Creating champions for the development of an inclusive and sustainable digital economy
38 Asian entrepreneurs have successfully completed the fourth edition of the eFounders Fellowship, a joint initiative by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Alibaba Business School. The Fellowship aims to help bridge the digital divide and enable young entrepreneurs with the right skills for their businesses, and encourages them to share their newly acquired knowledge with the communities they operate in.
The graduation of the fourth eFounders class means Alibaba is on target to fulfil the pledge made by Jack Ma, founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, in his capacity as the UNCTAD Special Adviser for Young Entrepreneurs and Small Business. The commitment seeks to empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries by creating champions for inclusive and sustainable economic development through the digital economy over the next five years.
“This initiative amplifies many of the efforts made by the international community to support digital transformation and innovation for inclusive and sustainable development”, said Arlette Verploegh, UNCTAD eFounders Fellowship programme coordinator. “Investing in youth entrepreneurship can inspire other entrepreneurs in their endeavors and help create awareness about challenges they face and the opportunities the modern economy offers.”
Out of 38 Asian entrepreneurs who graduated from the program, four were from India, namely:
- Anurag Dalmia, Co-founder, Healthy Buddha, an eCommerce start-up aimed at enabling a healthy lifestyle for consumers by providing easy access to high quality authentic organic food at an affordable price
- Rohit Ramasubramanian, Co-founder, Zefo, an online marketplace for pre-owned furniture and appliances
- Ronak Kumar Samantray, Co-founder, NowFloats, an India-based technology start-up in the SaaS space, for SMB’s and enterprises
- Ananda Kumar Mishra, Founder and CEO, Grozip, a technology focused on-demand hyper-local delivery company facilitating doorstep delivery of groceries and other home essentials.
Champions for the New Digital Economy
Newly enriched curriculum provided entrepreneurs with first-hand insights on Alibaba’s journey from a small start-up to a successful technology conglomerate.
Participants had a chance to understand the entrepreneurship spirit at the core of Alibaba since it was founded, the integrated ecosystem of platforms including Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Alibaba.com, Cainiao Network, Freshippo, in addition to relevant industry trends and developments such as New Retail and the impact of e-commerce in rural areas.
In a bid to foster more partnerships regionally through the fellowship network, the class also benefited from interactive sessions for fellows to engage with the lecturers, participants and advisors. Entrepreneurs witnessed the kick off of the landmark 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, experiencing the cutting edge technology, concepts and milestones onsite. Additional field visits and lectures shed more light on the digital transformation that has swept China during the last 20 years.
The program imbued the participants with a greater appreciation of Alibaba Group’s support of the digital economy’s growth in China, encouraging them to explore how they can share their newly acquired knowledge with their communities back home. The entrepreneurs also developed a sense of global and social responsibility by reviewing their business plan against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“With exposure to the Alibaba ecosystem and our network of partners, and our role in developing the digital economy of China, we hope the entrepreneurs will discover more ways to build a more inclusive and sustainable model for their own businesses while championing the growth of the digital economy in their markets,” said Brian Wong, Vice President of Alibaba Group, who heads Alibaba’s Global Initiatives program.
Speakers from Alibaba’s senior management team and network were joined by advisors from East Ventures, Gobi Ventures, 500 Startups and the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). The advisors shared insights and experiences from their local markets and fund raising with the entrepreneurs, including tips on how to grow an entrepreneurial community within their respective digital economies.
Creating a Global Fellowship for the World
The conclusion of the fourth edition saw entrepreneurs coming together to share ideas for improving their businesses, in addition to committing to seed the lessons they learned in e-commerce, FinTech, logistics, big data and tourism in their communities back home.
“The eFounders Fellowship, spanning across two weeks, provided us with working knowledge of the Alibaba eco-system along with a deep understanding of how the company has evolved to succeed over the last 20 years. The sessions conducted by senior leaders helped us understand how start-ups can achieve the kind of size and scale that Alibaba has today. The program also gave us a chance to interact with entrepreneurs from across 11 countries and proved to be a great networking and learning experience for all of us” said Anurag Dalmia, Co-founder, Healthy Buddha.
“The eFounders Fellowship program provided us with a unique opportunity to learn about Alibaba’s journey spanning over 20 years along with a chance to understand the incredible progress made by China as a digitized economy. The program also gave us behind-the-scene access to witness Alibaba’s evolution with a peek into the nuances of its platformization strategy being applied globally. We got an understanding of the role played by factors like rapid improvement of China’s infrastructure and increasing GDP in ensuring the company’s success. Overall, it was an intense and fantastic two weeks, with an amazing class of entrepreneurs who could take a leaf or two from the Alibaba story and go on to do great things for their businesses and countries” said Rohit Ramasubramanian, Co-Founder, Zefo.
“The eFounders Fellowship was a great learning experience that brought to fore Alibaba’s unique ecosystem and highlighted the importance of a distributed business model, with a common vision, mission and set of values, in enabling the success of a conglomerate like Alibaba Group. The program not only provided us with an opportunity to meet entrepreneurs from 11 countries but also gave us a chance to learn and understand the innovative solutions for country-specific problems that are being developed by start-ups across the globe” said Ronak Kumar Samantray, Co-founder, NowFloats
Following graduation, the 38 Asian candidates – from 11 countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and joining them for the first time, entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Singapore – have been officially inducted as Fellows of the global eFounders Fellowship network. They join a cohort of 89 entrepreneurs who have graduated over the last three editions.
As part of the commitment by UNCTAD and Alibaba to ensure all Fellows actively apply what they have learned within their communities towards developing an inclusive and sustainable economic model, both organizations will continue to regularly monitor and support the progress of the Fellows every three months.