Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Social Enterprise in Emerging Markets

Attended the GSVC Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship. It was an exciting day indeed! and I definitely recommend GSVC for anybody interested in exploring social entrepreneurship.

Social enterprises are creating jobs, introducing new technologies, and pioneering new business models in emerging markets. However, the success of these ventures often hinges upon the extent to which founders account for region-specific considerations such as cultural norms, the level of infrastructure development, and the favorability of government policy.

Swati Mylavarapu, Consultant, Dalberg Global Development Advisors
Mark Pretorius, Managing Partner, Premanco Ventures
Rose Shuman, Founder, Open Mind and Question Box

Paul Braund, Co-founder and Executive Director, RiOS Institute

The breadth of knowledge of everyone on the panel about social enterprises (and everything relevant) was truly amazing. Here are some takeaway points from the session about trends, challenges and promising new ventures.

3 tactics for creating successful business enterprises (applicable for social ventures too)

1. Best business models leverage existing distribution channels (because of fixed capital costs)
2. Price points matters
3. Besides understanding 'user needs' try to look @ 'user wants'.

Here is another list of points:

  • Know you market (if you don't know - learn)
  • Know demand
  • Start small but know your avenues for scale (don't get stuck in the pilot phase)
  • Iterate
  • Partner
  • Be patient
  • Trust people and organizations
  • Have some guts (force yourself to compete with standard for profit enterprises out there)
  • Know the enterprise side of the equation before venturing down the social side
And some more words of wisdom to ponder from Swati, Rose & Mark.

"Establishing a social value proposition is the easiest part. It's the enterprise model that is much harder"

"Every time there is a lack of something it's an opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship"

"Most of the world does not share our culture of it's okay to fail."

"There's no safety net; you fall and you hit gravel."

"It's important to do some anthropological research (especially in the developing world) before addressing the problem"

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