“Intelligence and capability are not enough; there must also be the joy of doing something beautiful.” These words by Dr. Venkataswamy tower over us as we enter the flagship Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India, and continue to reflect in the staff’s philosophy during our short visit.
The Aravind Eye Hospital needs no introduction. Tucked in the remote south of India, it is the result of its founder’s vision of eliminating needless blindness. Started in 1976 by Dr. Venkataswamy, the hospital provides accessible, affordable and quality eye care to all sections of the society through cross-subsidization, which creates a commercially viable and sustainable business model.
Aravind Eye Care is an example of a business model innovation, also referred to as an ‘inclusive business model’. IFC defines inclusive business models as those offering goods, services and livelihoods to the poor in financially sustainable and scalable ways. Globally, inclusive businesses are being recognized as important players for development. More entrepreneurs are realizing the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) market as an opportunity to design and implement innovative solutions. As per an IFC study, the BoP represents a potential market of $5 trillion globally - the largest slice of this lies in South Asia, particularly India, given the size of BoP population in the region.
However, inclusive businesses continue to face several barriers in scaling and replicating their success such as lack of access to finance, absence of trained human resources, weak supply chain linkages etc. and above all, an underdeveloped support ecosystem to overcome critical market gaps. Addressing these barriers will not only help capitalize on the growth potential but also mainstream the sector.
World Bank Group is playing a catalytic role in unlocking opportunities for innovative, impact focused businesses. The South Asia Inclusive Business Program has been working towards enhancing private sector participation and inclusive business activity in the region. While working on the high level through systemic interventions, the team is also connecting with organizations on the ground by supporting them to scale sustainably and/or replicate across borders.
When one thinks of businesses operating in countries that are still struggling to protect and provide for human rights, a narrative can easily spring to mind involving unscrupulous businesses happily taking advantage of weak labor laws, a lack of minimum wage and poor environmental controls. But, in many places, the reality is very different. Not only is the private sector itself adversely impacted by weak human rights protections but, more than this, businesses are themselves having to take up a leadership role to compensate for weaknesses that exist at a national level.
At times, I ask my friends in Nepal, why they would not launch a business, especially when they have funds. A common obstacle for everyone is that they say you have to bribe government officials to even open a business.
Turns out, this isn’t unique to Nepal. According to Drivers of Corruption, a report recently published by the World Bank,
. These charts are based on surveys of more than 13,000 firms in 135 countries, by World Bank Enterprise Surveys.
Check out these charts and tell us if you are surprised.
One of the primary goals of the Enterprise Surveys is to provide high quality data about the business environment based on establishments’ actual day-to-day experiences. This provides much needed information given how little is known about what businesses experience in developing economies. To raise awareness of the recently released Bangladesh 2013 Enterprise Survey, we provide a few highlights of the surveys below.
Kone Gninlnagnon is a young entrepreneur who dreams of exporting rice from Côte d’Ivoire to the world.
But he knows the quality of the rice must be improved and tested in the domestic market first. Thus, a new business idea was born: helping to make homegrown rice more competitive. “We cannot win the loyalty of consumers with bad quality rice,” he says. His project, “Riz Ivoire,” would promote the rice that comes from the heart of Côte d’Ivoire and help deliver high-quality rice to Ivorian dining tables. He also wants to encourage other Ivorian youth to invest in “rizculture.”
Now Gninlnagnon is one step closer to achieving his dream. His project won third place in the Start-up Competition at ICI 2014, the Fourth Côte d‘Ivoire National Investment Forum that took place in the city of Abidjan in January. While the three-day event focused on investment opportunities in the country’s key sectors like agriculture, industry, and infrastructure, the spotlight of the closing ceremony fell on entrepreneurship and the youth of Côte d’Ivoire, as they are the drivers of future growth and innovation in the post-conflict country. Côte d’Ivoire aims to be an emerging market economy by 2020. In 2013, the country’s growth rate was 8.7%.
This week marks the launch of the new, World-Bank supported Ethiopia Climate Innovation Center (CIC). The center joins a global network of CICs and is designed to support local Ethiopian businesses that are responding to the challenges of climate change by providing mentorship, financing, access to markets, and policy support.
While significant progress has been made in consulting civil society in national, regional, and global migration policy debates, it has proved hard to engage the business sector. This is to the detriment of corporate success, effective government policy, and migrants’ rights. The World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Migration focuses on forging alliances between business and government to maximize the benefits of migration.
One reason why business have been reluctant to engage is that in many countries migration has become a ‘toxic’ issue in political and public discourses, and businesses are concerned not to tar their reputations by engaging in this debate. In addition there can be tensions between the respective objectives of business and governments with regards to migration, for example flexible labour markets can be hard to reconcile with national security. To an extent this also reflects different priorities: ultimately business is concerned with stakeholders and governments with voters; businesses need to make profits and governments to win elections. And as a result business and government also have different time horizons for achieving positive results from migration.