formula 1 and he wants to visit every racing track.

Works in: India

Mami Kamei

Human Resources

Mami works in the HR team with a focus on developing and engaging Gojo's members and fostering Gojo's culture.

Prior to Gojo, Mami worked at Bain Capital as an office manager handling HR and overall office administration. Prior to Bain Capital, she worked at a US software company, Guidewire Software, building HR and admin processes for 10 years from the startup phase of its Tokyo office. She has previously worked at Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom, LLC and the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo. She started her career at Japan Airlines after graduating from Keio University, BA in German Literature. She spent her high school years in the UK and Germany.

Mami loves traveling, learning new things, playing the piano and has recently been practicing yoga for the wellbeing of mind and body. She has two daughters.

Works in: Japan

Sangita Agarwal

Technology

Sangita has a post graduate degree in Master of Computer Application from Rajasthan University, India. She has over 11 years of experience in quality assurance with framework development/automation for security and cloud distributed products.

After graduating, she joined Blue Coat Systems, where she contributed by testing network gateway security products. Later on, she moved to McAfee where she contributed on framework development and solutions for automation testing for multiple security products. She joined Gojo in October 2020 and is working to define the test strategy for core banking systems.

Sangita likes watching web series, playing table tennis and spending time with family.

Works in: India

Arnaud Ventura

Managing Partner

Arnaud has founded and led two of the leading European financial inclusion groups active in Micro and SME finance, as well as digital finance.

Between 1998 and 2008, Arnaud cofounded and led PlaNet Finance with the support of Jacques Attali (Chairman) and Muhammed Yunus (Chairman Advisory Board). It was one of the most successful European financial inclusion groups, providing mainly advisory services in the sector. Between 2008 and 2019, Arnaud founded & led Baobab (formerly MicroCred), the leading Micro&SME digital bank in Africa & China. In 2019 alone, Baobab lent $1 billion to 1 million clients, generating around $200 million total revenues and more than $40 million pre-tax profit.

Arnaud is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. He also cofounded the French China Foundation, the leading network of Young Leaders between France and China, and Share Africa, a platform to promote Africa's innovation and creativity. Arnaud graduated from EFREI, Paris, in Computer Science, and La Sorbonne in Philosophy. He speaks French, English and Spanish fluently and loves reading history & philosophy. He loves skiing and hiking in the mountains (particularly in the south of France), and has 2 young boys.

Works in: France

Rahul Rokade

Data Engineering/Technology

Rahul holds a masters degree in Computer Science & Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India.

After graduating, he joined Quikr India Pvt. Ltd. and led implementation of various in-house systems there. Prior to joining Gojo, Rahul worked for leading Indian matchmaking platform Shaadi.com in their Data Engineering team, and was responsible for implementing and enhancing cloud-based data lake and data warehousing systems. At Gojo, Rahul is working as a part of the Technology/Data team on building a data management platform to support the company's data strategy.

Rahul likes photography and cooking. He has a keen interest in topics related to the existence and evolution of life, and has recently developed an interest in learning about the influence of religion and mythology on modern technological advancements. Rahul is an animal lover. He loves to spend his free time with family, friends and his dog Eathen.

Works in: India

Murtuza Ranapurwala

Software Engineering

Murtuza is part of the Technology team at Gojo and is working toward building world-class financial solutions for Gojo with his team.

He has experience in various technology domains such as Fintech, Data Verification, and Robotic Process Automation. Prior to joining Gojo, he was working at MeasureOne, Ahmedabad, where he was contributing to building an Academic Data Verification platform. Before that, he was working at PEaaS Finablr, Vadodara, where he was building an all-in-one Financial App. He did his Bachelor's in Computer Science at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Technology, Gujarat, India.

He likes to spend his free time learning new technologies, writing tutorials on various technologies, playing video games, and watching anime.

Works in: India

Royanne Doi

Outside Director

Royanne Doi is the former Corporate Chief Ethics Officer of Prudential Financial Inc., and former Advisor for Global Legal, Ethics & Compliance to Yamaha Corporation.

Prior to Yamaha, Royanne held senior legal positions with major global financial institutions. At one point, she managed 200+ staff around the world, with business experience in North and South America, Asia, and Europe. During her tenure as a global ethics officer, Prudential Financial received Ethisphere's designation as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the first time in 2015, and multiple times thereafter. As a member of Gojo's board, she will further accelerate the strengthening of internal audit and corporate governance to enable the sustainable growth of Gojo group.

