A recording of our exciting webinar on Commonwealth Social Enterprises in Hong Kong held on 8 November 2021 with amazing panelists:
Mrs Geetanjali Dhar:
Chairwoman, The Women Entrepreneurs Network; Founder & Director, Sanskriti Global Group; Co-founder & Chairwoman, Integrated Brilliant Education Ltd.
Mr Innocent Mutanga:
CEO and Co-Founder, Hong Kong African Center.
Mr Manoj Dhar:
CEO & Co-founder, IBEL (Integrated Brilliant Education Limited); Winner, SCMP Classified Post HR Appreciation Award; Finalist and winner, Operation Santa Claus UBS NGO Leadership Programme.
Mr Neville Shroff, JP:
President, Parsee Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton and Macao; President, Zoroastrian Parsee Association of Hong Kong; Chairman, Global Working Group of Leaders of the Zoroastrian Parsee Community; Director, World Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce. Committee of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong Housing Society.
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Julia Charlton: Hello and welcome everybody, and thank you very much for joining the Commonwealth Chamber Hong Kong’s webinar today on Commonwealth Social Enterprises in Hong Kong. I’m Julia Charlton, the current chair of the Commonwealth Chamber in Hong Kong. And as we all know, Social Enterprises have a very important role to play here in Hong Kong.
As of August this year, Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient, which is a statistical measurement that represents the wealth inequality of a nation or group, is 0.47 ranking at number 48 in this year’s world rankings. This means that Hong Kong’s income disparity is amongst the top one third of 64 regions across the globe as of this year. And Social Enterprises, some of whom we’re going to hear from today, work tirelessly to bridge the divides and build a harmonious community through their dynamic and innovative endeavors. And despite the adverse impact of COVID-19, Hong Kong,in fact, saw an increase by 16% in registered Social Enterprises, showcasing their commitment to the improvement and wellbeing of Hong Kong society. So I’m very excited to have such a vibrant and amazing group of panelists, front-runners in their fields of expertise. And we’re very lucky that they’re here with us today to talk about their Social Enterprises in Hong Kong.
So briefly, our brilliant panel members are Mrs. Geetanjali Dhar, chairwoman of The Women Entrepreneurs Network amongst other things, Mr. Manoj Dhar, CEO and co-founder of IBEL, Mr. Innocent Mutanga, CEO, and co-founder of the Hong Kong African Center. And Mr. Neville Shroff, president of the Parsee Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton and Macau. Our brilliant moderator, andrew Wells will be saying some more about the panelists. Andrew is the General Secretary of the Commonwealth Chamber in Hong Kong. Over to you, Andrew.
Andrew Wells: Thank you very much. Many thanks indeed to our Chairman, Julia, for her introduction of this important webinar in Hong Kong this evening, focusing on the many issues of principle, policy and practice that affects Social Enterprises here in Hong Kong.
My name is Andrew Wells. I’m Secretary General of the Commonwealth chamber here of the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce. And I’m delighted as moderator to have the honor of supplementing Julia’s introduction of our four very well-known speakers, all of them with extraordinary, diverse and unusual backgrounds of achievements, both in Social Enterprise and also in conventional commerce.
Mr. Neville Schroff is amongst many other things, the president of the Parsee Zoroastrian and Charity Funds of Hong Kong Canton and Macau. He’s the director of the Hong Kong Tuberculosis Chest and Heart Diseases Association, and he sits on the governing boards of the Ruttonjee and Tang Shiu Kin hospitals. In his commercial capacity, he’s chairman and CEO of Shroff and Company Limited, a major trading and logistics firm and chairman too of Direct International Limited, which deals in fashion garments. He also sits on the General Committee of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. Neville, as always a great pleasure to see you.
Neville Shroff, JP: Thank you.
Andrew Wells: This is Geetanjali Dhar, founder and director of the Sanskriti Global Group, which in Hong Kong focuses on providing training in major languages of trade and commerce, which are relatively neglected by our conventional educational system. Full disclosure here, I’m planning to enroll in one of her Hindi classes.
She’s part of a dynamic duo with her husband, Manoj, being co-founder and chairwoman, as Julia mentioned of Integrated Brilliant Education Limited, or IBEL for short. At the same time Geetanjali is chairwoman of the Women Entrepreneur Network, and has received numerous awards for promotion of women’s leadership, both in Hong Kong and overseas. Thanks for joining us.
Mr. Innocent Mutanga is the CEO and co-founder of the Hong Kong African Center, which provides education and interaction between African and non-African members of our community in Hong Kong. He escaped dramatically to Hong Kong from Zimbabwe at 13, and he’s the first African refugee to graduate from a Hong Kong university.
