With #BuyForImpact, MaGIC aids social enterprises in overcoming major challenges

  • #BuyForImpact helps SEs create awareness, gain potential investment inquiries
  • With SIM Grant, MaGIC matches money crowdfunded to help social innovators

For Aida Zunaidi, cofounder of mom-centric online marketplace Ibupreneur, running a social enterprise almost feels like a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole. “There are a lot of challenges that come at unexpected times, every time! We solve one problem, another one appears,” she quips.

These are not problems that you can hammer away easily, either. As Aida notes, running a sustainable business with a model that ensures financial returns while having a social impact is tough. You need visibility. You need talent. You need the capital and revenue consistency to grow your outreach, find partners, expand marketing.

Ibupreneur, which empowers financially dependent and vulnerable mothers (particularly single, B40 or retired mothers) to grow into micro-entrepreneurs through their marketplace and upskilling workshop, faces another concern – morale. Aida says that they have difficulty in keeping the mother entrepreneurs mentally engaged throughout the entire business progress, especially when income or revenue is not coming in.

Which is why the recent #BuyForImpact movement, organised by the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) with support from Lazada (including a special page), became such a vital aspect to Ibupreneur’s sustainability. #BuyForImpact, which aims to promote a socially-conscious buying behaviour among the general public, helped showcase Ibupreneur’s talents in a one-stop centre at RexKL, which is a performance and cultural space in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“The products we sold immediately received orders after the event ended. We also received inquiries for potential investments!” exclaims an excited Aida. “That helps us to grow in the long-term.”

It’s also a big morale boost to help generate awareness on the social enterprise (SE) ecosystem to the community at large. This, according to Aida, is crucial for SEs to grow in Malaysia.

“When our community learns that social enterprises have the power to make a change for our own people, it drives traction to support businesses like ours. It was an impactful weekend for the SE community to voice out when there were a large number of us at one place!” she says.

Aida Zunaidi, cofounder of mom-centric online marketplace Ibupreneur, hosting Khairy at her booth during a #BuyForImpact event recently.

Challenges and solutions

Ibupreneur’s challenges are common problems faced by social enterprises in Malaysia. MaGIC chief executive officer Dzuleira Abu Bakar points out the three main challenges faced: Market Outreach, Capital and Talent.

For one, market penetration of SE products is relatively low despite being locally made. This is largely due to low levels of awareness, plus the fact that SEs have to compete with other businesses in terms of quality while managing the social impact they intend to create. “In addition, SEs lack skills to deliver their impact stories to their audience,” says Dzuleira.

On top of that, capital invested for social impact is typically limited, as like-minded investors or financiers are hard to come by. “Although impact investment has been vibrant in our neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Singapore as well as in the West, the landscape here in Malaysia is fairly premature,” elaborates Dzuleira.

“The SE community is still immaterial to regulators or capital providers who traditionally focus on profit return.”

Lack of funding also means a difficulty in landing talent, which Dzuleira says is a “key tangible in driving the prospect of a SE.” After all, talent is what helps devise a sustainable business model that can both scale and be socially impactful. You need the right people for things like marketing, business strategy, stakeholder engagements and technology.

This is where movements like #BuyForImpact comes in. It highlights how social enterprises differ from typical businesses, and thus creates a relationship with like minded, socially-conscious people. “In addition, the movement has drawn individuals who truly care about making a difference, they who will invest and mentor these SEs providing them the capital and skills to create products which can compete with the masses,” Dzuleira says.

With #BuyForImpact, MaGIC aids social enterprises in overcoming major challenges

Corporate partnerships

#BuyForImpact also connects SEs to impact investors – essentially investors who are looking to scale businesses who can deliver solutions to tackle social or environmental problems.

To foster talent, Dzuleira says that it’s important for SEs to form partnerships with corporates. “We have noticed a strong supportive network amongst the SE community. They are individuals with a passion for change, and are very open to working with one another through collaborations by sharing their talents,” she elaborates. #BuyForImpact can help raise awareness, and subsequently connect SEs to corporates.

