Archive for February, 2010


Marketing to Rural India

In a country like India, where the 70% of the people live in rural area, the rural market holds a lot of marketing potential. There is a wide spread difference in the standard of living between urban and rural India. In order to launch products and develop advertising for rural market there is a need to understand both the rural context and also the consumer.

This article by Satish Chandra and Sowmya Shankar, provides the opportunity to explore consumers and the type marketing programmes which emphasizes the advertising patterns on consumer dividend that has been successful in emerging markets and more specifically in rural India. The article begins by discussing the marketing opportunity for companies in rural India and then progresses to focus on some of the unique characteristic of rural India and how this translate into innovative advertising programmes for companies entering the rural market and finally to see the advertising in rural area.

Read the entire article here.

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Rural Energy: Power Play for the People

The idea of supplying free electricity to farmers has created political ripples across the country based on the belief that supplying electricity for free would be an onerous option for the Government as electricity production is expensive. Chandrakant Pathak a mechanical engineer from Gujarat remarks that free electricity for farmers is not all that impossible and it is quite an easily achievable goal and points that anything that moves can be used to generate power. He has invented an array of interesting improvised power generating gadgets to suit the needs of rural people.

This article documents all those interesting innovative power generating and modified power-consuming gadgets of everyday use, like motor pumps, flour mills and even electric vegetable shredders that could run on manual or bullock power. He believes that if accent was placed on local power production by the people, not only would the cost per unit of power come down dramatically, but the entire power problem would become non-existent in a few years.

Read the full article here.

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Innovation and Gender: Towards Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality

In a world often designed for and maintained by the majority, the issues that matter most to the minorities are more often than not unattended to. Among the several factors that motivate the development sector, the empowerment of women is ranked high. It has been widely acknowledged that when women are empowered with financial and social independence, there is a perceptible improvement in the health of their children, their access to education and overall household income.

Several generations of social change have lead to the growing empowerment of women in society: the eradication of foot binding in China, the abolishing of sati in India, women’s suffrage in New Zealand. In a world that is constantly evolving, the potential for innovation to improve the lives of poor women has never been bigger. This is the theme of the report published by the International Center for Research on Women, Innovation for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality.

In their report authors, Anju Malhotra, Jennifer Schulte, Payal Patel and Patti Petesch explore the catalytic effects that innovation and gender role have on each other. Crucially, they ask how and when do innovations create long-term, positive shifts in gender relations? To find answers to their questions, the researchers employ an in-depth look at eight ‘innovations’ across three domains: technology use, social norm change and economic resilience.

Their findings showed how a broad range of innovations resulted in substantial benefits for millions of women, how influential people play an important role in launching or facilitating innovation, and how favorable conditions and timing capitalize on social and economic transformation can cause broad-based shifts in the empowerment of women.

The report identifies seven levers that need to be integrated into technological, economic and social innovation. Their report points to the need to break the mold and require that stakeholders think and act beyond existing, predefined parameters.

Read the entire report, here.

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Social Entreprise Typology

The Social Enterprise Typology document that definies the various kinds of enterprises that exist in this flourishing sector. The typology, published by Virtue Ventures, and authored by Kim Alter, explores how institutions have combined a mix of social values and goals with commercial business practices, which have lead to different ownership models, income and capitalization stratergies and systems to maximize social value. The classifications used serve as a guide to navigate readers through an often poorly-defined, diverse and dynamic landscape.

Read more about the typology here.

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Telecentre Sustainability: Lessons from India and Africa on Implementing a Social Enterprise Approach

Telecentres have been playing a growing role in empowering those without access to technology or information. Their users are found among school children in Zambia to farmers in India.

Increasingly governments have been spending money on establishing telecentre systems. In 2005, the Ghanian government began launching hundreds of telecentres across the country. Not only do telecentres extend access to ICT, they also foster the exchange of ideas, civil and government participation in development and so on.