Royanne has an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, from Washington University in St. Louis, graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law. She is married to her law school sweetheart and has lived in Japan since 1994. She has three passions: economic empowerment for women, Asia with an emphasis on Japan, and the intersection between neuroscience and behavioral ethics.

Works in: Japan

Haruna Tanaka

Corporate Planning

Haruna is a professional with expertise in strategy, business development and incubation. She works on corporate governance, social performance management and any other projects that are needed to further enhance Gojo's work.

Prior to Gojo, she worked for Rakuten, a Japanese internet services company for 10 years. As a member of the CEO's office, she worked on special projects and other items on the CEO's agenda, including acquisition of overseas companies, enrollment of Englishnization at Rakuten, strategy development of Rakuten Mobile and more. Amongst other things, she also led Rakuten's ebook business as business manager in Japan and Taiwan, Asian business development, and innovation activities, including internal and external accelerator programs. Before Rakuten, she was a strategy consultant at Booz and Company. She graduated from Tokyo University majoring in Economics. She has lived 3 years in UK and a year in US in her childhood and is fluent in Japanese and English.

Outside of work, Haruna is a partner and board member of Social Venture Partners Tokyo, an NPO supporting seed stage social entrepreneurs to succeed. She is also a mother of 2 children, and enjoys reading, and playing the flute.

Works in: Japan

Neeraj Lekhwar

Product Delivery and Implementation

As a part of Gojo's technology team, Neeraj is responsible for leading the timely delivery and implementation of technology projects & products across partner companies. This includes the deployment of the Core Banking Solution (CBS), Digital Field Assistant (DFA) and Customer Mobile Application.

He has a 14-year track record of steering large-scale digital transformation drives as well as donor-funded programs and interventions in India and abroad. Prior to Gojo, Neeraj worked as a consultant for International Finance Corporation (IFC), Asian Credit Fund (ACF) and Gojo to provide support on their digital financial services initiatives targeted at MFIs. Before that, he also worked as Project Manager (DFS) at Grameen Foundation India. In the first half of his professional career, he worked with organisations like ICICI Bank, FINO and PayU Payments that gave him first-hand exposure to financial inclusion, large-scale agent banking operations, and electronic payment operations.

Neeraj has a background in Engineering with an MBA from the National Institute of Cooperative Management, Pune. He likes watching movies and clicking photographs.

Works in: India

Elchin Abdullayev

Product

Elchin is responsible for product development functions and strategic operations initiatives across Gojo's non-Indian partners.

Prior to Gojo, Elchin has held various senior management positions with microfinance institutions and commercial banks, where since 1999 his work has focused on product management, marketing, and digital transformation projects in collaboration with IT teams. His roles have included Eurasia Regional Banking Services Manager and Global Banking Advisor to the CEO at FINCA Impact Finance, and Director of Retail Banking Products Department at Standard Bank Azerbaijan. As a member of the Operations Team, he is focusing on further strengthening Gojo's product development function, supporting marketing initiatives, and working in collaboration with the Technology team to enable digital transformation initiatives across the group.

Elchin holds a BA degree in Economics (conc. Finance & Credit) from Azerbaijan State Economic University in Baku and MA degree in International Affairs (conc. International Finance & Banking) from Columbia University in NYC. He has lived in almost all the CIS countries and speaks fluent Russian. He has a passion for changing financial education in schools. His hobbies are motorcycles and basketball.

Works in: Sri Lanka

Arisa Oba

Investor Relations

Arisa works on investor relations and funtraising with the team.

After graduating from Keio University, Department of Political Science, and studying abroad at the University of Manchester as an exchange student, Arisa joined the Investment Banking Division of Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley. She was involved in cross-border and domestic M&As, equity offerings and financial advisories, primarily for the real estate industry.

Building on her long-standing interest in global inequality and her experience interning at a local NGO in Tanzania providing empowerment programs for women and children, she aims to dedicate herself to solving injustice in the world.

She loves yoga, traveling, and reading books to find beauty and peace inside and outside.

Works in: Japan

Stuart Rutherford

Outside Director

Stuart Rutherford is a versatile researcher, practitioner, teacher and consultant in financial services for the poor in Asia and Africa. A well-known figure in the field of microfinance, Stuart has been a consultant with the World Bank, UNDP, UNCDF, DFID, ADB, EU, MicroSave and many NGOs including Oxfam, CARE, Save the Children, ASA, BRAC, Gates Foundation, ActionAid amongst others.