Alliance Islamic Bank (AIB) is one such connection. They supported the #BuyForImpact movement through their own social procurement efforts, ensuring that gifts to partners and customers during the festive seasons and events are procured from SEs to create more meaning awareness of this segment. They also showcased selected SEs at their various events.

In the early days of the MCO, Alliance Islamic Bank collaborated with MaGIC, Citrine Capital and NGOhub on the Social Enterprise Sustainability Initiative, with the aim of helping SEs stay in business.

“Through the alliance with our strategic partners, we were able to build an ecosystem where the SEs can sustain their operations and assist communities-in-need at the same time,” comments Alliance Islamic Bank CEO Rizal Il-Ehzan.

“Through this ecosystem, we were able to raise the fund needed via our crowdfunding platform, SocioBiz, to purchase food items and hygiene essentials from SEs to distribute it to communities-in-need, especially the B40 segment.”

According to Rizal, the initiative allowed them to aid 11 SEs continue operating on an extended lifeline for an average of 1.3 months.

“This helped to sustain employment for 67 low-income employees. In addition, we were able to provide 7,000 units of hygiene essentials and over 67,000 meals to communities-in-need. We also provided essential PPEs, hospital equipment and meals to healthcare front-liners during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he elaborates.

In the early days of the MCO, Alliance Islamic Bank collaborated with MaGIC, Citrine Capital and NGOhub on the Social Enterprise Sustainability Initiative, with the aim of helping SEs stay in business.

Impacting SEs

One can already see the positive effects of #BuyForImpact, which ran a campaign across September with various initiatives. For instance, their 20 Questions segment, which features 16 SEs answering 20 questions on video, saw 11,784 views in total.

The SE Showcase @ RexKL, which featured 36 SEs, generated more than US$9,900 (RM40,000) in sales. In a partnership with Lazada, 15 SEs were featured on the e-commerce platform as part of the #BuyForImpact Month. 442 products were listed.

A key takeaway from #BuyForImpact, Dzuleira says, is that awareness of SEs at a consumer level is generally still nascent.

“However, once consumers are more aware of the concept of social enterprise, they are able to make informed consumption decisions and are more willing to spend as they understand how the power of every ringgit spent can change the social development landscape of the nation,” she adds.

Rizal adds that #BuyForImpact creates further impetus for more people to think about where their products come from, and whether or not the products are doing good for society and the environment.

“It is about understanding that every individual has the power to make a change, and that change can be effected in the most rudimentary of things like what we buy and the businesses we support,” he adds.


Bigger role for MaGIC

Dzuleira also sees a bigger role to be played by MaGIC to increase outreach, educate the public and sustain a nationwide movement towards an inclusive consumerism.

And more is being done. MaGIC recently launched the Social Impact Matching (SIM) Grant, which aims to help social innovators grow to scale their impact.

“Its purpose is to help enterprises who have a social mission recover from Covid-19,” Dzuleira explains. For every one ringgit crowdfunded, the SIM Grant will match another ringgit to help enterprises and social innovators, with a social purpose, to invest back into their organisations.

It is open to entities who use business as a tool to solve social and environmental concerns (SEs in general). “The support which the SIM Grant provides is important for entities to invest back into their organisation to grow and scale to combat the effects of Covid-19,” Dzuleira stresses.

According to Rizal, AIB’s collaboration with MaGIC on the SIM grant magnifies the size of funding they are able to provide to SEs. “To support the efficacy of the SIM grant programme, we help SEs with their grant application and subsidise the cost of running their fundraising campaign on SocioBiz,” he notes.

Additionally, MaGIC has developed an Impact Measurement and Management Tool for SEs to assist them in reviewing their mission and how they have been performing to reach their goals.

SEs need all the help they can get. “Our social enterprise ecosystem needs to be more extensive. MaGIC does a wonderful job in accelerator programs, developing us as entrepreneurs, and developing ideas,” says Aida Zunaidi of Ibupreneur. As such, it’s important for SEs to get in touch with agencies like MaGIC, and take advantage of its many initiatives like #BuyForImpact and the SIM Grant to boost their outreach.

