Business for Good:
Maximizing the Value of Social Enterprises in Asia

At a Glance

  • Asia accounts for 60% of the world’s population, 50% of the global economy and 16% of global impact investing funds deployed

  • There are more than 1.3 million social enterprises in six economies (Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan) and more than 3.5 million including India and China.

  • Governments in the six economies spent more than US$100 million on social enterprise start-ups and US$900,000 for startups of all kinds in 2019.

  • Given these numbers, why is Asia punching below its weight in funds spent and turning out numerous successful social enterprises?  This study provides ample evidence of trends across the region, gaps to fill and the means to realize the great potential Asia has to offer.

 

Topline findings

Our study bridges the gap between what social enterprises need and how to help them, with data-driven evidence. Here are our topline findings.

Funding

is social enterprises' biggest need.

Impact investing

has yet to realize its
promise.

Talent

is the most important need
after funding.

Government

shapes the social enterprise universe by action or inaction.

Mythbusters

based on our finding from over 700 surveys and interviews.

Early-stage social enterprises particularly desire grant funding. Grants provide scaffolding at the early stage and help organizations fortify their double bottom line in their early days. Grants make up the bulk of funding flowing to fledgling social enterprises in Asia.

2/3

of surveyed social enterprises consider grants the most preferred type of early-stage funding.

Among social enterprises that receive grants, social enterprises at the very early stage build most of their budget from grants, with dependence waning as they mature and learn to stand on their own feet.

Grants also prepare social enterprises for receiving private investment. Several successful social enterprises we interviewed shared that early-stage grants allowed them to grow their valuation before reaching out to private investors.

 

Impact investment has swelled to an estimated US$502 billion worth of assets under management worldwide, 11 times the foreign aid flowing into the 15 Asian economies profiled in the inaugural Doing Good Index. But it has yet to realize its potential in Asia. At a time when Asian wealth is growing faster than anywhere in the world, the mismatch is notable.

Only 17% of social enterprises we surveyed received any impact investment over the last year.

Social enterprise find that the biggest barrier to attracting investment is the expectation of high financial returns

One way to balance the twin interest of impact investors is to build a diverse portfolio of investments geared towards meeting their preference for total return: financial + social. 

 

Social startups, like startups in general, face an early challenge in finding people with the right experience, skill set and passion to join their team. People are often unwilling to take the risk of working for a startup, and social startups often lack the networks or funding needed to build a team. 

Survey respondents say the most desired qualities of a successful social enterprise team are creativity, productive networks, and the ability to adapt to change.

Asia is poised to bridge the talent gap by tapping into its vast pool of mature, young, female, and rural workers, as well as an increasing group of professionals seeking a more meaningful career aligned with their social values. 

A buildout of social entrepreneurship education and an increase of institutions "lending" their talent to social enterprises is another positive trend.

 
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Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society

The Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS) is a uniquely Asian, independent action-oriented research and advisory organization committed to maximizing private resources for doing good.

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