Entries in Chandran Nair (4)

Tuesday
Nov292011

Qi Contributor Blog Series 4: The Business of Development (Part Two)

Chandran Nair, CEO of Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT) talks about his revolutionary executive education programme called the Global Young Leaders Programme, which equips business leaders with a sophisticated and honest understanding of socio-economic development and a new mindset to look at previously neglected market.

By Chandran Nair, and includes contributions from Ho Yeung Liu and Nina Jatana, both from GIFT.

Since 2006 when GIFT ran its first YLP, we have based our methodology on the importance of key soft skills business leaders must acquire to succeed in today’s world. Intimate knowledge of both the local market and the political economy, together with a nuanced understanding of its cultural context are requirements and not luxuries. Communication and empathy, both personal and cross-cultural, are also paramount. Without the flexibility and skills to be able to communicate with people from different backgrounds, it would be impossible for business people to acquire the knowledge that enables them to create new goods and services catering to local consumers. This is especially important in the context of operating in Asia where numerous cultures intermingle often in messy ways, and have to work with each other despite language barriers and dramatic differences in working styles.

Each YLP involves 20 to 25 young executives (usually between 29 and 35 years old) from both Asian and non-Asian companies. GIFT facilitates a process whereby they work to create commercially viable outcomes for social-oriented projects with strong project partners, which range from NGOs, social enterprises, SMEs to governmental organisations. The YLPs are held in a growing number of developing countries in Asia, from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the rural areas of Mongolia. Participants work in a variety of environments, from classroom sessions to conducting market research at project sites. They are encouraged to use their own business acumen to work with each other to create or expand on plans for the partner. Their output is typically in the form of a business or an action plan, and is presented in a final conference to locally invited stakeholders and potential investors.

"The Global Young Leaders are held in a growing number of developing countries in Asia, from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the rural areas of Mongolia. Participants work in a variety of environments, from classroom sessions to conducting market research at project sites."
YLP participants working together to produce a business plan for the project partner, Integrated Farmer’s Association of Heshuiping region (IFAH), in Hubei, China

 

In return, the project partners are given the opportunity to acquire much needed external advice from professional business talents. It is common for many of these organisations to have little to no access to this. Many NGOs rely heavily on donor contributions and thus may not have the comprehensive set of business skills that the participants offer. The YLP gives these partners a fresh perspective on their project whilst at the same time providing participants with a wholly new insight into a variety of alternative business models, such as cooperatives, community of interest companies (CIC) and social investment funds. More importantly the YLPs provide a continuous platform for executives to learn about new opportunities in socio-economic development.

Improving Public Health through Commercialisation GIFT recently conducted a YLP on Vietnam’s public health issues in November 2010. Participants worked with international NGO IDE and USAID’s WaterSHED initiative to find a solution to the persistent challenge of increasing rates of hand washing with soap in rural parts of the country. This is sorely needed in a country where less than one-tenth of people wash their hands with soap before eating. According to the World Bank, the economic costs incurred due to poor sanitation amount to 1.8% of Vietnam’s GDP. Setting an enabling environment for people to wash hands fulfils a tangible social need, yet there was no market demand for a product. It was decided that a low-cost hand washing device would be the most ideal solution.

The device holds enough clean water to support a family of four for 24 hours, and is meant to serve as a reminder to encourage adequate hand washing at various crucial points, such as after feeding livestock or handling waste. It is made from durable material and most importantly has a tray underneath to store soap and drain wastewater.

Participants agreed that a different approach to promotion and distribution would be required in order to deliver the device at an affordable price. Through a week of in-depth field investigations, including site visits to rural villages and interviews conducted with front-line supply chain members such as factory owners and small-scale shop owners, the participants concluded that a social enterprise had to be set up to oversee management and distribution of the product. The atypical aim of this enterprise was not to satisfy an existing demand, but to create a new demand for something that at the time no one had even heard of.A member of the Vietnam Women’s Union trying the hand washing device prototype, October 2010

Based on findings the group decided to enlist the support of the 13 million strong nation-wide network of the Vietnam Women’s Union. These women are opinion leaders in their respective villages and have strong personal ties with many of the end customers. As well as providing legitimacy to the project, members of the Union would also assist in selling and delivering the hand washing devices directly to rural families.

