ANDE South Asia Convening 2023: Accelerating Action in the Region

The second edition of ANDE SA Convening this year spotlighted the importance of regional collaboration in strengthening the SGB ecosystem. The conference highlighted the role of small and growing businesses (SGBs) in addressing the climate and environmental crisis and advancing gender equality.

The three day virtual conference witnessed participation from more than 400 participants from 14 different countries,. Continuing with the momentum we gained in 2022, this year’s Convening was hosted in collaboration with Better Stories Ltd., Safal Partners, nVentures, PTH Venture Studio, Katalyst Labs, World University Service of Canada and Comms Ninja (as our communications partner).

Understanding the regional landscape for entrepreneurship, urban climate action, networking for women entrepreneurs, circularity in textiles and gender lens investing were some of the key themes that were discussed during the three days of ANDE SA Convening 2023.

In the inaugural session, ecosystem leaders from South Asia converged to explore the entrepreneurial opportunities existing in the region and the potential of collaborations in tapping them. Bijon Islam, CEO of LightCastle Partners set the stage calling for active collaboration as South Asia is poised to become a regional economic force to reckon with in the years to come. The session further spotlighted the role of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem across the region.

Srabani Roy and Anu Shrestha Joshi from ICIMOD emphasized the unique challenges arising from the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, with climate change at the forefront, talking about ICIMOD’s collaborative approach , featuring initiatives like knowledge centers, incubation programs, and policy frameworks. Niraj Khanal from Antarprerna Ltd. and Kesang Om from Institute of Learning Solutions shared insights into impactful initiatives leveraging partnerships to drive entrepreneurial ecosystems in the regions.Better Stories Ltd’s, Minhaz Anwar called for focusing on inclusivity and resilience and setting the  stage for the future of entrepreneurship in the Hindu Kush region.

Later in the day, we explored the significance of communications and storytelling for social entrepreneurs. Comms Ninja highlighted the transformative power of storytelling by using a clear and cohesive communication strategy.

Day 1 was a wrap with a session on ‘Regional Angel/ VC Funds-The need of the hour’ that underscored the importance of regional collaboration on funds in supporting SGBs in South Asia. The discussion centered around capital deployment across four prominent jurisdictions of South Asia, personal experiences from several years in the industry, and unique initiatives to cross-pollinate learnings and resources across different ecosystems.

Day two started with the discussion on the role  of cities in climate change, spotlighted by Shruti Narayan, Regional Director, C40 Cities along with her team of experts They emphasized the challenges faced by vulnerable cities in South Asia because of its larger proportion of young population, rapid urbanization and rising vulnerability to climate change. The speakers stressed on developing sustainable and equitable urban climate solutions and ensuring that no one is left behind, especially the most vulnerable communities.


Day two started with an insightful panel discussion on circular economy and textiles. Panelists from global organisations such as Enviu, H&M Foundation and Fashion for Good highlighted the importance of partnership and collaboration in crafting circular solutions and making them not just sustainable but also socially just and inclusive.

The discussions resonated with the imperative to align brands with circularity, map existing initiatives, and address inclusivity in the journey towards sustainability. On the final day we lined up two major discussions: One on networking for women entrepreneurs in the region and second on gender lens investing and the role of translation.

Jehan Ara, notable in playing a very pivotal role in building Pakistan’s startup ecosystem, opened the session by narrating experiences from her amazing journey of stitching communities and empowering women entrepreneurs in Pakistan. This was followed by Christoper Tee from Accelerating Asia sharing very interesting and practical tips on managing these networks and making them useful for women business owners across South Asia. Young entrepreneurs, Laiba Amir from Pakistan and Pulani Ranasinghe from Sri Lanka, shed light on the tangible benefits of women’s entrepreneurship networks.

The curtain closed on the ANDE South Asia Convening 2023 with a transformative workshop on Gender Lens Investing by Tia Subramanian and Pranay Samson from the Criterion Institute. The workshop stressed on reshaping perspectives on impact investments with a key focus on integrating gender equality into investment strategies, advocating for a mandatory emphasis on social constructs in decision-making processes.

The ANDE SA Convening 2023 was a testament to the dynamism and collaborative spirit shaping the landscape of South Asian entrepreneurship. The diverse sessions unveiled transformative insights, fostering optimism for a resilient and sustainable future across the region.