Social enterprises, ultimately, need all of our help. Consumers, corporates and governments – we are all part of society. It makes sense to aim for social good.

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Future Enterprises Ltd.: Future Enterprises defaults on debt repayment

NEW DELHI: Future Enterprises Ltd (FEL) on Friday said it has defaulted on debt repayment towards commercial paper.

The company is unable to service its obligations in respect of the payment of commercial paper after its maturity and the gross principal amount on which the default has occurred on September 14, 2020, is Rs 90 crore, it said.

“The delay in reporting is due to efforts being made by the company to make payment by mobilising certain funds to make payment and then submit report of having repaid with delay,” FEL said.

FEL develops, owns and leases retail infrastructure for the Future Group. It handles backend operations of the retail business of the Future Group.

On August 29, 2020, the Future Group had announced to sell the retail and wholesale business to Reliance Retail.

Earlier, it had announced to merge key group companies including Future Retail, Future Lifestyle Fashions, Future Consumer, Future Supply Chains and Future Market Networks into FEL.

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DotData 2.0 platform delivers AI insights for enterprises

Last Chance: Register for Transform, VB’s AI event of the year, hosted online July 15-17.

DotData today announced version 2.0 of its artificial intelligence and machine learning platform for enterprises. The company automates data science so it can accelerate the adoption of AI and machine learning in corporations.

DotData CEO Ryohei Fujimaki said in a fireside chat with me at our Transform 2020 event that enterprises can implement AI and ML tools that generate better business insights and money-saving results.

“Everyone is under high pressure to deliver more results with less resources to survive in this economic downturn,” Fujimaki said. “AI automation will change this game. It significantly accelerates the turnaround from months to days.”

DotData spun out of Japan’s NEC in 2018, after more than 10 years of research into AI. Fujimaki is a data scientist, but clearly there aren’t enough people like him in the world. And that’s why DotData exists. Its role is to bring disruptive scale and speed in AI development through automation, and that automation enables people who are not data scientists to benefit from AI insights. Version 2.0 takes this a step further.

“This one is specifically designed for realizing what I explained today for all enterprises,” Fujimaki said. “AI automation is now ready for everyone to adopt. When we started the development of DotData 1.0, we had to consider that this is the tool for data scientists. However, during this past year or two, we have have seen this big change in the market. So 2.0 is really designed for enterprises who need the speed and scale, even without data scientists.”

P&C insurance

Above: DotData hits all of the pain points in enterprises in adopting AI/ML.

Image Credit: DotData

As an example, Fujimaki pointed to client P&C insurance, which generates $50 billion in annual revenue and has more than 30,000 insurance agencies that resell auto insurance. DotData needed to create an AI-based intelligent policy recommendation system for those agencies so that agents could propose the right product for the right customer.

The system analyzes customer profiles, past payments, claims, and more than 50 different types of behavioral logs. Then it produces three things. First, it creates a personalized product recommendation. Second, it considers what product is best for a particular customer. And third, it recommends a personalized product video. The human agent then shows the customer the personalized video and explains why the product helps the customer. The system debuted in February, and it resulted in a 250% improvement in conversion rates, or adoption of new policies.

Fujimaki said that his company’s platform created hundreds of AI models, starting in early 2018. The company had nine months to build those models, and then it started a field trial. The results were huge, he said.

A shortage of data scientists

Above: DotData is trying to democratize AI in business intelligence.

Image Credit: DotData

During COVID-19, it isn’t easy to hire data scientists, who were in short supply to begin with. Walmart sponsored a competition to improve sales forecasts for 3,000 products for 10 of its flagship stores in three states. The data consisted of more than 42,000 time series, extremely multi-dimensional time-series forecasting — a very difficult task even for experienced data scientists.

More than 5,500 teams participated in this competition and worked on tuning their AI models for four months. The competition finished last month. DotData input the data for its models for each of the 10 stores. The AI automation took three to four hours per store, and the total time took about 43 hours, with most of that being computation time.

