Social enterprise is being encouraged by the government, mentioned all over the media and featuring more and more across campus.
And now that the University is launching numerous new initiatives such as the student ‘pop-up’ shop on the Red Brick, the Take Off Challenge and the Catalyst Challenge, we figured that we should fill you all in.
So, we approached Right Light, an Enactus project who aim to tackle the devastating impact of kerosene when used as a light source by providing loans for solar lamps to upcoming African entrepreneurs.
Hello Neel, why don’t we kick off with you giving us an introduction into Right Light?
Right Light is a Social Enterprise which is one of the international initiatives of Enactus Southampton. We were conceived in 2010 and since our first entrepreneurs in Madagascar we’ve expanded to Uganda and Kenya as well, where we now conduct the majority of our business.
Social enterprise fills a crucial gap the public and private sectors today can’t quite cover – the agility and flexibility of SME’s combined with the drive to have a positive impact on communities allow us to empower individuals and stimulate economic growth in our project areas. – Neel Gunturi (Project Leader)
Putting it simply, how would you summarise social enterprise as a concept?
Social enterprise is a business which is attempting to tackle social problems and aims to improve people’s lives and local environment by selling goods to the community, where the majority of the profits will be reinvested into the community again. – Vivien Kizilcec (Data Analytics Team Leader)
Social enterprise is all about getting the most out of the lives and the businesses that work in unison for a common life goal and not the bottom line. It is about helping others to help themselves. – Josh Long (Finance Executive)
That sounds really very interesting, do you think social enterprise only works in Africa?
Not at all, social enterprise isn’t excluded for developing countries; the UK is one of the most prolific countries for SE, which has seen a meteoric rise in contribution to the economy, currently estimated at £24 bn This sometimes shocks those who group SE with charities; SE is just like any other for-profit business, except with a socially centred business model. – Neel Gunturi (Project Leader 2014/2015)
So, what does Right Light do specifically? How exactly is social enterprise incorporated into your business model?
Right Light runs an entrepreneurship business model. We select individuals to become Solar Light Entrepreneurs (SLEs) and fully train them with basic entrepreneurship skills, including general business, marketing and finance skills. Entrepreneurs are then setup with 11 solar lamps – 1 is for themselves to use, and the other 10 are to be rented out per night at a cost cheaper than kerosene. This allows a direct increase in income. The loan will then be paid back as business prospers. The way the social aspect in Right Light kicks in is by reinvesting the repaid loans into setting up new entrepreneurs as well as new initiatives. It is not simply about teaching a man how to fish, it’s about revolutionising the fishing industry! – Andreas Ostrovsky (Project Leader 2015/2016)
Have you got any new projects coming up / what’s in the future for RL?
First and foremost we want to ensure that our current entrepreneurs are happy and provide them with more opportunities to make a difference in their community. However, during our trip to Kenya, we noticed that the fishermen use pressurised kerosene lamps for night fishing. This is not only harmful for themselves and the environment, there is a major risk of the lamp spontaneously combusting into a ball of fire. Right Light is looking into producing solar lamps that can match the performance of the pressurised kerosene lamps without the associated risks. As is the aim of any social enterprise, we need to transition Right Light into a fully-fledged business so it can attract funding on a grander scale enabling us to impact a lot more communities especially through our ultimate goal of setting up solar microgrids. – Priank Cangy (RL Vice President)
Is there any way that the university can support the Right Light Project?
The university can support Right Light by getting the name out as much as possible to help promote the cause. Donations are always welcome, but enough publicity could potentially help find some larger organisations to fund future projects and empower many more people. – Josh Long (Finance Executive)
If you would like to know any more information about Right Light them you can visit their Facebook page or website at rightlight.org.uk.