Sankalp Forum Announces 2012 ‘Most Scalable Enterprises’
Monday, February 27, 2012
Cross-posted from the Sankalp Forum Blog
Social enterprise empowers the Bottom of the Pyramid by engaging them into the market as suppliers and consumers of goods and services. Unlike other interactions with the Bottom of the Pyramid, that prescribe policy from the top-down, social enterprise is a bottom-up approach to alleviating poverty. As a consequence of market feedback mechanisms, today’s SMEs that have a social purpose are diversifying according to consumer demand. The people at the Bottom of the Pyramid in Thailand will respond differently to mobile health technology than those in rural Northern India. A successful business model needs to account for such differences that emerge from cultural and geographical diversity. There is a strong need to create access points for social entrepreneurs to reach investors and vice-versa, enabling such SMEs to scale. The Sankalp Forum is aiming to bridge that divide. The Sankalp jury has chosen 31 social enterprises with sustainable and scalable business models creating change. The Sankalp Forum culminates in a two-day Summit (April 12-13) that brings together investors, social entrepreneurs, policy makers/experts, and other stakeholders who understand the importance of moving beyond giving and towards investing in emerging markets.
India is considered South Asia’s economic pacesetter, alongside China, yet it faces poverty and unemployment at staggering levels. 65% of the Indian population lives off of $1.25/day. The benefits of social enterprise have spread across India and a plethora of support from local to federal levels has been documented. For example, the Indian government allows registered NGOs to distribute tuberculosis medications free of charge and makes a bonus payment for each patient treated. Several Indian social enterprises are in the growth stage and require more than seed money to further increase their impact. Such enterprises look for longer term investments that will help them reach scale. They also face challenges such as lack of access to talent and lack of knowledge in areas such as financial management.
The lifespan of social enterprises in South East Asia is much shorter than that of enterprises in India.The challenges they face are different in so far as social enterprise is not an institutionalized industry and access to mentorship and capacity building from other social entrepreneurs and intermediaries is limited. Indians who speak English are able to contribute to discussions in the west and gain investment opportunities through global networks, unlike many South East Asian entrepreneurs who aren’t comfortable with the English language. Consequently, access to and understanding of investment possibilities is very difficult to obtain. In spite of all the hurdles facing social enterprise in South East Asia, it is beginning to grow and make a mark as an emerging industry. However, a clearer understanding of the particular challenges of the South East Asian environment and their consumers is needed to facilitate impact investing.
The Sankalp 2012 South East Asia finalists comprise of some of the most promising business ventures having a social or environmental impact from the region. Since 2009 Sankalp has brought visibility and support to social ventures, which otherwise would not have had access to funding, publicity and mentorship. This year, we have expanded our geographic reach and are highlighting 6 ventures from South East Asia amongst our finalists. For more information on our finalists see the document on 2012’s Most Scalable Enterprises.