The following is an interview I conducted with Markus Dietrich, the founder of the Asian Social Enterprise Incubator. This is a complement to a two-part blog post I wrote for Next Billion, seen here.
Develop Economies: How did you decide to start the ASEI?
Markus Dietrich: I have a background in business. I attended Cass Business School in London. After he graduated he joined a business selling cash registers in 1994. I worked with a family to develop a national distributorship. In 2000, we sold it to a UK company that was working on a global scale. I stayed on to start an office in Switzerland, and then we spun off one division that was moving from distribution to direct sales. We were no longer targeting dealers and enterprise integrators and instead going direct to the buyers. We went from nothing to $10 million in sales. I found that what I liked doing was starting something. Later they made them director of Europe and the Middle East. After 14 years, I decided that I’d had enough and quit the job in 2007. I didn’t really know what to do, so I started traveling in India for a while. I came across microfinance and was intrigued by the idea of fusing business with development. It was the first I realized that there was a business aspect to it. I realized that I could use the knowledge I’d gained to become involved. I was thinking about my own personal impact, and felt that what I’d been doing wasn’t really making an impact on a wealth-creation sale.
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The following is the full transcript of an interview with Mark Ruiz, the founder of Hapinoy, a franchise of sari-sari stores in the Philippines. It is a companion piece to an article published on NextBillion.
Develop Economies: How did Hapinoy start? What, in your opinion, was the problem? Why is Hapinoy the right innovation for solving this problem?
Mark Ruiz: Hapinoy started as a fusion of paradigms, ideas, and people. In terms of paradigms, we wanted to fuse social development with the discipline of business. It started a combination of people from social development and the business sector. We wanted representation from a diverse set of relevant backgrounds, including microfinance, NGO’s, government, as well as corporate experience in distribution/marketing/sales/advertising, and entrepreneurship.
There were three fundamental problems we were looking at:
- The products and services needed by the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) don’t reach them. The operative word is needed – for example, medicine, water, and electricity.
- The products and services that do reach the BoP end up becoming more expensive due to distribution inefficiency. The poor end up paying more for noodles and shampoo than those who have money!
- The BoP doesn’t have access to market opportunities, whether it is sari-sari stores looking for financing, new businesses, etc. or microproducers looking for a distribution/market for their products.
There’s a fundamental gap to the BoP. So we ask ourselves – how do we bridge this gap? How do we enable the last mile and bring products, services, and opportunities to where they’re needed the most?
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In researching my article on carbon financing in the developing world, I had the opportunity to speak with Erik Wurster, the carbon finance manager at an organization called E+Co. E+Co has been on the forefront of this industry and has been one of the leading innovators. Newsweek recently highlighted their efforts to distribute clean-burning cookstoves – a topic I have discussed in this journal – in Ghana. It provides a great overview of how this complicated process works. In an article for Next Billion, Tracy Smith of E+Co describes the company’s focus:
E+Co, a mission-driven clean energy investor in developing countries, is working to implement strategies that enable Wall Street investors to put capital to work in developing countries through the carbon markets. Unlike more traditional carbon finance developers, however, E+Co strives to ensure that dollars flowing from carbon credits make it to the bottom of the pyramid.
I asked him a series of questions about some challenges facing organizations trying to break into this space. Be warned that it contains more technical jargon than I usually have in the Journal. I have included the answers to all of his questions here. Continue reading →