Dr Yunus handing over the certificate, Courtesy: Yunus Centre.
"A Social Business begins with an idea that aims to solve a specific problem of society; if the idea holds good, then the business will be able to sustain itself amidst the market pressures,” explained Professor Mohammed Yunus, the person who came up with the concept of Social Business, in a price giving ceremony at the Yunus Centre last week.
The award ceremony which was organised to honour the winners and the participants of the Social Business Essay Competition that took place in the month of July this year provided a platform for university students to discuss their views and opinions on Social Business with the architect of the concept himself. The participants were required to write an essay stating the different ways in which Social Business can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The winners of the competition will be flying to Vienna to participate in the Global Social Business Summit which is going to take place on November 11, 12 and 13, this year.
“The Global Social Business Summit has been gaining lot of importance and will witness around a 1000 delegates this year,” said Professor Yunus. He attributed the growth of interest in Social Business to the ongoing global financial crisis and the rising rates of unemployment throughout the world. “In earlier days, an economic problem could be easily solved. Today, however, the financial problems are complex and therefore require new solutions,” he said.
When asked if Social Business can provide a platform to reduce unemployment, Yunus replied, saying that Social Business aims at solving specific problems. “If unemployment is the major problem of a region, then someone should come up with an idea to provide a sustainable structure that can help the people of that particular region,” he said. Furthermore, he stressed upon the requirement of starting several 'employment-related' social businesses in Bangladesh as he described the people of the country to be in an 'ocean of unemployment'.
While addressing an audience mostly filled with young entrepreneurs and students, Yunus explained the nitty-gritty details of his latest concept and encouraged the youth to start social businesses in their own regions. “Social business is not only meant to solve extreme poverty. I believe social business can solve any kind of problem. The main factor behind the creation of a social business is the idea behind the business,” he said.
Stating an example he said, “If an entrepreneur starts a non-profit business to council drug addicts, that too will be considered a social business.”
With respect to the investor's gain, Yunus explained that according to the definition of Social Business, the entrepreneur cannot live on the profits of the company. However, if the entrepreneur holds a post in the organisation, then he can receive a certain amount of money as his salary. “The investor should find a suitable rate at which he can sell himself to the company,” explained Yunus. Having said that, he also mentioned the importance of certifying agencies that keep track on the amount of money taken by investors. “If tomorrow I want to donate money to an organisation, only proper certifying agencies can let me know if a company is truly following the principles of Social Business,” he said.
The winners of the Essay Writing Competition, Monica Islam and Md Jannatul Habib , both of who proposed various social business ideas for the rural and urban areas, in order to achieve the millennium's development goals, were congratulated by Yunus and his team. Habib who runs an organisation called 'Relation in Motion', helps spread the concept of Social Business amongst the youth. “I think it's very important to promote the idea of Social Business amongst students and young investors as they are the future of the country,” he said.
The ceremony came to an end with Yunus throwing an open challenge to the participants of the competition, “There are more than 50 thousand beggars in the streets of Dhaka, let's try to come up with a social business idea that can help at least five beggars, provide them with work and shelter and get them off the streets.”
With newer problems affecting the different sectors of the country every day, one wonders if Social Business can be as effective as the concept of micro-credit and help the masses.