He works as an analyst in a major investment bank and is an expert in the interface between the conventional, and what I believe is now called often, the moral economy.
And finally Mr. Manoj Dhar is the CEO and co-founder of IBEL which exists to promote Chinese language, education support for ethnic minority children in Hong Kong.
Like our other speakers, Manoj combines his social entrepreneurship with an impressive commercial record of over 20 years in the risk and compliance industry. He’s a long-standing supporter of the Commonwealth. And we’re delighted to have him here this evening, a big welcome to all our speakers. So without more preliminaries, may I invite Mr.Neville Shroff to take the floor?
Neville Shroff, JP: Thank you. Thank you very much, Andrew. Very good evening to everyone. And I would firstly like to thank Julia and Andrew for organizing and coordinating this timely webinar with the pandemic still ongoing. On charity and its importance of it. I would like to touch briefly on charities and Social Enterprises.
As many of us think a charity is simply donating money. But it’s also giving your heart, your time and your effort into doing something that is meaningful for mankind. It is about giving back to society. It happens with a positive mindset and awareness for important issues like climate change. And it’s more than just alleviating poverty and distress.
And it is about ensuring that we create an everlasting impact for our future generations. The importance of social enterprise is in supporting and creating economic, social, and intellectual wealth through providing education and employment. And self-development so people can stand on their own. Social enterprises and charities done in the right way,
can cultivate a legacy of giving something back, what you’ve been fortunate to have already received. An element of luck does play a major role in life. And of course, in your business, on that note, the survey conducted by Oxfam showed extreme inequality of wealth – about 2000 of the world’s billionaires are richer than 4.6 billion people in the world today. I mentioned this as we need to inspire and empower ourselves and everyone to engage in being more philanthropic and helping Commonwealth and all countries to alleviate poverty and disease. Social enterprises need to encourage a caring society and only then can corporate social responsibility stem into our organizations.
There are many different kinds of charities as seen in the slide. It’s not always about money. People can provide their time and volunteering themselves to feed the homeless, use their teaching skills to help disadvantaged children. Use their knowledge and experience to provide psychological counseling and to provide compassion to the elderly.
And the list goes on. We need Social enterprises to be innovative and profitable so they can do more with different kinds of support.
Global needs. There’s so many under developed nations, including many within our Commonwealth who have endless issues, including the provision of clean water, sanitation, famine, and hunger. On this point, I can probably proudly say that our Zoroastrian Charity Funds has helped support the building of public toilets in India, which is so important hygienically as well as safety, particularly for women living in dilapidated conditions with no sanitary facilities.
We also support orphanages in South Africa and hospital equipment in Pakistan. Furthermore, the purchasing of rice flour, et cetera, for food and hunger distribution programs globally, we use the extensive network of large organizations, such as UNICEF Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, et cetera, to help us achieve our goal globally, which we are unable to achieve ourselves from Hong Kong.
Zoroastrian Charity funds of Hong Kong Canton and Macau. And what we actually do, I’ve touched briefly on this, but before this, let me inform you that it is inherent in our Zoroastrian community in Hong Kong and globally to be philanthropic. We are firm believers of our tenets of good thoughts good words, and good deeds. In good deeds comes our benevolence. Our tiny community has been exemplary in Hong Kong.
It was a Zoroastrian, Sir H. N Mody who largely donated and founded the Hong Kong University, another donated and formed the Ruttonjee hospital, which is still today, a, large and functioning hospital. And the list goes on. Our charitable trust was formed in 1874 and has continued to serve the community in Hong Kong and globally. We have done this by implementing a sustainable framework for over a century, quite an achievement for such a minuscule community. We are non-profit making with a self-generating income and do not depend on others for donations and funding of our projects. It is little known that we support over 50 charities in Hong Kong, from organizations involved in health and diseases to elderly care homes to help the disadvantaged children.
To several ethnic minority schools and organizations, youth programs, and so forth. Plus we support well over 100 institutions globally, and many individuals with COVID. Our trust has been going the extra mile to support all deserving and needy cases. We do not discriminate or differentiate in terms of past, creed or religion.
And we support many countries in the Commonwealth, including India, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Pakistan. Now, how do we do this? Our major source of income is mainly derived from rental of our buildings. And investments in global equities and bonds in a balanced portfolio, we are fortunate that ancestors have provided us with a building that generates a large income through rentals.
