30 Asean SEs and top CEOs to share business experience at AirAsia Foundation’s inaugural Destination Good on Saturday
AN ecosystem that enables small businesses and creative thinkers to thrive and stay competitive is one that benefits all businesses, said AirAsia Foundation executive director Yap Mun Ching as she pledged support for social enterprises (SEs).
SEs are businesses whose main aim is to tackle social problems and improve communities rather than make profit.
There are sceptics who question the sustainability of SEs, but that is likely because they mistakenly believe them to be similar to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or charities that rely on grants and donors.
However, not being profit-centric does not mean SEs cannot be viable, Yap said.
“The SE sector is a growth sector now but it lacks the infrastructure that businesses need to grow.
“One example is they often do not qualify for bank loans because they are not profit-centric, but the social goal that they seek to address may be worth far more – except that it often does not get the proper valuation,” she stressed.
“Our role is to help address some of these bottlenecks to enable SEs to grow,” Yap added.
According to Yap, SEs have dual goals – financial and social.
They help to create jobs for many who do not fit in the formal economy and this contributes to the overall productivity as well as GDP of a country.
The AirAsia Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the AirAsia Group of airlines, gives out grants ranging from US$25,000 (RM120,000) to US$50,000 (RM240,000) to SEs and also assists in the business mentorship of grantees, giving them an insight into the airline’s business discipline and best practices.
“Entrepreneurship is one of AirAsia’s core brand values as we started as a small airline.
“All countries in Asean as well as Asia are keen to grow entrepreneurship and we fully support this by doing our part – more so in bringing entrepreneurial thinking into making social change that is effective and sustainable through the foundation,” she said.
Yap added that in the event the airline did not possess the resources necessary to help these enterprises, the foundation would seek the cooperation of business partners that did.
“Grant funding for NGOs are drying up across the world – social entrepreneurship is one way of diversifying the funding channels for organisations that aim to meet a social goal,” she said.
With 10 grantees being mentored since the foundation’s establishment in March 2012, Yap said they would continue to forge ahead by organising Destination Good, their first social enterprise event.
It is expected to bring 30 Asean SEs together to share their business models and experiences, as well as to learn from others, to network and to look for potential growth areas.
“But the event is not only targeted at social entrepreneurs.
“It is also relevant to regular businesses because SEs can help make supply chains more sustainable as well as more ethical.
“Top Asean CEOs will also be present to share how they are leveraging the strengths of their business empires to support social initiatives,” Yap pointed out.
Ultimately, she said, it would be good if SEs and various corporations could find ways to integrate SEs into the economy and the supply chain of various industries.
“If the SEs can provide an essential service competitively, then they will be sustainable. We support our grantees by providing them with access to our sales and marketing channels and we hope more businesses will do the same,” Yap said.
Held at Connexion @ Nexus, Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur on Nov 7, Destination Good is organised by AirAsia Foundation in partnership with ThinkCity and MaGIC Social Entrepreneurship.
AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes (trustee of the foundation), together with other business leaders, including Eu Yan Sang International Ltd group chief executive officer Richard Eu, will be there.