The 10 million connection | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 08, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:24 PM, April 08, 2016

The 10 million connection

Synergy, the social business platform that aims to revolutionise the bottom of the pyramid

Social business is considered the next evolutionary step from orthodox business practices. Comprehending the impact it can make worldwide, Clinton Global Initiative and Hult Business School organises an international accelerator program that aims to solve the world's greatest problems with the help of young social entrepreneurs.

This year Synergy, a team from Bangladesh won the Shanghai Regional Round of the Hult Prize, defeating 45 teams from top business schools. Come September, Team Synergy will be contending with four other teams in the Global Championship. Shahriar Rahman from Next Step got in touch with Team Synergy's members: Mirza Tanzim Sami, Tasneem Omar Ava, Mohammad Saad, and Arafat Ahmed to find out more about their project.

Tell us a bit about your project.

We provide entrepreneurs with a collaborative business platform, which connects them to capital goods and partners, while vastly expanding their market reach through a human network. We focused on entrepreneurs because they already have an established business. Expanding and building upon that will not only increase their income, but it also create employment opportunities for many.

During our field work, we realised that the key to success for these businesses is connection. That is where we innovated. We connect people using the most common and accessible technology in the world: mobile phones. Mobile phones are the key to connection, innovation and growth for people in the bottom of the pyramid. We harness the power of this technology via USSD cloud-based telephony to connect these people better within their community.

What inspired you to work on this particular project?

Our inspiration has always been the idea of being part of something larger than ourselves, and the Hult Prize provided us with just the right platform for it.

It has brought a sense of meaning to our lives: to work for a better world, to bring smiles to the faces of those who need it the most, to leave a mark on this planet that will enrich lives in the years to come. It aggregates undergraduate, Masters and PhD students from all around the world, and demands of them to come up with an idea of a social business that can tackle different social problems faced by the people in the bottom of the pyramid.

Each year, Bill Clinton picks the challenge himself. This year he challenged the students to come up with an idea of a social business that can double the income of 10 million people living in crowded, urban spaces within a span of five years. The challenge also asks to better connect these people with people, capital, and goods.

How do you plan to scale up if you win the Hult Prize?

The prize money for the winning team is one million dollars. We plan to utilise this prize money mainly to expand our project and scale it globally. To grow our venture, we plan to partner up with different national and international NGOs and foundations working for different social causes. On this note, we plan to expand our projects only to countries where our partner NGOs and foundations are already in operation and have an established foundation there for our project to expand.

We also have plans to run our project in the slums of Bangladesh for the first three years of our operation to start with. Eventually, we would like to scale our project to Indian, Indonesian and Kenyan high-impact city slums. The prize money is simply a boost for us to reach 10 million people within five years, globally.

How many people do you think it is going to impact?

Implementing our project successfully will strategically impact 10 million people within five years. However, the impact will be on a much larger scale. We will significantly increase the income of 10 million people in a way that will create job opportunities and ensure better living standards of even more people.

How sustainable is the business model?

The biggest advantage of our business model is that it is not at all capital intensive. The major investment of this model is in bringing the cloud server in-house and its maintenance. The rest is for bringing pre-existing stores under the Synergy brand moniker. Furthermore, our business model is scalable and replicable in any part of the world, making it even more sustainable.


Engineer-turned-writer, Shahriar Rahman is Sub-Editor of the tech publication of The Daily Star. He is also Head of Operations at HiFi Public.

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