Social business is one of the most exciting investment opportunities in the world as it brings a positive social impact, Andrea Jung, chief executive officer of Grameen America, said yesterday.
“The dividend from investment is the social change,” Jung said at a session during the fifth Social Business Day, organised by Yunus Centre at the capital's Radisson Hotel. Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus moderated the session.
“Great social business models have the power to solve global issues,” Jung said, while hailing the concept of microcredit as it works to fight poverty.
Many thought that microcredit was a concept applicable only to developing countries, she said.
“I am proud that it has become sustainable and viable—and a true social business in the US.”
Grameen America has disbursed over $170 million credit among 28,000 borrowers of 11 cities.
“Poverty can be eliminated through social business,” she said, adding that there are 46 million living in poverty in the US.
Nirvana Chaudhary, founder of Chaudhary Group Social Business of Nepal, said: “We are convinced that as entrepreneurs we should start social business, as it creates jobs and brings positive changes to society.”
Chaudhary, son of Nepal's first billionaire, Binod Chaudhary, said his organisation will start receiving applications for funding social business projects from tomorrow.
“Raising funds is not the challenge. The challenges are to find suitable social business projects and measuring the impact of social business on society,” he said, adding that he is looking to raise $100 million of seed capital for social business projects.
Gao Zhan, founder of Yunus Social Business China, said: “The Grameen Bank model is a successful concept especially in the US. The model is the most classical microfinance model in the world.”
“At the beginning, we have faced some problems for investment but now we have many investors. Our investors realise that social business investment is crucial to fight against poverty.”
At yesterday's event, members of Phare Circus, a Cambodian social business, staged a show.
Phare Circus consists of children, aged between 19 and 22, from disadvantaged communities in Cambodia, and has created jobs for them, said Huot Dara, chief executive officer of Phare Performing Social Business.
Some of them have been trained by the National Circus School of Hanoi in Vietnam and the National School of Rosny-sus-Bois in France, he said.
The project was set up with the help of Grameen Credit Agricole Social Business Fund of France, and the team has performed in the UK and France.
Phare Circus was among 40 social business projects that were presented at the programme.
Grameen Trust and Sampan, a project for creating jobs for the visually-impaired people, showed its products—bound registers.
“We make 250-300 registers a day,” said Nurul Islam, who sews the registers under a project that employs 10 visually-impaired individuals, with their monthly income ranging between Tk 5,000 and Tk 10,000.
“We have created jobs for the blind people, and we sell the registers to schools, colleges and universities,” said Zakaria Arefin, head of the project.
Grameen Intel Social Business has developed an application to help farmers solve cultivation-related problems.
“Our application will help farmers find instant solutions,” said Saqif Nayeem Khan, project officer of Grameen Intel Social Business.
Yunus, who pioneered the social business concept around the world, said: “In Bangladesh we are addressing the problem of unemployment. We are trying to turn the unemployed into entrepreneurs through equity investment from social business funds.”
“We have developed a project, Nobin Udyokta [New Entrepreneurship] to overcome the unemployment issue. We are not jobseekers, we are job creators.”