The New Gateway to Inclusive Business in Asia: Launching the IB Asia Hub

An ADB-supported project helps smallholder farmers develop a hazelnut industry in Bhutan.
An ADB-supported project helps smallholder farmers develop a hazelnut industry in Bhutan.

By Caroline Ashley

The new platform provides access to a growing list of inclusive businesses in Asia.

We are launching the Inclusive Business Asia Hub at an interesting time for inclusive business on the world’s most populous and poverty stricken continent. Businesses are seeing viable opportunities at the base of the pyramid (BoP) in Asia. With 1.7 billion people living in extreme poverty, the urgent need for the private sector to help solve development challenges has led to the rising interest amongst the public sector and development partners to support inclusive business. 

The number of business models is increasing, the evidence base is widening, the insight and practical knowledge available is growing, and financial and technical support on offer is more than ever. All this is reflected on our new site. But at the same time there are tough questions. With such fuzziness over who means what and who counts what as inclusive business, can the sector thrive? Will inclusive business models solve problems of poverty at scale? Can enough corporates shift from CSR to viable business models that deliver social impact? Can small company models take off? Will the prevalence of initiatives in agriculture be matched by demonstrable success in impacting farmers? Will business models serving low-income customers be able to penetrate the lower segments of the economic pyramid? Join us in exploring these questions over time.

There is a myriad of information available on what is happening and who is doing what in the inclusive business space but this information is fragmented and difficult to find. Which is why the Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business, in partnership with ADB and the Inclusive Business Action Network, has launched the Inclusive Business in Asia microsite, the Inclusive Business Asia Hub, an online ‘gateway’ to information, insight, resources and listings on inclusive business across the Asian region.

Find out what is happening. The new platform provides access to a growing list of inclusive businesses in Asia. Businesses are searchable by sector, country, main investor/portfolio they are part of, and topic. And for each listed business, users will find a short profile and links to more information.

Investment is moving. The International Finance Corporation has invested an estimated $4billion in 400 inclusive business deals in Asia since 2006. ADB has invested in 14 inclusive business deals in Asia, worth $340 million. The Indian impact investing landscape is amongst the most mature of emerging economies. Adding to the investor landscape, a host of organizations provide technical support – acceleration, training, brokering and information. Our list of support organizations is the start of a ‘who’s who’ in this maze of actors.

Governments are shifting, too. The Philippines leads the way on policy while India has a vibrant enabling ecosystems. Other low-middle income countries are beginning to follow suit while higher income countries are actively developing programs that support inclusive business in poorer countries. Read more about the enabling environment for inclusive business in Asia, with a comparison across countries of the policy initiatives being undertaken by governments.

Information and updates on what is happening in the seven primary inclusive business sectors are summarized on the site with links to actual businesses and support organizations working in those sectors and the latest publications, discussions and insights from key stakeholders across the continent.

The countries section summarizes important inclusive business activity in 18 key Asian countries from India, Bangladesh and the Philippines to Lao PDR, Myanmar and Tajikistan, and similar links to listings on who is doing what in those sectors.

The site looks at key topics relevant to inclusive business in Asia. The basics of impact assessment are covered with links to key insights from experts on the topic and stakeholders that work at the cutting edge of the field. Other topics include BoP definitions, gender and climate.

The publications section provides a gateway to hundreds of resources relevant to inclusive business in Asia from a wide range of authors and organizations, on Search Inclusive Business, a new online searchable database. One can also directly access content rich reports, market studies, impact assessment tools and more from ADB as well as practical checklists, tools, case studies, etc. from the Practitioner Hub.