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“AREA 2071” and “P&G” Challenge Finalists Chosen for the First Microcredit Pilots in Emerging Markets

October 10, 2020
  • Pilots seek to solve pressing issues in emerging economies around credit facilities and sustainable support of retail SMEs
  • Outcomes of pilots focused on strengthening financial acumen of local retail SMEs
  • Pilots are part of a global challenge co-launched by AREA 2071 and P&G’s i-Dubai Lab to impact a billion people in emerging markets

AREA 2071, the innovation ecosystem of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), and its partner, P&G’s i-Dubai Lab, the latest Procter & Gamble (P&G) Innovation Center, which covers MENA, East and Southwest Asia, have launched three micro-credit pilot projects with technology startups.

Launched in November 2019, the challenge aimed to find innovative micro-credit solutions to enable small retailers located across emerging markets to build financial credibility, acumen and stability in order to scale up their businesses. These solutions, which are at the heart of the announced pilots are part of a bigger mandate P&G has for emerging markets it operates in. The pilots will enable P&G to better support local small retailers and expand P&G’s own network. Additionally, these pilots are meant to bridge the gap between financing institutions and businesses that are not able to borrow to finance their expansion.

From a pool of over 152 applicants, AREA 2071 shortlisted 7 applicants, after completing a vigorous evaluation process, to the final pitching stage.  P&G’s go-to market teams selected the final three startups for the pilots.The solutions presented were assessed on how well the solutions addressed the problem statements, the maturity and scalability of the solutions, as well as the potential impact in the target market. The technology startups chosen to launch pilots with P&G under this challenge are Next Billion, SwipeZoom and Hello Gold. 

Next Billion, a social enterprise founded in Singapore in 2013, specializes in rural product development, and rapid go-to-market operations that can be scaled for consumer and retail initiatives. Next Billion’s solutions help small retailers boost profits, by aggregating local distributors and 3rd party logistics locally and country wide. Additionally, they offer financial assistance to the retailers by leveraging local banks by providing transparency to the banks and a full understanding of the assets (small retailers) the banks are investing in.

Dubai-based SwipeZoom, commenced operations in 2012, and is a logistics and payment solution that allows e-commerce companies to ship their products around the world. Their solution integrates financial institutions with small businesses that need financing, which fully automates the entire process between the financial institutions and the beneficiaries.

Hello Gold, is the world’s first shariah-compliant mobile application that changes the way one buys, saves, sells and redeems in physical gold.

The challenge was launched at DFF’s AREA 2071, an open-innovation ecosystem that hosts innovation labs from both, private and public entities, with the aim of working with technology startups to develop new business models and leverage emerging technologies to find solutions to business challenges that impact a billion people in emerging markets.

P&G’s i-Dubai Lab is one of the private labs focusing on the future of retail in emerging markets. Together, the i-Dubai Lab and AREA 2071 Programs’ teams co-developed the challenge scope. Through design-thinking sprints, the teams developed the challenge objectives and scope, brought together relevant stakeholders to provide input and finally set out the objectives of the startup challenge to attract the right startups.

Abdulaziz AlJaziri, Deputy CEO, Dubai Future Foundation, said: “Through AREA 2071, our innovation ecosystem, and our carefully curated and tailored programs, innovation is at the core of all our efforts. The P&G Microcredit Challenge has opened the doors for startups to co-create high impact solutions with a leading global FMCG to impact millions of people across the emerging markets.”

Omar Channawi, CEO, P&G Middle East, East & West Africa and General Export Markets said: “We are pleased to launch the first microcredit challenge, which at heart, is an initiative aimed at improving the lives of our consumers in emerging markets. Our partnership with AREA 2071 enables us to take full advantage of the latest technologies from across the world. This supports our vision for financial inclusion for small-scale retailers and to provide branded products and services of superior quality and value.”

In partnership with Dubai Future Foundation, the Challenge aims to transform the lives of billions through innovation across the retail sector in emerging markets. The Microcredit Challenge was inspired by the fact that developing economies account for 85 percent of the world’s population. These countries, such as India, Nigeria and Egypt, boast the fastest-growing retail markets in the world. Their retail sector comprises millions of small shops dotted around local neighborhoods. These shops are usually family-owned businesses, where retailers know their customers personally, as well as what products and brands they buy, and the value they expect from the goods purchased.

Launched in April 2019, i-Dubai is the latest P&G Innovation Center and the only one in the Middle East. Located within AREA 2071, it is specifically designed to cater to emerging markets, from Latin America to Africa and Asia Pacific.

AREA 2071 is DFF’s innovation ecosystem that creates unique programs in collaboration with government and private organizations to disrupt strategic sectors in Dubai. It is a physical and digital ecosystem purposefully designed to connect corporates, governments, startups, investors, talents, the youth, and the public to design the future and drive Dubai’s innovation landscape.