“The result was very exciting,” Fujimaki said. “Our AI automation was ranked at top 2.5% among more than 5,500 teams.”

The company found that, with AI automation, even business intelligence engineers or business analysts — who are not trained as data scientists — can build as good AI models as world-top data scientists, he said.

How it works

Above: DotData CEO Ryohei Fujimaki (left) and Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat.

Image Credit: VentureBeat

AI development is not just tuning a machine learning model but a very lengthy and complex process. It isn’t easy to get a complete set of enterprise data in the right form from different sources. The company has to cleanse, architect, profile, aggregate, and do data manipulation based on its domain knowledge to discover useful patterns and prepare data for AI processing.

DotData’s key innovation is inventing AI that automatically explores raw data and discovers hundreds of promising business insights without domain knowledge, he said. Finding business insights from raw data was possible only based on intuition or experience before, but AI automates the process on DotData, Fujimaki said. That’s why it can do in days what otherwise might take months, he said.

Fujimaki said the company is careful to make its model transparent and explainable. Otherwise, it would be hard to trust the results.

“It is our fundamental philosophy that enterprise AI must be a white box solution,” Fujimaki said. “What business insights were discovered? How will AI make predictions? What are their performance and business impacts?” DotData explains these things, he said.

“Like our insurance customer, you can easily produce hundreds of AI models to generate disruptive business outcomes,” Fujimaki said. “Also, like the Walmart competition case, BI and analytics teams can do as good as world-top data scientists and make their dashboard and reporting more predictive and prescriptive.”

Other methods require a lot of upfront effort and don’t provide the same outcomes, he said. “AI automation makes it more integrated and more agile. You run AI automation and get the first model within a day,” Fujimaki said. “You can start to use it as a minimum valuable AI model, and you continuously improve it. AI automation fundamentally changes a way of delivering AI projects, and the organization must become familiar with the new practices.”

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Maiden voyage for Australian Cattle Enterprises, Australia’s newest live-exporter

A new player has emerged in Australia’s live-export industry, with Australian Cattle Enterprises (ACE) today loading its maiden voyage out of the Townsville Port.

The Darwin-based company might be new, but its founder and managing director Patrick Underwood, is a well-known name in the northern cattle industry and is the former general manager of exporting company, NACC.

Speaking to ABC Rural as 4,500 steers and bulls were being prepared for ACE’s first consignment to Vietnam, Mr Underwood said it was “a really proud moment”.

“I’ve been in the industry for a long time and [starting a company like this] is quite an onerous task, but this is the first shipment for ACE, a new venture, which started as a back-grounding business in northern Australia.

“So it’s been a big task, but I’ve had a lot of support from the wider industry and from the Australian government.”

Queensland cattle ready for export out of Townsville Port.(ABC Rural: Tom Major)

Starting an export business during COVID-19

Mr Underwood said like many businesses, the coronavirus pandemic had caused some “nervous moments” for the new company.

“This ship was originally going on April 30, so we delayed it a week at the request of the importer [who was experiencing] slower sales and a two-week lock down in Vietnam.

He said finding staff to work on boats during the pandemic had been challenging for the entire live-export trade, but he was happy to have secured a workforce that included respected Australian vet, Dr Ross Ainsworth.

“Dr Ainsworth is one of the most experienced vets in the industry and he has undertaken a 14-day self-isolation in Townsville to be allowed on the vessel,” he said.

The cattle have all been sourced from Queensland and are being exported to Vietnam’s largest importer of Australian livestock, Hoa Phat.

The live export vessel Ocean Swagman moored in Townsville Port
About 4,500 cattle have been loaded onto the Ocean Swagman, bound for Vietnam(ABC Rural: Tom Major)

The company has two shipments in May and another two planned for June and, according to Mr Underwood, the third shipment due out of Darwin would have buffalo on board as well.

“We’ll be operating out of northern Australia and we’re starting with Vietnam, but we hope to be selling cattle to Indonesia and Malaysia,” Mr Underwood said.

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