This programme also illustrates how large companies can help in societal development by leveraging existing projects, instead of creating their own from the ground up. In the months leading to this YLP, GIFT approached Unilever Vietnam to support the project partner and subsequent action plans produced by the YLP participants. Unilever pledged to fund the production of the first batch of hand washing devices, as well as providing in-kind support such as soap, staff training and market insights.

Conclusion: Business’ Role in Creating Fair Shares Prosperity It is clear companies are capable of playing a more strategic role in tackling developmental issues in Asia. We at GIFT would go as far to say that the development process would never be complete without the widespread involvement of commercial interests, but that which is not driven simply by profit maximisation. To enable this, current mainstream executive education needs a radical re-think in order to further business leaders’ understanding of the nuances of development and their role in influencing it. For the past five years during which GIFT has run 21 YLPs, an alumni with over 500 members has learnt and recognised the many complexities that exist within Asia’s social framework. Companies are beginning to invest time and resources to better understand underserved markets and discover new customers. GIFT’s goal is to raise awareness of what local people need, and how businesses can adapt and create opportunities that complement their existing resources. Above all, the aim is to advocate a more equitable development within Asia, an Asia where the majority of people can access a fair share of the prosperity that is currently, and perhaps unfairly, enjoyed by a minority.

"GIFT’s goal is to raise awareness of what local people need, and how businesses can adapt and create opportunities that complement their existing resources. Above all, the aim is to advocate a more equitable development within Asia, an Asia where the majority of people can access a fair share of the prosperity that is currently, and perhaps unfairly, enjoyed by a minority."

About Chandran Nair
Chandran Nair is the founder of the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT), an independent social venture think tank dedicated to advancing an understanding of the impacts of globalisation through thought leadership and positive action to effect change. Chandran was chairman of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) in Asia Pacific until 2004, establishing the company as Asia’s leading environmental consultancy.

About Qi GLOBAL
Qi is a global network of innovators. We provide members a platform for cross-industry networking and collaboration. Innovation happens with the cross-pollination of knowledge from a range of industries. Based on this principle, Qi works to bring together corporate, community and creative sectors to generate new ideas for sustainable development in the following areas: Architecture & Urban Planning; Conservation & Wildlife; Energy & Technology; Fashion, Art & Design; Food, Health & Leisure; Leadership & Innovation; Impact Investment; Policy & Nation Development; Women’s Empowerment; and Youth Ambition & Education.

Every October, Qi hosts an annual meeting in Singapore, gathering business and community leaders from around the world. Contributors demonstrate how social innovation can impact and change lives and communities in Asia. Qi Global Pte. Ltd. is a Singapore-based social enterprise founded in 2009 whose vision is to create human progress in harmony with nature. Find out more at www.qi-global.com/conference

Friday
Nov252011

Qi 2010 Speaker Chandran Nair “talking truth to power” at the APEC 2011 CEO Summit

Qi 2010 speaker and founder of Global Institute For Tomorrow(GIFT) Chandran Nair was invited to speak to international business leaders and politicians at APEC’s 2011 CEO Summit in Honolulu this November.He was invited as one of four global thought leaders to provide Future Flash interventions in the midst of the Summit’s political and business speeches, and panel discussions. His comments proved to be a marked departure from the business as usual narrative that dominated the Summit.

Contributed by Global Institute For TomorrowChandran speaking at Qi 2010

In brief, Chandran made the following key points:

1. Constraints and limits. The seventh billion human was born in October 2011 and yet at a global summit such as APEC there was no mention of constraints or limits. Instead the mantra was of continuing with unrestrained growth. This was intermingled with repeated use of throwaway words, such as 'innovation', 'green economy' and 'social networks'.