Stuart has taught at the University of Manchester, UK, has held training sessions for the Boulder Institute in the USA and Turin, Italy, for the Asian Development Bank in Tokyo and more. Stuart did his Masters from Cambridge University and is also a qualified architect.

Working in the microfinance field in Bangladesh in association with the Global Development Institute, UK, for a DFID project, Stuart developed Financial Diaries, a research methodology that has collected a wealth of information about the behaviours and fortunes of clients of financial services. In 1996, Stuart founded SafeSave, an MFI in Bangladesh that pioneers ultra-flexible savings and loans services for the urban poor. He has published papers and articles in international reports and journals that have helped to shape research in the microfinance sector. Of his books, The Poor and Their Money (2000) has been described by the World Bank as “the best thing we have read on how poor people manage their money.” Other books include The Pledge: ASA, Peasant Politics and Microfinance in the Development of Bangladesh (2009) and the co-authored Portfolios of the Poor (2009). For his services in the microfinance arena Stuart was honoured in 2011 with the “OBE” (Order of the British Empire). He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Global Development Institute, (GDI), UK, for which he is currently writing a series of papers based on original research in progress in central Bangladesh. Stuart speaks Bengali, some French and Spanish and a little Japanese. He lives in Japan with his wife. He enjoys reading and taking walks, listening to classical music and the Beatles.

Works in: Japan

Masahiro Kotosaka

Outside Director

Masahiro Kotosaka is an Associate Professor at Keio University and a non-executive director of Gojo & Company since March 2017. He is an expert in Internationalization strategy and early stage business development, and advisor/non-executive director of several start-up/multinational companies.

Before moving to Keio, he was an associate professor of multinational management at Ritsumeikan University, a teaching & research associate at the University of Oxford, and a consultant at McKinsey & Company based in Frankfurt and Tokyo. As a practitioner, he worked for strategy/marketing projects with sixteen client organizations across nine industries and nine countries and spent four years running three profitable IT/Retail businesses before joining McKinsey.

He graduated from the University of Oxford with D.Phil. (Ph.D) in Management Studies and MSc in Management Research with Distinction. His recent publication includes STARTUP (Co-authored, NewsPicks Publishing, 2020), The Element of Strategic Management (Toyo Keizai, 2018), and The Japanese Business in Evolution (Co-authored, Routledge, 2017).

Works in: Japan

Mangyo Kinoshita

Outside Director

Mangyo is an attorney qualified to practice Japanese law and California law and the founding partner of “Southgate”. His practice primarily focuses on cross-border and domestic M&A, joint venture, strategic alliances, private equity, and venture capital.

He also regularly represents social entrepreneurs as well as social impact funds. Before founding Southgate, Mangyo was a corporate partner at White & Case, an international law firm, and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, another international law firm where he led its corporate practice in Tokyo. At Gojo, Mangyo monitors management from an independent standpoint by attending board meetings and investment committee meetings as well as supervises day-to-day business execution.

Works in: Japan

Sanjay Gandhi

Co-Founder & Chief Investment Officer

Sanjay co-founded Gojo in 2014 as Gojo's Chief investment Officer and has led the Investment Division since then. Apart from recommending the investments to be made by Gojo, he also represents Gojo on the Board and Committees of the partner entities and contributes actively towards strengthening the governance at the partner level.

Sanjay qualified as a Chartered Accountant (CPA) before graduating from Delhi University. After his first job as an Audit Manager in India in early 1990s, he led the Corporate Banking (North India) team for a Finance company.

Sanjay joined the microfinance industry in 2003 and has been part of it ever since: conducted about 125 MFI ratings & assessments in 29 countries; approved more than 400 MFI Rating reports. Some of the assignments were for the World Bank, ADB, UNDP, Cordaid, and Mercy Corps. After his CEO assignment at a Cambodian MFI in 2013, Sanjay and Taejun got together to set up Gojo, where Sanjay’s extensive experience in the microfinance sector has been invaluable.

Sanjay operates from India, where he stays with his wife and two daughters. He speaks English, Hindi, and Punjabi. Loves reading; movies; and music. “The Beatles” is his all-time favourite music band.

Kohei Katada

Chief Financial Officer

Prior to joining Gojo, Kohei has served as Senior Vice President of Finance at SmartNews, Inc., a developer of a news discovery app. As its 7th employee and part of its management team, he led $80 million of equity financing and undertook a wide range of responsibilities including financial control, accounting, recruiting, people operations, legal, and investor relations.