Whilst we explore all avenues to create additional revenue. We must be prudent to ensure that we do not take high risks. And so hence we appoint financial advisors to guide us – mainly large institutions or banks. We need to add value to ourselves, to our families and our communities, and what better way to do it than through Social Enterprisess and charities. We have a team to support us in doing the very important, necessary due diligence prior to giving. Particularly involving individual cases, due diligence is a critical part of a trust.
And what the trustees do including myself. We actually look through all individual appeals very carefully before we decide on supporting. Those that know me and us will know that we are Zoroastrians and our trust goes to charity, silently and discreetly, those that we do not are not really informed of what we actually do.
And planning with the continuously evolving compliance regulations. Governance of our trust is always at the forefront. The key is to having experienced trustees on the board, the highly educated young Zoroastrians here, are, heavily engrossed in their own work, but still our aim is to leave a legacy for future generations to follow.
We would like to cultivate a form of emotional intelligence for our youngsters to understand so that they may follow in our footsteps. We do provide training. We have a youth group that is quite active. Unfortunately with pandemic, we have therefore been subdued in what they can do.
Lastly, I would like to end with this quote from Neil Armstrong. It’s one small step for man and one giant step for mankind. If we all basically play just a small part, a very small part, it would be an enormous help to mankind. Thank you all very much, Andrew. I hope I was within the time limit.
Andrew Wells: Even if you weren’t Neville, it was so impressive I don’t think anybody would have any problem whatsoever. Thank you very much for that presentation. And can I now please hand the virtual microphone to Mrs. Geetanjali Dhar.
Geetanjali Dhar: Thank you very much, Andrew and Julia for having me here and extending the privilege to me as a chairperson of the Women Entrepreneurs Network.
It is my pleasure to be here and to introduce the great work that we are doing as a Social Enterprise. And I would also like to inform the panel that WEN short for Women Entrepreneurs Network is a non-profit and which exists solely to support the fellow women entrepreneurs in scaling up their businesses locally, as well as overseas. I will take you through the presentation briefly.
If I may take you through – we’ve organized 68 events since 2015, 1008 attendees have benefited. And 135 experts speakers have been invited. Now I would like to emphasize that all this is done by a very committed board of highly accomplished business women in Hong Kong, who are doing all this on a voluntary basis.
Each one of us has our own strengths, which we have put together to make one into a dynamic platform. We have a long and impressive history of supporting women business owners with a mission to empower and educate them so that they are able to scale their business to knowledge and networking. Now, these are not just words I, myself have joined in 2015.
I have myself benefited immensely because I am attending events here. I managed to scale up my business from Hong Kong to Singapore and to other locations online. The USP for WEN is that we are catering to every possible segment in the market. We have uniquely formatted events, they could be circle events, workshops, the third eye workshop webinars, power circles are very intense and focused circles who are run by experienced businesswomen who are experienced business women. One-on-one mentoring masterclass, as well as the exit-strategy, which is extremely important for any business. These events, the common thread is that the female founder develop their business skills.
There is access to a wealth of expertise. The experts that we invite are people who are happy to share what they learned in their journey of building up their business. And it is whatever is discussed in the events stays in events. It is a highly trusted network of business women owners, since inception.
Now, just to brief about WEN – it actually started in the 1980s. In 2015 it was reborn in a new account as WEN. So all in all to date, we have 295 years of cumulative business ownership experience. Hundred and 25 plus staff employed by the board. Hundred and 20 plus million members’ annual sales and five businesses till date sold successfully by the board members.
We have 2000 followers and 350 active members, which right now doesn’t seem very big, but we have just launched our membership two months back. So you already have 350 active members and we are now looking for of course, more. So here, this is all about WEN that I would like to share with all of you. And as far as I’m concerned, I took over as the chairwoman in June taking over from, I have big boots to fill taking over from past chairwomen who have set up their own very successful businesses in all possible sectors, whether it’s legal, it’s education, it’s compliance, it’s beauty, it’s all sectors of the economy, which make up the board.
So whatever you need, and talking to all the people who have tuned in, WEN has an answer for each one of your business problems, please do feel free to sign in to our website, or to send us an email and let us know how we can help you. So this is what I have to present for WEN. Thank you very much.
Andrew Wells: Thank you very much indeed, Geetanjali for that presentation. Can I now ask Innocent Mutanga to take the floor?
Innocent Mutanga: I’m excited to be here to share, what we do as well as of course, to answer any questions later on. So basically the Africa Center Hong Kong and was founded, it’s going to three years now.
