How Startups Are Using Technology To Run Impactful Businesses
Tech For Good (Capsule 1) was an interesting panel discussion that took place during the MaGIC E-Nation Online for 2021. It was moderated by Mohd Safuan Mohd Zairi, Senior Vice President of Technology and Innovation in MaGIC, with panelists including:
The objective of this conference was for the public to learn how these entrepreneurs have found a balance in running a business with socially responsible impacts, through the use of technology.
Yasmin founded EcoKnights in 2005 out of a passion for promoting sustainability among communities through sustainability-focused programs with corporate partnerships, youth volunteers and communities.
They’ve already hosted events like an online composting workshop, soap making classes, a relaxed river walk, as well as their annual KL Eco Film Fest.
Last year they hosted their first digital film festival, one of many pivotal points they’ve had to make due to COVID-19. It went from a simple KL festival to a festival that everyone around the world could connect with.
“It was a good indicator for us that our reach actually increased during the lockdown,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Sean founded Sunago Education as an online education platform that mainly teaches English because he believes it is the lingua franca of this day and age.
Before the pandemic hit the world hard, they escalated into a weekend to serve their 900 learners in their program with 75 teachers over 2 days, which paid off and paid for them well.
Philip, who co-founded HAVVA, saw a problem when he realized that over 70% of the land in urban cities was too expensive to cultivate.
So he wanted to find a way to produce large amounts of food in limited spaces with less work, less pollution, no toxic pesticides, water conservation, while making it as accessible as possible for beginners to affordable cost.
So, they found a solution by combining aquaponics and vertical farming. They have succeeded in designing these agricultural landscapes to serve even community and commercial farms.
After their sharing sessions on the work they do, they began to answer a few questions related to running an impactful business.
A shift in mindset on sustainability
Some people may wonder what a circular business model is for, if sustainability is not a priority for them.
Dictionary time: A circular business model articulates the logic of how an organization creates, delivers and delivers value to its widest range of stakeholders while minimizing ecological and social costs.
Yasmin first pointed out that a change in mindset was needed to try to understand sustainability. She shared that sustainability was more than the 3Rs, saving our rivers, composting, etc. Instead, it’s in almost every aspect of our life, like our access to education, tackling gender inequalities, running a low-carbon business, and more.
“And if you’re in financial institutions, sustainability isn’t going to run away. We are moving into an era where financial institutions need to be highly ESG compliant and also be a responsible company. So I think it will catch up.
“Durability is top priority. You talk about charting the future, whether it’s a business ecosystem or a livelihood that is economically, socially and environmentally balanced. “
Partnerships can have non-monetary exchanges
Partnerships are not always developed just to increase profits or sales for the parties involved. Having partnered with all kinds of institutions, from government officials to telecom operators, Sean pointed out that the value exchanged through partnerships can sometimes be non-monetary.
For example, he explained that some companies who contacted Sunago did not need English training for themselves, but rather wanted to benefit a community. We see this happening more frequently these days, especially with the corporate sector and the CSR efforts they lead.
For Yasmin, she shared that choosing a mate comes when your mate can drive something you can’t, like helping scale up or reaching a different audience.
Balancing profit and impact
Yasmin honestly explained that you can’t have an impact if you can’t make a profit. “You have a team that needs to be nurtured and developed. While I don’t have a specific formula, you do more when you’re doing well in your bank account, ”she added, stressing the importance of creating an incentive-for-profit impact.
Projections and careful financial planning are ways in which you can make sure that your organization can be sustained, and once you have a sense of what your finances are, you can then measure and plan what kind of impact. can be achieved.
And again, she brought him back in search of a partner, stating that this would be the time when you could start to think about which partner would meet your needs here to increase your impact.
It is also recommended to remain relevant to what our society needs at all times and to be smart enough to pivot accordingly to meet those needs.
Sean believes that you can also make an impact without harming your bank account. For example, when they noticed that there were more teachers unemployed during the pandemic, Sunago offered them free online training during the weekends.
After that, they realized that they were then able to employ these qualified teachers to be part of their platform. “So we kind of turned it around and made it a Grab model, and were able to sell the services of some of our unemployed teachers to the rest of the world,” Sean said.
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What I learned from the event is that digital innovations need the right time to fully benefit a business. In a way, it feels like companies that were built with impact at the forefront of their mission were able to predict what the future would need.
These technopreneurs were already providing solutions to problems that many were not yet aware of, or that did not seem important at the time, and it is only now that we realize the importance of their technologies for sustainability, that whether to protect our ecosystem or for distance learning.
It is clear that running a socially responsible business is becoming an increasingly recognized business, with increasing impact investments. Millennials are also more aware of the impact, and it shows in the increased recycling, conservation, recycling, and more efforts we are involved in.
There is currently a major change in our ecosystem, and every stakeholder should be listening, in order to stay relevant.
- You can watch this E-Nation program here.
- You can read more articles on E-Nation that we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Philip Loo of HAVVA Agrotech, Yasmin Rasyid of EcoKnights and Sean Chee by Sunago Education
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