Thammasat Global Social Venture Competition

From Left: Megha Mittal- NUS MBA; Kishore Moorjaani-Managing Partner, Credit Asia Capital; Yash Chandra-NUS MBA

Megha Mittal and Yash Chandra participated in  the South East regional round of the Global Social Venture Competition, emerging among the 12 finalist teams.

Whenever society is stuck or has an opportunity to seize a new opportunity, it needs an entrepreneur to see the opportunity and then to turn that vision into a realistic idea and then a reality and then, indeed, the new pattern all across society.” – Bill Drayton

This was the focal point of Thammasat-hosted Global Social Venture Competition, the Global round being hosted by UC Berkley, Haas School of Business. We participated in the South East regional round. Our team was amongst the 12 finalist teams, all with different ideas dealing with the Social ventures. Our team was the first one to make it to the finalists from NUS Business School.

The competition in itself was truly a wonderful experience. After clearing the first round where we represented our idea briefly, we were the first team to present on the final day of presentations. The three-day event started with a social event amongst the temples of Bangkok – a traditional Thai dance, with great Thai food. We closed the evening with an excellent opportunity to meet participants from all South East Asian region and some of the judges as well. We started next day at 7 AM, with our presentation at 8 AM. The panel of judges need a special mention here – consisting of 11 highly qualified people, the judges were extremely enthusiastic and were well-known for their past efforts in this arena. We had a chance to meet Sara Olsen, the founder of the well-known Social Venture Technology Group, a company that has done a lot in giving an impact meaning to the philanthropic angle. Measuring Social Return on Investment (quantitatively) was one of the key challenges of this competition that is dealt by SVTG. Besides Sara, we had many people from Ashoka Foundation like Chris Cusano (Director, Ashoka Asia Pacific).

The competition started with different ideas that dealing with the simplest issues in our daily lives. Clearly the attempt was to address some simple yet important issues in the society ranging from education, poverty to environment and healthcare. Our venture dealt with raising the Education level in India and acting as a consolidating force for many fragmented NGOs. Our team received positive feedbacks on identification of the issue and some judges pointed out that this was a problem of vast significance and almost ‘giant like’. Some of the other interesting ideas included manufacturing bricks from cow dung; Like most people in the room, I also found this idea very interesting. The Q&A session for this idea was hilarious dealing with product expansion into exploring other kinds of dung to make bricks. This venture was simplicity personified. – the team landed one of the two teams to go to finals for global round.

The other striking observation on the competition was the level of preparation each team did. For me, it was wonderful to see same level of enthusiasm amongst so many more people regarding a topic that is full of struggle and needs a lot of courage to undertake. The second day closed with a 60 second pitch from each team and a great food (again!). Our team came up with a different idea to make the pitch with both the team members participating in the pitch and structuring it as a game – just right to spice up the moment.

The next day was a Symposium including people from different backgrounds and varied topics. We learnt the importance of social venture, how people are struggling in this field, how far it has progressed and what needs to be done. It was an important eye opener for me. Some realizations from this competition also led me to take CSR projects at a later date with other companies. The symposium also consisted of a workshop on the measurement of CSR/ Social venture activities, conducted jointly by Sara Olsen & Paul Herman (CEO, H.I.P. Investor). After his session, Paul was highly considerate to provide us with an hour long feedback on our venture and that how important and difficult the level of problem was. This would form a base for improvement for future participating teams from NUS Business School.

We walked away from the event, full of memories – both in terms of knowledge we gained, and the network we had built. The Bangkok night markets brought people from many different nationalities and schools together. The two final winning teams were Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration (Thailand) and Prasetiya Mulya Business School, Indonesia (the brick guys- my favorites and now global winners as well).

The experience wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the night markets we went to each evening, the great Thai & foot massage (I managed to get some nice massage oil home!), the Grand Palace, the nine temples depicting the rich culture and most importantly, the Chatuchak market for shopping!

The whole event is a very important part of my memories and my MBA journey.

Megha Mittal 
NUS MBA Student, Class of 2010