Category Archives: Rural Development

Sustainable Business Models for Social Ventures

Panel Description for ForSE 2009

In decades past, many non-profits have achieved only temporary success and limited scale due to dependence on grants and donations. A new breed of ventures has begun innovating revenue models to build greater capacity and sustain operations. These approaches leverage the power of markets to meet social needs. Whether they’re building a socially responsible brand of clothing, providing renewable energy solutions, or bringing banking to the poor, these organizations have discovered the sustainable power of partnering with their customers.

Hear from a panel of innovative organizations that are thinking outside the box in terms of building sustainable models. Click here to register.

Panelists

Moderator

  • Prof Nitin Joglekar, School of Management, Boston University

Equal Exchange – Special In-depth Case Study and solutions brainstorming

Case Presenter: Rodney North, The Answer Man, Equal Exchange

Moderator: Gaurav Rohtagi, Principal, Continuum

Equal Exchange, the Massachusetts-based employee-owned worker co-operative best known for introducing Fair Trade coffee to American grocery stores in that late ‘80s.

Equal Exchange has over 100 employees in 6 states and $35 million in annual revenue. They’ve recently won six different awards for their environmentally and socially responsible business practices including the Social Innovation Award from the Financial Times newspaper and the World’s Most Democratic Workplace award from WorldBlu.

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Using cell phones to change the world

Jhonatan Rotberg, was sent to MIT by Telmex, one of Latin America’s largest telcos, and teaches NextLab where he tries to bring cellular technology to the other 90 percent of the world. One of the labs startups, CelEdu, offers cellphone-based games and quizzes to teach basic literacy skills in India. Ranjani Saigal from the TIE Social Entrepreneurs Group helped connect CelEdu students to Tara Aakshar. You can see some of their work in progress at the CelEdu site


A great article in the Boston Globe highlights the many ideas that have spun out of this lab. Some excerpts below – click here for the entire article.

In NextLab, Rotberg challenged students by asking, “Can you make a cellphone change the world?’’ And students have responded, creating nearly two dozen projects and three start-up ventures that have been working with communities in developing countries like India, Vietnam, and Mexico.

Dinube, a NextLab spinoff that was tested in Mexico last summer, provides payment services to people who don’t have access to traditional banks. “One of the powerful things about cellphones in Mexico is that there is a 75 percent penetration rate,’’ said Jonathan Hayes, a cofounder of Dinube. “But only 25 percent of the population has a bank account. So a cellphone-based system can fill a huge, important gap.’’

Why you need to go beyond the numbers to view rural poverty

In the past decade, much progress has been made in India and people have been justifiably proud of the improving economic situation. While most observers point to the top line numbers that show the number of people living below the “poverty line” has been consistently decreasing, by focusing on just these aseptic numbers, they fail to understand and capture the continuing anguish in the rural countryside. Continue reading

TIECON Social Enterprise Track Provides New Perspective

For the first time TIECON EAST – TiE Boston’s annual conference on entrepreneurship and innovation – had a dedicated track on Social Enterprise. The three panels in the track – ‘Healthcare Innovation in a Global Village’, ‘IT & Communications for the Developing World’ and ‘Feeding 9 Billion people’ – were all well attended and engaged the attentive audience with the incisive discussions. Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for Lokvani about the sessions. Continue reading

Reply to comment about Rural Indian Consumer

In response to my recent post on Rural Consumers, Joost Bonsen of MIT commented.

Thanks much for your survey of the rural consumer landscape in India. I’m curious how what you’re observing either reinforces or differs from the Hart-Prahalad BOP thesis and the cases they give, such as Hindustan Lever, etc. Plus how much of the consumer goods sector is dominated by MNCs or affiliates versus homegrowns? And finally, what’s the rural analog to Walmart or the old Sears Roebuck catalog or other innovations in the distribution systems?

I got to thinking about what he had asked and decided to write up a separate post instead of replying as a comment. So here goes. Continue reading