Can telecentres be commercially-viable social enterprises? This is the question that Mayanja Meddie looks at in her paper, Rethinking Telecentre Sustainability: How to Implement A Social Enterprise Approach – Lessons from India and Africa. In this paper, the author explores different approaches — from Drishtee in India to Centre Songhai in Benin – to telecentre sustainability and analyzes the strengths and weakness of each approach.

Read the full paper here.

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Energy planning and the developing world

To “go green” today is much less a fashion statement as it may have been even five years ago.  Today its not just cool, or hip to go (environmentally) green, one is often expected to do so. I was recently chastised for buying a set of incandescent light bulbs, and was only let off the hook, when I pointed out that my need was rather urgent, and the store didn’t stock the long-lasting enviro-friendly ones. My guilt hit away at me the entire evening, and to be honest, I haven’t been able to install those incandescents.

The search for alternative energy needs continues as the perils of global warming get more real year on year. The development of new energy systems however are determined by choices. These choices are becoming more and more pronounced and articulated.

As technology develops to meet these choices, business need to plan for a future of changing scenarios. Shell, a leading energy company actively plans fo varying scenarios to help them manage their future better. According to the company, scenario planning helps focus on “critical uncertainities. On things we don’t know about which might transform our business. And on the things we know about in which there might be unexpected discontinuities.”

As part of their scenario planning, in 2001 Shell looked at the possible energy scenarios in 2050. They identify two possible scenarios – Dynamics as Usual or The Spirit of the Coming Age.

Dynamics as Usual contends that various competing priorities will limite the adoption of radical technology change. For example, countries like India and China will seek greater economic growth, while developed OECD countries will seek to improve energy efficiency furthering the life of the internal combusion engine. This scenario will aslo see fluctuating government support for renewable energies.

The Spirit of the Coming Age will see ’superior ways of meeting energy needs’ being developed. This, Shell contends, will be a world of experimentation and many failures. Fuel cells appear to be the order of the day in this scenario. Not surprisingly Shell suggests that technology innovation will often arise from niche market fringes, where physical constraints force innovation and consumers are willing to pay a premium. Incumbent suppliers, they suggest, often ignore these markets.

The forecast in both scenarios have interesting implications for energy solutions in the developing world, and by extension the BoP. Personally, I belong to the group that believes that the developing world needs to take more cognizance of environmental challenges, and must rise up to those challenges by seeking out alternative, efficient solutions that do not compromise economic progress. Easier said than done. But here’s where technology support can play a huge role. If we can successfully engage the IITs, IIScs and the innumerable other technology labs in India to provide solutions to our energy needs, we could provide the right kind of solutions for the coming age. Innovation, after all is often borne out of necessity.

Your thoughts?

Read the entire Shell Scenario Report here.

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The Process of Social Entrepreneurship

How does one become a social entrepreneur? How do you establish a social enterprise? Any process of entrepreneurship begins with an opportunity identified. For social entrepreneurs, the opportunity must also have the potential to create social impact, while also generating financial returns.

In their article The Process of Social Entrepreneurship: Creating Opportunities Worthy of Serious Pursuit, authors Ayse Guclu, Gregorgy Dees and Beth Battle Andreson provide “a framework to guide social entrepreneurs through the process of creating a worthwhile opportunity.” They break the process down into two steps: The generation of a promising idea, and secondly developing the idea into an opportunity.

The article is designed to help increase the chances of success for those wishing to start a social enterprise , and for those  considering investing in new enterprises.

Read the full article here.

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A Fresh Look at Social Innovation: What it is, Why it Matters, and How it Can be Accelerated

When practitioners in the developing sector think of the term ‘social innovation,’ they often think of a business, product or service that is ready to change the lives of millions of the world’s poor. However, it can be argued that social innovation is everywhere – for example the concept behind Wikipedia, or Open University.

