A new class of businesses is emerging that looks beyond their financial bottom lines and instead measures their success by the social and environmental impact they create. One type of such businesses are ‘Responsible and Inclusive Businesses’, which focus on benefiting the lower income segments of society, the so called Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP).
icecairo has partnered with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) to promote such business practices in Egypt via a new entity called ice_x. At Innoventures Start-up Circus Event, Gregor Schueler of ice_x gave an introductory talk on the concept of Responsible and Inclusive Business to the joint communities of the incubator and icecairo. Gregor explained how GIZ’s Private Sector Development Program (PSDP) and icecairo are planning to implement this new approach by working with both the start-up community and existing Egyptian businesses.
He described inclusive businesses as ventures that are at the same time commercially viable and scalable, and provide benefits to the BoP. This benefit can be delivered in two ways:
Either by supplying innovative and affordable goods and services previously unavailable (goods examples are mobile banking or micro insurance) or
By integrating people into its value chain on as producer or business partners and providing capacity development and employment opportunities in the process.
Of course such business models face tough challenges including competition, regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles, and demanding logistics, which put pressure on profit margins. But when implemented well, the approach also has great potential to deliver lasting social and environmental benefits to Egyptians and to empower them to control their own fortunes.
To illustrate this point Gregor presented several successful models from around the world, which bring clean water and energy to remote villages, provide cheap but high quality health care, or improve agricultural yields in cooperation with smallholder farmers.
Following the presentation and an engaged Q&A session, Adam Molyneux-Berry discussed how icecairo will be working closely with ice_x in April as part of the panoptic planning of the Solar Water Hackathon in Marsa Alam. The Hackathon includes not only the product development, which was completed over several theoretical and practical sessions at the icecairo downtown hub, but also the design of a business model specifically for use by the local population.
Three teams were formed from the attendees and asked to discuss the matter referencing the information they had just. Organically, each team focused on a separate angle; technical, business, and economic.
Following the group discussion, each team presented their results to the rest of the attendees. Some of the ideas were concerned with improving the physical or financial viability of the business, some addressed specific challenges such as health hazards, while yet others were viable business models around solar water heating in themselves. It was a refreshing experience for everybody involved to be able to practice the concepts that had been presented during the session.
For more information on ice_x and inclusive business models contact: