From its global newsletter to its major annual events, ANDE members have access to a multitude of platforms for promoting their work and co-creating knowledge with other members. The ANDE Member Spotlight is a series of short, interview-based blog posts highlighting an ANDE member organization and any new projects, recent investments, or ongoing research with interesting learnings that add value to the ANDE community.
TechnoServe helps people lift themselves out of poverty by harnessing the power of the private sector. A leading nonprofit organization operating in almost 30 countries, they work with hardworking women and men in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, TechnoServe has helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.
ANDE spoke with Ajay Menon, Senior Practice Leader at TechnoServe India, to learn more about their new initiative GreenR, a one-of-a-kind accelerator, nurturing high-growth businesses disrupting the Environment Action space.
Tell us about TechnoServe India and the role it plays in the SGB ecosystem.
TechnoServe is a global leader in micro, small, and growing business acceleration. We successfully manage a portfolio of 47 programs across 30 countries, working directly with businesses and across whole market systems to make them more sustainable — environmentally, socially, and commercially.
In India, we have collaborated with organizations such as Intuit, Moody’s Corporation, Goldman Sachs, the Blackstone Foundation and others to bring transformational change to entrepreneurs through various accelerator programs. This was a mix of programs in terms of sectors, and geographies in India and the purpose varies from one program to the next.
These programs were executed through a combination of hands-on business advisory support, market linkages and access to capital. In fact, on an aggregated total, the businesses themselves grew by 64% and over 50% of program participants received financial linkages.
Can you tell us about your new initiative, GreenR?
Our initiative, GreenR is a one-of-a-kind accelerator aimed at achieving these key goals:
- Successful scale up of revenues of green, small and growing businesses (Green SGBs) through an increase in production capacity, access to new markets and customer segments
- Create outsized environmental impact, through increased adoption of the SGBs’ products and services, adoption of green technologies and enhance green initiatives
- Ensure the businesses are resilient enough, so that post our accelerator program, they are able to continue improving their business model independently
What does the Accelerator Program entail?
GreenR is 3-year Accelerator Program during which we aim to onboard 400+ green SGBs from sectors such as waste management, textile, forestry, renewable energy, climate tech and others. This program is being supported by the IKEA Foundation and Visa Foundation, across 5 cohorts over the next 3 years. While IKEA Foundation is interested in waste management, textile and forestry sectors, Visa Foundation is interested in women-owned or women-led green SGBs.
There are three key unique selling propositions (USPs) for the program:
- 0% equity dilution – as we are a not-for-profit economic development organization, we will not be investing in the participating green SGBs in exchange for equity.
- No participation fees – these fees can be quite hefty with other accelerators. For our program, however, the SGBs go through a rigorous recruitment process, and upon selection they do not have to pay anything to participate in the program.
- 100% commitment – from our Business Advisors, working in the trenches with the founders to identify and execute short- and medium-term needle moving goals.
How did GreenR come to be?
TechnoServe’s focus globally, including India has been on strengthening supply chains, fostering entrepreneurship in rural and semi-urban communities, and supporting sustainable local economic development.
The next frontier is sustainability. When you look at climate change and environmental degradation, it cuts across and impacts all of our lives, our communities and livelihoods. In fact, according to the World Bank, climate change, if unchecked, can push as many as 132 million people into poverty. India incidentally is ranked as the seventh most climate change-affected country in the world, per the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.
Green SGBs, if supported, we believe can lead to both economic and ecological sustainability. However, we are cognizant of the constraints Green SGBs face in scaling their business to improve environmental impact as a result of their products and services.
This is where the GreenR Accelerator comes in.
We believe a green entrepreneurship accelerator can and will address the unique needs of the Green SGBs with a specific set of outcomes. At the end of the day, the challenges that Green SGBs face are very different and unique compared to other SGBs in more traditional industries and sectors. The specific set of outcomes that we’re looking for:
- Successful scaling up of revenue from green products/services
- Increased consumption of green products thereby achieving exponential environmental impact
- Enabling the SGBs to continue improving their business model independently long after they have graduated from the program.
- Laying the foundation for a strong network of peers, advisors, partners, investors, suppliers and market linkages.
How will it evolve in the future?
We would like to have an ecosystem in place to empower Green SGBs to plug into, to scale their business. We also have a detailed Impact Evaluation mechanism in place to generate evidence of what works, to replicate growth models across other countries.
What elements tie into ANDE’s urgent issue areas?
This program definitely addresses the 3 ANDE Urgent Issue Areas: 1) Gender Equality via SGBs, 2) Entrepreneurial Approaches to Climate and Environmental Action and 3) SGBs as Drivers of Decent Work.
With both our program supporters – the IKEA Foundation and Visa Foundation – there is a conscious effort to ensure we maximize the number of women-owned, or women-led SGBs applying for the program. We’re looking for a diverse set of applicants, and 20 – 25% participants will affirmatively be women. Moreover, the program is primarily aiming for innovative, scalable and sustainable solutions to climate change and environmental degradation. As we empower the enterprises, there is a huge opportunity for job creation as the Green SGBs grow through the length of the program.
How have you used the ANDE network and how can members get involved?
Given that ANDE Members work closely with social entrepreneurs, we hope to leverage the network for participants for the Accelerator. However, we’re also looking for like-minded impact consultants to come join our team! In order to further make the Accelerator meaningful for Environment Action Entrepreneurs, we hope to onboard mentors who can run tactical workshops. Lastly, capital is the fuel of any venture. Ecosystem partners who can assist with access to financing in terms of grants, funding, access to green tech and a lot more are welcome to get in touch with us!
What are some takeaways that might be helpful to the rest of the ANDE community? What are some best practices they could incorporate into their strategic initiatives?
In the creation stage of the GreenR Accelerator, we identified a set of clearly defined workstreams, given the size and scale of the program. It was important at the outset for us to:
- Understand how the India startup / SGB ecosystem is structured in terms of support systems and scale systems.
- Make connects with individuals and institutions within the startup ecosystem, with the potential to drive applications of the program, provide infrastructure support (based on their facilities) or come in as advisors and mentors.
- Learn about the motivations and pain points of green SGBs which helped in crafting a meaningful and beneficial program design.
What are you most excited about?
There are two points that I’m really excited about. Firstly, it’s a meaningful and purposeful accelerator, given its focus on sustainability, the next frontier. Secondly, as individuals we care for the environment and we each try to do our bit, as frequently or infrequently as it may be. It will be interesting to see collectively what we can do in terms of delivering exponential impact in environmental action via GreenR, a TechnoServe India Initiative.
The GreenR Accelerator kicks off the first cohort in April 2023. If you’re a green business looking to scale, apply today! Learn more about or get involved with the Accelerator here.