2. Interconnected in denial. Whilst there was a great deal of reference to global interdependence and interconnectedness (financial and communication) it appeared as if there was instead a growing interconnectedness in the collective denial of the challenges of our times.

3. 'Nobody’s and Everybody's Century'. Various political leaders referred to the 21st Century being the Asia-Pacific Century. He pointed out that an Asian Century, based on promoting exceptionalism through economic power, would be enough to create bad outcomes for the world. One that then apes the American consumption model is therefore a very bad idea. He suggested that the 21st Century should instead be viewed geo-politically as Nobody’s Century, or rather as Everybody’s Century, given resource constraints.

4. Rejecting consumption-led growth. He urged Asian political leaders to reject the Western consumption-led economic model given that it relies on promoting relentless consumption through the under-pricing of resources, which in turn is achieved by vested interests undermining governments and fighting regulations. Five billion Asians in 2050 cannot and should not aspire to consume like the West.

About Chandran Nair
Chandran Nair is the founder of the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT), an independent social venture think tank dedicated to advancing an understanding of the impacts of globalisation through thought leadership and positive action to effect change. Chandran was chairman of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) in Asia Pacific until 2004, establishing the company as Asia’s leading environmental consultancy.

Chandran's talk at Qi 2010:
Consumption has been the fuel that has driven the engine of global capitalism. The recent financial crisis has seen the West's leading economics and policy makers urging Asia to consume more and thereby help save the global economy. If Asians aspire to replicate consumption levels to that in the West, the results will be environmentally catastrophic around the globe. It will also have significant geopolitical impacts as nations scramble for diminishing resources.

About Qi GLOBAL
Qi is a global network of innovators. We provide members a platform for cross-industry networking and collaboration. Innovation happens with the cross-pollination of knowledge from a range of industries. Based on this principle, Qi works to bring together corporate, community and creative sectors to generate new ideas for sustainable development in the following areas: Architecture & Urban Planning; Conservation & Wildlife; Energy & Technology; Fashion, Art & Design; Food, Health & Leisure; Leadership & Innovation; Impact Investment; Policy & Nation Development; Women’s Empowerment; and Youth Ambition & Education.

Every October, Qi hosts an annual meeting in Singapore, gathering business and community leaders from around the world. Contributors demonstrate how social innovation can impact and change lives and communities in Asia. Qi Global Pte. Ltd. is a Singapore-based social enterprise founded in 2009 whose vision is to create human progress in harmony with nature. Find out more at www.qi-global.com/conference

Thursday
Aug042011

Consumptionomics

By Lira Low Roberts


Kristine recently attended the launch of Qi 2010 speaker Chandran Nair's ground-breaking book Consumptionomics: Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet in Singapore at the National Library's Pod space.  

 

The book launch was organised by Chandran Nair's Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT) and IMC's East West Leaning Centre. Consumptionomics sets out a new conceptual framework for both governments and businesses in Asia. It proposes that the conventional wisdom of demand and supply frameworks need to be radically overhauled to include the true cost of externalities. Consumptionomics also challenges business leaders, politicians and academics to address Asia's dilemma, which Nair proposes is the relentless promotion of a consumption-led economic growth model in the world's most populous region, at a time when resource constraints are too obvious to deny. He purports that our current economic system is built on a colonial world view of free resources and slavery. Some interesting ideas that came out of the event was the proposition that in the future it will be illegal to turn one's air-conditioning down to 20 degs! 

IMC's new learning arm, the East West Learning Centre also shared its vision of inspiring business and community leaders to create sustainable development. Its model is premised on the needs for individuals and corporations to transform themselves in order to create social, environmental and economic impact. 

Need to get my hands on that book!  

Wednesday
Dec012010

Chandran Nair: Asian leaders need to "wake up"

Chandran Nair on CNBC recently talking about consumption and the need for Asian leaders to wake up before they "create massive damage".