3 Agriculture-based Ventures Among Winners of 2016 DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia

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Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

Healthy, organic, nutritious Jasberryrice, provides Thai farmers 14 times higher income than growing regular rice; a one-stop platform with content to help disabled individuals live well; a sugarcane planter that improves planting efficiency by 80%; These are some of the innovative solutions developed by winners of the 2016 DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia (SVC Asia) that have the potential to improve lives around the world.

SVC Asia is a business plan challenge that identifies and supports new social ventures that demonstrate positive, scalable and sustainable social impact within the region. The competition is co-organised by DBS Foundation and NUS Enterprise, and is open to members of the public. This is the third consecutive year of the challenge, which is supported by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raISE) and Syngenta. Three agriculture-based ventures were among the 2016 winners who were awarded a total of $175,000 in seed funding and grants:

1) Siam Organic (Thailand) received the Grand Prize of S$75,000 in seed funding. Siam Organic aims to alleviate farmers’ poverty through innovative organic products, including its nutritious Jasberry™ rice.

Ms Pornthida Wongphatharakul (second from left), co-founder of Siam Organic receiving the award Credit: NUS Enterprise
Ms Pornthida Wongphatharakul (second from left), co-founder of Siam Organic receiving the award Credit: NUS Enterprise

2) Kamal Kisan (India) received the Syngenta Agriculture Social Enterprise award of S$10,000 for being the best agriculture social enterprise. Kamal Kisan develops tools to help farmers reduce labour-intensive tasks and increase profitability. One of their tools is the sugarcane planter that improves efficiency by 80%.

The Syngenta Agriculture Social Enterprise award is a new award under the SVC Asia.

3) Naireeta Services (India) received the Syngenta Agriculture Social Enterprise award of S$10,000 for demonstrating the best use of technology and innovation for agriculture. Naireeta Services has developed a rainwater management solution, to help farmers adapt to both drought and prolonged water logging.

Left to right - Mr Biplab Ketan Paul (Director Naireeta SErvices), Ms Trupti Jain (Founder and Director Naireeta Services), Ms Elvie Ganchero, Community and Partnerships Manager APAC Syngenta, and Eddie Chew, Head of Corporate Affairs, ASEAN, Syngenta PC: NUS Enterprise
Left to right – Mr Biplab Ketan Paul (Director Naireeta SErvices), Ms Trupti Jain (Founder and Director Naireeta Services), Ms Elvie Ganchero, Community and Partnerships Manager APAC Syngenta, and Eddie Chew, Head of Corporate Affairs, ASEAN, Syngenta PC: NUS Enterprise

Mr Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, gave out the Grand and Jury Prizes at the awards ceremony, as well as delivered the keynote address. This year’s SVC Asia received 1,027 entries from 32 countries, with the top countries being India (27%), Indonesia (19%), Singapore (14%) and China(11%). Business ideas ranged across different sectors, including education(19%), agriculture (17%), healthcare/ sanitation (12%), energy/ environment(12%) and web/ mobile (9%). Most teams were at an early stage, with 72% of the entries being at the idea, prototype or pilot stage, while the remaining 28% were ventures at the operational or growth stage.

“Over the past three years, we have been building a community of social entrepreneurs and capacity builders, to raise awareness on social entrepreneurship across Asia. This year, SVC Asia hit over 1,000 entries – two and a half times greater than the entries when we first started this challenge in 2014 – demonstrating the growing interest in this area. The quality of ideas has also improved, with many teams focusing on development needs faced in their countries. Some of these ideas will scale to address pressing social problems in Asia,” said Professor Wong Poh Kam, Director, NUS Entrepreneurship Centre, which is part of NUS Enterprise. Prof Wong chaired the judging panel for the final round of SVC Asia 2016.

Said Karen Ngui, Head of DBS Group Strategic Marketing & Communications and Board Member of the DBS Foundation, “SVC Asia is fast becoming a powerful platform to identify and nurture up-and-coming social enterprises from the region. It is particularly heartening to see many entrepreneurs who not only are passionate about addressing social issues – but who are also innovative and savvy with the use of technology. In addition to the prize monies totaling S$ 175,000, we hope to build a holistic support ecosystem for budding social enterprises by providing mentorship, networking, access to marketplace and impact funding.”

SVC Asia 2016 was held from March to September 2016. Over the past six months, participants received support and education through social enterprise workshops and online resources. This equipped them with tools to test and get feedback on their business ideas. The top 12 semi-finalists were flown to Singapore for coaching, mentoring and judging in mid-September 2016. The panel of judges made their decision based on the strength of the teams’ value proposition, social impact, market potential and economic/ financial model.