As one of the founding members and as Chief Financial Officer at LIFENET INSURANCE COMPANY, a leading online life insurer in Japan, Kohei led it’s successful $100 million Initial Public Offering in 2012, and also setup a joint venture in Korea.

Kohei started his career at Morgan Stanley in its Investment Banking Division, where he was involved in multiple cross-border M&A transactions. In 2005, he moved to Hong Kong and joined Och-Ziff Capital Management, a global asset management company.

Kohei has a B.A. in Law from the University of Tokyo. While at school, he did an internship at a local NGO in Bangladesh where he was inspired by the power of microfinance that can unlock the potential of micro-entrepreneurs.

Kohei enjoys playing with his two boys over the weekends. He loves sports and has successfully finished the long-distance triathlon.

Works: Tokyo, Japan

Gürol Sari

Chief Operating Officer

Gürol Sari joined Gojo in June 2020 as our Chief Operating Officer, and oversees the strategic and operational development of our partner institutions. Gürol has extensive leadership experience in retail banking, SME finance, microfinance & financial digitalization, as well as experience in turnarounds of several institutions. He has worked in the banking sector for over 30 years in many countries, including Germany, Austria, Myanmar, Turkey, Albania, Russia, Australia, and Tanzania.

From the start of his career, his interest was drawn towards innovation and impact: Gürol created the first fully automated online credit solution in Germany, easyCredit, which is ranked No.1 today in Germany. Prior to joining Gojo, Gürol worked as Chief Operating Officer of Vision Fund Myanmar, where he developed and implemented a fully digitized microfinance system that provided over 300,000 clients in extreme poverty with access to credit, savings, and education. He currently advises several international banks on digitization and change processes.

Gürol has a creative spirit and is always active. He is passionate about architecture, gardening, handicraft (particularly remodeling houses), and loves to bike and to play tennis. He dreams of sailing with his wife once his two children are independent.

Works in: Germany

Syam Nair

Chief Technology Officer

Syam joined Gojo’s technology team to lead digital transformation and build Gojo’s technology products and infrastructure. Syam is a technology executive and business partner with more than 15 years of experience in various technology organizations. He is a Computer Science engineering graduate from Cochin University, India.

Before joining Gojo, Syam was working as a Director of Digital solutions at Visa and leading the architecture and technology organization for Visa’s South East Asia projects. During his tenure there, he worked with market-leading banks and technology companies, and delivered innovative financial technology products. Syam also spent considerable time with Mastercard, another leading financial technology company, where he was responsible for digital strategy and payment products. He previously also worked with Infosys in various technology positions.

Syam is an engineer at heart and loves to solve complex and real life problems using technology. He likes nature photography and playing badminton.

Works in: Singapore

Sohil Shah

Investment

Sohil graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a Masters in Finance and completed his under graduation in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai. Before joining Gojo, Sohil was a part of the Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group where he led Intellecap Impact Investment Network, an early-stage angel network focused on making investments in social impact start-ups. In his five years with the group, he led around 35 investments in India and East Africa of which they exited from 6 companies and another 15 companies raised follow-on round of investment.

An Investment Banking professional with over six years of experience in India and US, Sohil previously worked as a Senior Analyst at Bank of America. He was part of the Global Investment Banking team, with a key focus on the healthcare sector, where he was a part of a few billion-dollar M&A transactions. Prior to that, he worked with the investment banking teams at Fortune Financial Services (India) Ltd and Crucible Capital Group in New York.

Apart from being an avid brewer, Sohil is an angel investor in his personal capacity as well. He lives in Mumbai with his family.

Works in: India

Natsuki Sugai

Special Projects

As a university student, Natsuki founded a student NGO to support Laos's education and led the entire process to establish public schools and other educational supports while collaborating with the Laos government. Natsuki found vast demand for financial access for mothers in developing nations when he communicated with low-income households in Laos.

Since then, he has committed to providing financial access to low-income families so everyone can tackle one's goal. Natsuki joined Gojo in 2015 as 5th employee because his mission and Gojo's ones aligned. At Gojo, he led the fundraising since SeriesA round and currently in charge of the operation of group companies.

Natsuki enjoys jogging with his wife every weekend.

Works in: Japan

Sayuri Aoyama

Investor Relations

Sayuri works in investor relations for international debt/equity investors. Having graduated from Rikkyo University, Sayuri has worked more than 16 years in every aspect of securitisation both in Tokyo and London. She worked as a structurer and portfolio manager of structured finance portfolios at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. She brings her intensive expertise of global debt/capital markets to Gojo.

Sayuri is also a member of Prosperoworld, an established philanthropist network in London, which connects social investors and philanthropists with outstanding charitable projects.

Sayuri has two children. She is fluent in French, English and Japanese. She loves ski (qualified children’s ski instructor), aikido and playing the piano.

Works in: UK

Taejun Shin

Founder & CEO

Taejun cofounded Gojo in 2014 and has led the company's growth until today as the CEO. Before Gojo, Taejun worked at Morgan Stanley and Unison Capital as an investment professional. To deal with an enormous number of investment projects, Taejun studied programming and automated many of the financial models, some of which are used even today.

While working in the sector, Taejun founded Living in Peace, an NGO, in 2007, and created the first microfinance investment fund in Japan's history. He led building 3 children's homes in Japan and providing scholarship support for kids under the alternative care system. Taejun played a crucial role in reforming Japan's children's welfare policy, especially in improving the living conditions of kids detained in the government welfare offices.

Taejun is the Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and is the youngest founding board member of Endeavor Japan. Taejun is the author of 9 books, a finisher of the 1648 km ultra-marathon, and a Karate black-belt holder. Taejun is fluent in Japanese, Korean, and English. He plays drums and loves shooting street photos of the world.

Works in: Japan

Marzuka Zakir

Special Projects

Marzuka, an Uighur from northwest China, has an extensive international exposure with 15+ years of experience in Corporate Finance, FP&A and, Financial Strategy, having worked with global giants like GE, Sony, Rakuten, and PayPal, where she demonstrated exceptional leadership skills.

Marzuka holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Finance and Banking from the Shanghai University of Finance & Economics. She studied International Management at Bordeaux Business School and also completed a course with the Harvard Business School Executive Education programme on Leveraging FinTech Innovations to Grow and Compete.

Marzuka has been stationed across the globe (US, UK, UAE, Kenya, South Africa, Singapore, and Japan) on her work assignments. She is a native speaker of Chinese & Uighur, fluent in English with beginner-level Japanese. She is an avid reader, enjoys nature and portrait photography. She loves cooking and hosting parties for her friends and family.

Works in: Japan

Akiyuki Niwa

Co-Head of Finance

Aki is a Certified Public Accountant and co-leads the Finance team at Gojo with our CFO Kohei Katada. Aki graduated from the University of New South Wales in Australia with a Master of Commerce specializing in Accounting and completed his undergraduate degree in Economics & Business Administration at Nagoya City University in Japan.

Prior to joining Gojo, Aki spent 14 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Tokyo and London. At PwC Tokyo, he engaged in financial audits, process assurance services, and a variety of advisory projects such as technical accounting, internal control enhancement, regulatory compliance, and process improvements & standardization for clients in banking and capital markets. Aki also spent 2.5 years on secondment at the PwC London office, where he was an audit manager of one of the global investment banks headquartered in the UK.

Aki loves both playing and watching football since his school days, and also can dance a little bit of salsa.

Works in: Japan

Yuko Iida

Administration

Yuko is looking after the administrative and secretarial work at Gojo. Having graduated from Meiji Gakuin University, Yuko has spent 10 years in two law firms, Hirakawa Sogo Law Offices, and City Law Offices handling paralegal and administrative matters. Besides her professional career, Yuko joined Living in Peace, an NPO in Japan, and together with the team members launched a crowdfunding program for children in Japan living under Japan’s alternative care system. After 2 years of maternity leave and working at an Insurance company, Yuko has joined Gojo.

Yuko appreciates the peaceful life, likes to go on small weekend trips with her family, and feels refreshed surrounded by nature.

Works in: Japan

Tomohiro Isozaki

Deputy CEO / Chief Operating Officer, Maxima

Tomo joined Gojo in 2018 as a Country representative of Cambodia and oversees the strategic and operational development of Cambodian business. In Cambodia, he is working with Maxima Microfinance Plc., supporting strategy, corporate planning, operation, credit, HR, digital initiative, marketing, fundraising, and social performance management.

