Stitch for RMG- Global Innovation Conference

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  • Jan 26
  • 3 mins read

A Marketplace for Bridging the RMG Factories and Social Entrepreneurs

3 mins

Author: Salman Sabbab

While visiting Narayana Health City, the most sought after hospital in Bangalore specifically for Bangladeshis seeking medical support, it was amazing to visit an incubator inside a hospital where med-tech entrepreneurs can conduct clinical tests of their new innovations under the supervisons of expert doctors. This is indeed a hallmark of a vibrant startup ecosystem which created space for homegrown entrepreneurs to test out their technical solutions in institutional settings under the guidance of doctors.

Bangladesh’s startup ecosystem is gradually coming of age underpinned by several factors- growing interest from the investment community, rising of incubators, accelerators, hi-tech parks, growing angel investment community, and most importantly, the presence of government-owned venture capital firms. Another interesting indicator could be to make the private sector an inviting space for entrepreneurs to test their ideas.

One of the strong pillars of Bangladesh’s economy is the RMG sector, which contributed immensely in creating employment opportunities for women. Is there much scope for entrepreneurs to test their innovations on the factory floors and come up with sustainable businesses?

From designing new products to introducing circular practices to deploying IOT devices to to introducing fair price shops to upskilling workers to using software-as-a-service (SAAS), there are scopes of opportunities to integrate many tech-based and social innovations into the factory floor, which can bring win-win propositions for entrepreneurs, factories and female garment workers. 

With this prospect in mind, BRAC Social Innovation Lab team has teamed up with Asia Foundation and H&M Foundation to co-create STITCH FOR RMG Global Innovation Challenge, to foster more innovations in factory settings which can safeguard the livelihood of female garment workers.

Any business to be sustainable requires a solid proof-of-concept. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs don’t find the right environment to test their solution. Also, access to patient capital is always challenging. We have addressed this gap by allocating up to USD 30,000 for each winner to develop a strong proof-of-concept of their model. To create an enabling environment for experimenting, BRAC Social Innovation Lab (SIL) reached out to some progressive RMG factories to participate as factory partners in this STITCH FOR RMG Challenge. 7 progressive RMG factories welcomed this invitation, and vibrantly participated in a virtual marketplace session.

In the virtual marketplace, we created a space where the factory representatives, and entrepreneurs could interact with each other on a virtual platform, and explore sweet spots to work together by setting up introductory calls. Later, through matchmaking analytics, we could match factories and entrepreneurs based on their mutual interest to work together. After finding the right matches, we asked the finalists teams to submit plans of the pilot with their respective matched factories.This pilot will be executed by the teams and hosted by the factories.

An independent judge panel will review the proposals of this pilot and later we will extend some pilot grants to roll out this pilot in a factory setting.

This was a first-of-its kind matchmaking initiative where 7 leading RMG factories came forward to listen to the innovative ideas of social entrepreneurs and share their willingness to host in their respective factories.The entrepreneurs also learnt many practical insights from the factory repesentatives regarding their pain points and expectations on compliance issues and technology usage.

What Happens Next?

An independent jury panel will review the pilot proposals and later up to six winners will be selected.The winners of the challenge will test their pilot on the factory floor and try to develop proof-of–concept of their model in the next few months.BRAC Social Innovation Lab will offer these teams a wide-range of incubation support to strengthen the proof-of-concept of their business model. Later, if successful, they will try to pitch the model to other factories to scale up the intervention.

Like RMG Industry, more industries should come forward to foster innovations of next generation entrepreneurs to solve problems with innovative approaches.

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