Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations, the new report by Acumen and Bain & Company, produced with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is intended to help entrepreneurial companies, and others, get smart about scale and unlock the full potential of smallholder farmers.
In a series of blogs, to be published over the next few days, the views of investors, capacity builders and others on the opportunities outlined in the report will be presented. You can read the previous posts here>
Globally, the challenges of rural and agricultural sectors are very complex; they therefore require unique expertise and strategies to offer sustainable solutions to challenging markets. Enterprises operating in the sector need to evolve quickly and be adaptable to be effective and to attain scale. For these enterprises, having access to critical resources like talent, technology and investment is tougher than it is for other mainstream enterprises.
The job of a promoter/entrepreneur, therefore, becomes even more challenging as she constantly needs to make multiple players in the ecosystem relate to her vision and be a part of her journey. Issues related to organizational design and motivation of different stakeholders are no less important as these too can inflict damage on the larger cause if not handled appropriately. Other players in the larger ecosystem like non-profits, corporates, multilaterals and policymakers have a critical role to play in nurturing the goals of such enterprises. Even though bringing alignment in the goals of each of these players would be beyond the scope of the enterprise, managing them well is critical for the enterprise’s success.
Acumen and Bain’s new report, Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations, is a bold step to decode the DNA of successful pioneer enterprises in the social business space, and arrive at a framework to predict success. The chosen 11 enterprises have been pioneers in bringing in innovations while developing a business model to offer solutions to problems faced by farmers/customers. They have not just offered solutions to their customer segment but have also managed to scale their business to a reasonable level and create an organization around it.nil
The framework itself is based on observations which might not entirely be first of their kind, yet they underline the importance of ‘replicability’ of business models across geographies, etc as the key tool for scale as demonstrated by the experiences with ‘Operation Flood’ in dairy development in India and ‘Grameen Bank’ in financial inclusion in Bangladesh. The report also elucidates the engagement of these pioneer enterprises with their ecosystem. In most cases, they have the ability to either create and sustain an ecosystem around the business or manage an existing ecosystem very well. Many a time, early-stage enterprises are so preoccupied with scaling up that they ignore engagement with the ecosystem, leading to some serious consequences with key players in its value chain.
In summary, while each journey of an enterprise is unique in its way, there is a lot to be learned from each. Acumen and Bain’s study has been successful in bringing out key success factors of these pioneer enterprises – something that new enterprises in the social space could learn from. There is also a tip or two for funds and bankers.
Nilotpal Pathak is vice president of investment banking services at Intellecap.