Prior to Gojo, he worked for Healthbank Pte.Ltd. as a Business Development Associate, working in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. Next, he joined McKinsey(Tokyo office) and was involved in multiple projects. Later, as a member of the strategic planning division of the Food Business Unit of Mitsui &Co.,Ltd. Tomo was engaged in projects of strategy, investment, research, and group company management.

Tomo is proficient in English and Japanese and is also learning Khmer. His motto is “Be tough, wise and tolerant, enjoying your own life.” Throughout the business activity, he tries to establish a fair and free society based on trustworthy relationships.

Works in: Cambodia

Yoko Shigekura

Operations

Yoko obtained her master’s degree in Education with the Social Justice and Education course from University College London, Institute of Education, and her bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Tokyo.

Prior to joining Gojo, Yoko served in the Business Recovery Services Unit in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Advisory LLC in Tokyo. She was involved in developing business plans and financial models for clients in tough situations. As Yoko was passionate about gender and rights of education linkages, during her internships, Yoko immersed herself in the field of international development. She worked in the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Myanmar and Tokyo Office, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan (NFUAJ).

Yoko spent her childhood in Japan, Greece, and Malaysia. She enjoys exploring new things and places. At home, she enjoys cooking and watching movies with her family.

Works in: Cambodia

Shun Ito

Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer, MIFIDA

After studying at Keio University, Faculty of Economics, and graduating from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Shun joined Roland Berger and worked in the Japan and Singapore Offices. As a management consultant, he was involved in multiple projects across Southeast Asia.

As a freelance consultant, Shun worked in rural Japan in Akita for a local supermarket chain. His early childhood was spent in the UK and Brazil. Proficient in English and Japanese, he also has basic Burmese skills. Tennis is his favourite sport. During an earlier stint in Myanmar, Shun ordained at a Buddhist monastery and practiced meditation.

Works in: Myanmar

Kaung Set Lin

Innovation

Kaung Set Lin studied Liberal Arts at Sarah Lawrence College in the United States and returned to Myanmar at the end of 2012. He has over 6 years of experience in the financial sector in Myanmar. He started out his career in microfinance managing the MIS while exploring digital products and partnerships at one of Myanmar’s leading MFIs, Proximity Finance. After this, he entered Myanmar’s banking sector with KBZ Bank, where he worked with different stakeholders in partnership with Huawei to develop KBZ Pay to expand the outreach of the bank. Before joining Gojo & Co in late 2019, he worked for Yoma Bank’s Digital Division, where he created and launched a digital lending product called SMART Credit.

When he is not busy working, Kaung Set likes to travel and read along with learning new skills. He also likes going to music festivals and would travel to go to different events around the region.

Works in: Myanmar

Marco Giancotti

Technology

After studying astronomy and astrophysics, Marco obtained a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering doing research at the Sapienza University of Rome and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA). In 2014 he joined Tokyo startup Axelspace Corporation as a satellite development engineer.

Later Marco was the group leader of Axelspace’s Space Business Intelligence Group and was responsible for the development of the company’s innovative IT products, including a data pipeline and a web platform for data distribution. He has experience in project management, product management, leadership, and geeky startup culture. He joined Gojo & Company in 2019 to support the company’s technology projects and strategy.

Marco reads, writes, talks, and often also breathes. He is fluent in Japanese and is now learning about life, the universe, and everything. He wants to apply everything he learns to solve tough problems at Gojo.

Works in: Tokyo, Japan

Tomasz Ociepka

Data Analytics

Tomasz graduated from Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom, with a Master of Science in Mathematics.

Before joining Gojo, Tomasz was an independent data scientist based in Oxford, United Kingdom. He was providing services in the area of data analysis and data management for startups and SMEs. He was also a consultant for academic research using advanced quantitative methods.

In 2019 he joined Gojo to fight income inequalities in the world. Among others, he is responsible for data analysis and data projects in Gojo as well as support partner companies with his knowledge and experience.

Likes hiking and ink paintings. When inspiration strikes, he writes haiku.

Works in: Tokyo, Japan

Koh Terai

Product Design / R&D

Koh believes that great products and services are built with a harmony between business, technology, and design. He attempts to strike a fine balance between the sustainable, functional, and pleasing — a unison of beauty and practicality.

Koh believes that this fundamentally relies on a deep understanding of and extreme empathy for human behaviors and desires. He has polished his intuition through working with people and projects from all walks of life, from Bangalore to Mexico City to Bukavu to Abu Dhabi, in multidisciplinary problem solving and storytelling.

Koh is a graduate of New York University Abu Dhabi in Computer Science.