Pornthida Wongphatharakul, cofounder of the Jasberry Co, which helps farmers in the Northeast.
Pornthida Wongphatharakul, cofounder of the Jasberry Co, which helps farmers in the Northeast.

Social enterprises look |beyond the bottom line

Corporate July 14, 2017 01:00

By   WICHIT CHAITRONG
THE NATION

PROVIDING a helping hand to communities while delivering a quality product at fair prices are the key ingredients for running a successful social enterprise business, say young entrepreneurs.



“Our business model is based on supporting poor rice farmers,” said Pornthida Wongphatharakul, co-founder of Jasberry Co, and one of a growing number of people who are pairing a social cause to their business plans.

The company buy jasberry rice and herbs from farmers in Yasothon province in the Northeast that ultimately end up being packaged as organic food and herbal tea products sold in Thailand and overseas.

 To help the farmers, the company buys the primary product at above-market prices, Pornthida said.

“But the company will not survive if our product quality is not good enough, so we must prove to consumers that our product is excellent,” she said.

After six years in business, the company’s products have been well-received by consumers, with annual sales running into the tens of millions of baht. Prices are set relatively high, with 900 grams of semi-ready to cook rice selling for about Bt180.

Seeking to address needs in a different field, Thanapol Luckanawat, the managing director of Peony Development Co, runs a business that makes an assisted-walking machine for the elderly or patients who are seeking to rebuild muscle strength.

The product brand, called IWALK, had been developed by the Creative Engineering Design and Development Laboratory at Thammasat University. Thanapol was a member of the research team at the Thammasat’s Lab, which owns the IWALK patent. 

He said his product costs about Bt400,000, which he describes as cheap compared with an imported alternative that could be 10 times that price. 

While that represents a big cost-saving for those in need of the machine, the price remains out of the reach of many consumers.

Given this hurdle, the company rents out the machine to communities at Bt25,000 a month, allowing a number of users to share the cost.

Thanapol said his company is also developing new medical devices to serve the elderly and people recovering from illness or injury. 

With Thailand’s ageing population, the assisted-walking machine is seen as promising.

Thanapol said that as his company was still in its early stages it would take time before the machine could be produced in larger volumes for use in communities across the country.

Natcha Rojviroj, product designer and founder of Blix Pop Co, said she was inspired by the courage of blind children, so she designs toys for children with or without sight. She has been working with Samitivej Children’s Hospital, among other hospitals, and a number of communities to create playground for children in hospitals and local communities.

Representatives of many social enterprises yesterday attended an event, the SET Social Impact Day 2017, hosted by the Stock Exchange of Thailand. It was held as part of the exchange’s efforts to promote sustainable development. 

 Kesera Manchusree, president of the SET, said the bourse offered support to social enterprises in order to make the capital markets work for everyone. 

 

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