Social Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets: An Interview with MVision and Harmony Ventures
18 JULY 2016
EMPEA had the opportunity to speak with EMPEA Member, Mounir Guen, Founder & CEO of MVision Private Equity Advisers, and Harmony Ventures’ founders Yassamin Issapour and Aymeric Pacton about the winner of a Dhaka Start-up Competition, MyDoctor, a micro health insurance program which uses garbage as a financial resource to create clinics staffed by local doctors and medical students to treat and support people in the Bangladesh community. Harmony Ventures’ Inaugural Dhaka Start-up Competition was held in Spring 2016 with the intention to provide ‘young entrepreneurs with mentorship, resources and funding to develop their social enterprises in Bangladesh.’ The nine-month long competition gathered over 250 applicants and featured nine finalists who pitched their sustainable development business model ideas to a panel of local and international expert judges.
Humayun Kabir, one of the founders of MyDoctor, commented on behalf of their start-up work after the Competition, “Bangladesh, as a developing country, is marred by many sustainable development and structural issues; putting these factors aside, there are individuals there with transformative ideas and businesses. Without private capital investments in Bangladesh, the marketplace for business opportunities, for anybody who does not want to work as a laborer, is non-existent.” MyDoctor was awarded the MVision Innovation Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
How did MVision become involved with Harmony Ventures’ Inaugural Dhaka Start-up Competition and why did you find it important to be involved with a program such as this?
MVision was excited to support talented, young university students with international backgrounds who are interested in making an impact and assisting others in the emerging markets, especially in Bangladesh. It is important for us at MVision to invigorate, encourage and promote young minds interested in the emerging markets space to think forward.
Students who have start-up business ideas that are originating in an environment that is more challenging, such as in Bangladesh, have to approach their business model with a much more transformational and creative angle than those students studying and promoting start-ups in developed markets due to the necessity of daily life. When we look at the winner of the Competition, MyDoctor, we see their innovative business model in the healthcare sector that uses garbage that has been recycled back into the community in order to provide medical care in neighborhood clinics. MyDoctor shows that when working in an environment that is challenging to understand, solutions are driven by innovation more than money.
MVision finds it crucial to look at the ideas that young people have and look to promote them globally so they may be copied or used in other emerging markets. We wanted to create an infrastructure that recognizes the value of innovation and talent for the next generation across the world. It’s all about innovation, energy, and impact.
What do you think made the MyDoctor organization stand out and win the MVision Innovation Award for Social Entrepreneurship?
Throughout the Competition, Harmony Ventures looked at a variety of factors of the final panelists, including their academic background, sector preference, and business experience, in order to asses and see what was most impactful about their social welfare pitch.
The nine finalists’ proposals were so impressive that it was clearly a difficult decision to make because of the high quality of the start-up propositions. But what I believe made MyDoctor stand out among the rest was their robust proposal and innovative spirit behind changing the healthcare sector in Bangladesh. We plan to offer long-term support to brilliant young minds behind social entrepreneurial ideas such as MyDoctor, and we encourage other people to learn from their model and be inspired to make changes in their communities. Our goal would be to continue to promote these operations and support start-ups with visions like MyDoctor by implementing a sustainable 1-3-5-Year Business Plan.
I applaud structured entrepreneurial environments like Harmony Ventures who are working to create an atmosphere where young minds can be in a controlled environment to be recognized and supported in their endeavors. At MVision, we want to provide on-going support. We are hoping to execute on this by having the Competition’s candidates come back to MVision with 1-3-5 Year Impact Plan, to nationalize it, globalize it and look for funding.
What role does sustainable development play in private equity and the overall economic development in emerging markets?
It is important to address the role of sustainable development and ESG policy when it comes to improving the conditions in emerging markets, and the role of young people is extremely relevant to address. We must listen to the intelligent young minds of tomorrow who are pointing out changes that need to be made in the sustainability business arena as they are also showing us areas of solution. Every private equity firm has different views, ideas or practices on ESG policy and sustainable development initiatives, but we all take it very seriously.
When we look at the pragmatic side of promoting private equity through sustainable development, we see a great example of MyDoctor’s work in Bangladesh. Private Equity in newer markets should be working with different new structures, such as corporate structures and platforms. Currently, there is nothing stopping start-ups in this space from going into this area. MyDoctor is retrieving the waste from the community, recycling it so it can benefit healthcare system and creating a strong corporate structure which enables a resilient culture which ultimately helps with the overall healthcare environment.
We want to stress that MyDoctor’s start-up work is something that others can replicate to impact the welfare of those in the emerging markets. To be specific, diagnostic centers, clinics and hospitals represent a large area of activity where this impact can happen: they can create a better welfare environment which will lead to better neighborhoods, which then allows private equity to step in, ultimately creating a profit for investors.
How can the private equity ecosystem and EMPEA Members help these innovative social welfare ideas?
Through EMPEA’s networks, I could see the private equity ecosystem create a community or subgroup where people put in small venture capital or personal money and try to stimulate Harmony Ventures’ Competition for example in different countries. If we could replicate this type of competition that we saw in Bangladesh in other counties, we would create a lot of change and see strong social welfare impact.
EMPEA Members are investing and working in these types of emerging markets, we must find socially responsible outlets, like MyDoctor, to contribute to the communities. Many private equity firms in emerging markets are building local schools, clinics, social programs and scholarships, and these are helping to improve the communities.
We are listening to the minds of tomorrow that are showing us nuances in how to impact our world a little more creatively, and the additional private equity contribution in start-ups like MyDoctor is quite powerful in the emerging markets environment where they are working. Our generation needs to be guided by the young since they are very quickly able to point out the opportunities: something that needs to be improved and changed for the betterment of our communities.