In his report Social Innovation: What it is, Why it Matters, and How it Can Be Accelerated, Geoff Mulgan draws us into an in-depth understanding of the term, its usage and its implications to solving global solutions.  Mulgan is the director of the Young Foundation, based in the UK. This work is a working paper published by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

Mulgan beings his by giving us his definition of social innovation: “innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need and that are predominantly developed and diffused through organizations whose primary purpose is social.”

The definition distinguishes between social innovation and business innovation (which is generally motivated by profit maximization). The article also focuses its interest more widely on innovations that take the form of replicable programs or organization. For example the use of cognitive behavioral therapy developed in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The report moves on to address the source of social innovation; the question of who innovates.  Mulgan identifies three sources of innovation. The first being innovation through individuals, such as Nobel Laureates Mohammed Yunus and Wangari Mathaai. The second source he identifies is through movements such as feminism, and environmentalism. The third group is organizations, such as the US military which laid down pioneering work for the internet.

Irrespective of its source, the stages of social innovation however remain unchanged. Mulgan takes us through these various stages: identifying need, developing, prototyping and piloting ideas, assessing, then scaling up and diffusing the good ones, and finally learning and evolving.

Mulgan also puts forward the group’s “Connector Difference” theory that distinguishes between social innovation and technological innovation.  The theory distinguishes social innovation as most commonly, a combination or hybrids of existing elements, rather than being wholly new. Social innovation also is distinct in that it cuts across organizational, sectoral or disciplinary boundaries, and leaves behind compelling new social relationships. This theory places a critical role on the ‘connectors’ within this eco system – the brokers, entrepreneurs, the money, the institutions, and others who contribute to lasting change.

Finally the report identifies some key essentials necessary to take social innovation forward:

  • Develop leadership and structures that suit innovation
  • Finance focused on innovation
  • Develop public policy frameworks that encourage innovation
  • Develop social innovation accelerators, such as incubators
  • Share experiences between national and cross-national innovation pools.
  • Engage in research to enhance learning.

The full report is available on the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship website.

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The Indian Dairy Sector: Issues for the Poor

Earlier, we had a piece by Anand Krishnaswamy about an innovative milk vending technology developed by Chennai-based Invention Labs. That piece looked at the demand side of milk, and how it reaches the end-user.

But what of the supply side? How does the market and policy environment affect the poor who work within the dairy sector? A 2002 paper published by the FAO highlights some of the critical issues facing poor people withing the Indian dairy sector.

An excerpt from the Executive Summary is below:

This paper analyzes the changes in dairy markets, policies, and trade over the past two decades and discusses what can be expected in the next decade. We analyze the changes in production, consumption and trade, as well as the changes in policies and the industry structure, and discuss how various factors have affected the market and trade situation. The paper is organized as follows: we first discuss the macro-view of the Indian dairy sector. Then we discuss policy changes and the expected effects of globalization and trade liberalization on the scale and scope of production. In the next section we discuss the changes in the cost and return structure of dairy production and the processing sector, trends in input and output prices, and breeding and health services. In the last section we discuss the impacts of commercialization of the dairy sector on socio-economic, health- environment issues.

Read the original paper here.

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Business Models in the Context of Deep Poverty

The amount of literature on the benefits of working with the BoP is substantial. The BoP market identifies the poor as potential customers who can be served if companies learn to fundamentally rethink their business strategies. However, there is little literature among those who study the BoP on how exactly this can be achieved.

In their paper, Profitable Business Models and Market Creation in the Context of Deep Poverty: A Strategic View, authors Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair use two BoP examples to illustrate corporate and competitive strategies to reach the BoP.  Their first case study, from Bangladesh looks at how Telenor and the Grameen Bank, created a new market by creating a supply of a key input – telecommunication services. The second study focused on the work of Map Agro and Waster Concern in India, which built a new market by creating demand for a product.

Building on their study, the paper also makes recommendations for companies evaluating BoP stratergies.

Read the entire article here.

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