D.light’s d.sirable business success

But what really has us excited is the excitement at the consumer level.  If you have a chance, visit D.light’s website to see hear some of the remarkable stories of their customers and how light has impacted their lives. And also take a look at the letter that D.light just received from a resident in Orissa living in D.light’s first 100% solar village. We’ve got thousands and thousands of villages to go, but a very exciting start.

From a Nextbillion.net article on this disruptive company aiming to provide solar energy to India’s rural poor. This article emphasizes what is one of the most important aspects of a successful business, partcularly startups, which is knowing your customer and focusing on developing your entire business model to what they need and want.

Upcoming Competitions, Awards and Challenges

Here is a summary of some interesting opportunities for our readers:

1.The Great Indian Developer Award: “The Great Indian Developer Awards 2008 recognizes trailblazing individuals, technologies, and organizations contributing to the evangelism, productivity and innovation excellence of the Indian developer ecosystem.” [Source: PluGGd.in] Go here to vote.

2. TIE-Canaan Entrepreneurial Challenge 2008: “Canaan Partners and TIE, today announced the launch of the TIE-Canaan Entrepreneurial Challenge 2008, a business plan competition open to early stage entrepreneurs from across the country.” [Source: PluGGd.in] Deadline for submission is May 12th, go here to submit. A template for a b-plan can be found here.

3. YouthActionNet Global Fellowship Program: “Launched in 2001 by the International Youth Foundation, YouthActionNet strengthens, supports, and celebrates the role of young people in leading positive change in their communities. Each year, 20 exceptional young social entrepreneurs are selected as YouthActionNet Global Fellows following a competitive application process.” [Source: Let Me Know] Deadline is May 12th, go here for the application. (Santhosh posted on this fellowship previously here).

4. BiD “Entrepreneurship in Development” Photo Contest: “In this Photo Contest, BiD is focusing on entrepreneurs around the world who are working for innovative changes towards sustainable economic growth in developing countries. You can submit your photos to the competition by simply uploading your image on www.bidnetwork.org. To do so, you must be registered as a member of bidnetwork.org first.” [Source: Nextbillion.net] Deadline April 30th, go here for website.

World Challenge 2008 Nominees due by May 31st

Here is a fantastic opportunity for funding and support for social businesses:

World Challenge 08 is organized by BBC World and Newsweek, in association with Shell, and is about championing and rewarding projects and business which really make a difference. The winner will receive a grant of USD $20,000 to put back into their project/business, and two runners up will each receive USD $10 000.

The application is due May 31st and more information can be found here.

[Source: Nextbillion.net]

InternetSpeech – The New Digital Genie?

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Muhammad Yunus beautifully articulated his dream of a “Digital Aladdin’s Lamp”, which would provide poor women around the world with access to global markets and trends for local benefit:

“A genie comes out of it and asks, ‘What can I do for you, ma’am?’ And she says ‘I make these baskets but nobody buys them.’ And the lamp says ‘I will find somebody to buy it.’ And the lamp comes back with buyers. She doesn’t know about a keyboard or a computer. She just asks questions of the genie.”

Sound like a fantasy?  Well, it seems we aren’t so far from realizing Yunus’ dream.  How?

Previously, we wrote about the “Question Box,” which aims to “bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to places that are too remote or poor to sustain a live Internet link.”  Now, there is another access point for the BoP – audible internet accessible over the phone (developed by InternetSpeech).  Let me say that again – internet access over the phone, no literacy, keyboards, or screens necessary.

It seems that new trends in mobile phone technology are ushering in a new era of connectivity, access, knowledge, and power for the rural and urban poor.  Can you imagine what the future holds?

Imagine a farmer in a remote village using her voice and her $20 People’s Phone (which only works as a phone and doesn’t even have a screen to send or receive text messages) to check market information via Reuters, and then log onto an eBay-like market to offer her crafts.

A few hours later, she could log listen to the bids received and settle a transaction through e-mail.

Sound too good to be true?  Click here to listen to a demo.

Source:  NextBillion

The fine line: New research on what defines successful entrepreneurs

In an effort to figure out what actually distinguishes a successful entrepreneur from an unsuccessful one, Social Equity Venture Fund (S.E.VEN) has invested $100,000 to conduct primary research.

S.E.VEN has awarded this money to Harvard poverty expert Michael Kremer, as a part of a total of $400,000 that it has invested in researchers working on enterprise based solutions to poverty. Kremer’s study will look at entrepreneurs in both Kenya and India to “understand who these individuals are, what in their environment contributes to their development as entrepreneurs, and social, institutional and personal barriers to further growth.” These two countries were chosen because “most of those subsisting on less than a dollar a day live in South Asia and Africa.”

Nextbillion.net recognizes how these markets present entrepreneurs with unique challenges, including “fluctuating currency, interest rates, political unrest, population migration, and technological and infrastructure upsets.”

Over the weight limit …

Anyone who has flown recently can relate to the frantic attempt to remove clothing, shoes and other packed items from your suitcase in order to meet the weight requirement that is draconiously enforced upon unsuspecting passengers. In a similar fashion, here are some additional articles that may be of interest that I could not fit into my op-ed below.

  • Nextbillion.net’s Francisco Noguerra wrote about how existing corporate knowhow can strategically benefit BoP buisnesses scale up to the next level.
  • From Nextbillion as well, a discussion over how to form one’s social venture and the decision of becoming a for-profit, non-profit or both
  • Not content with simple indexes, one visionary is trying to build a social stock exchange. Source: Xigi.net

Agora Fellows Program

As an update to a prior post entitled “MBAs without Borders” (MWB), it has been brought to our attention through NextBillion that Agora Partnerships, in collaboration with MWB, has launched a fellowship program that aims to address issues of long-term management, specialization, expertise, and sustainability in the social enterprise sector:

The Agora Fellows program is a new initiative by Agora Partnerships to bring extraordinary entrepreneurial talent directly into developing world small businesses during their critical growth phase. Agora Fellows are management, finance, and development professionals who work in-country for 4-6 months to assist the leadership teams of Agora portfolio companies in setting up managerial processes and executing the business plan.

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