We’ve been in Hong Kong for this whole time, I suppose the last two years has been, particularly very interesting in the sense of, all the, changes that have been happening. The uncertainties that are happening in Hong Kong overall. And I guess what usually people ask and why I feel like, it’s really the right time for the African perspective to be out there, to be shared with people in the world is largely, that, now people have to navigate all these changes and we Africans in many ways deal with a lot of these changes for centuries. And all these centuries, dealing with all of these uncertainties have in many ways helped us to develop a steady niche on really navigating and be able to be, to develop a sense of resilience when it comes to dealing with these uncertainties.
So going back to the topic of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise and as well as, where and how we fit in, at least in this particular conversation. I think our goal is very clear in when it comes to to how we try to sustain ourselves. I think, perhaps in line with Zoroastrian Trust has been presented earlier is that, it’s self-sustainable and we generate revenues through programs.
So those multiple programs in our cultural education programs that we do, those are the ones that we are able to generate and able to sustain. And I always tell people that we make money so that we can have more social impact in the community. And I still look the other way round, we’re like, okay, the focus really is, we make quite some revenues and then use those revenues to, to have some sort of impact.
So when it comes to our mission and why we thought was very important to, to do what we do, one of our missions largely we say is to rebrand Africa, it’s to change how people think of Africa, it’s brand blackness, in a sense, when, historically, Africa has been associated with rather outdated perceptions in a bit like, oh, this poor people who really can’t do much for themselves or something undesirable, if a parent, say they want to send their child to Africa study, they probably, people have raised eyebrows now what, but if they say, oh, Chicago, I’m like, oh yeah, Chicago.
I’m like, from your own information, Africa is probably more dangerous in Chicago than in, in most parts of Africa, in a sense. But again, I guess the American brand in many ways, you know, it’s an appealing brand for a lot of people. So we really try to do that, and we do that, rebranding efforts, even when it comes to people who are saying, oh, I want to invest in Africa.
Sometimes people price it extremely unfair. They say, okay, I put this money. And to your company, because it’s in Africa, I need interests of what, 15%? Jesus Christ. I’m like what that’s so unfair. But again, it’s a perception, right? That this is Africa, therefore it’s supposed to be a very risky place, a high risk place in a sense. So we now we do these things through moral activities, moral collectivities, at least at our Center here, as well as within schools with corporations, from food programs, education programs, our programs people, be it cooking workshops, be it, some even dancing, the book clubs.
We have leadership trainings that we do that we hope could be really helpful in developing the children, for example, into becoming better fit to navigate the future. Because if anything, the African perspective is something that is really not on the table there. And I know a lot of people are struggling to navigate the current the current environment.
But for some of us, we say, no, this is our hub deterrent. We are very much in familiar with the change and we are very much familiar with uncertainties and therefore having an African perspective in the region or across the globe is probably what the world needs more. So yeah, I think just as an opening, I think just, to touch on what we’ll do. I’ll pause here. Thank you.
Andrew Wells: Thank you very much, Innocent. And now can I please ask our final speaker Manoj to make his presentation?
Manoj Dhar: Thank you, Andrew. Thank you, Julia, for providing us with this opportunity and for IBEL to showcase humble endeavours over the last few years. IBEL is a registered charity in Hong Kong. And what we are trying to do is provide academic relief with a special emphasis on Chinese language learning to the ethnic minority children in Hong Kong.
The entire objective and the key trust is basically on providing equity and inquiry learning opportunities in an inclusive educational environment to the young ones of Hong Kong. What it does for them is it allows them to navigate through the local schooling system. It allows them to navigate through the secondary schooling system.
And hopefully the reason why I say hopefully is because at the moment the percentage of these children, and it’s a very massively exploding population in Hong Kong, the percentage of these children who reach the universities in Hong Kong is similarly low. So that’s what we are trying to address.
And what we have been doing is trying to fix the root cause. What starts when a child is four and a half, five years old rather than treating the symptoms when it’s too little too late. And that’s what we have been geared for. So we have two EDD registered patient centers, which run six days a week and believe it or not, we’ve been running through the social unrest and we have ran through the COVID pandemic days as well, every single day.
And there are around 250 plus children who walk in and out on a daily basis. So our quintessence of IBEL is basically that of a solution provider by constantly innovating and pivoting to adapt and adopt to the various challenges which life throws our way. And we’ve seen, last four or five years, there was one typhoon T-10, and then there was a bit of social unrest and then there was, that’s the way life is going to be. So we are committed towards providing an equity based and equal and inclusive opportunity for all the children in Hong Kong. And to borrow a few phrases from Neville’s presentation, irrespective of their past creed, religion country of origin, the color of hair, eyes, whatever you may want to call it.
And this is the only way, honestly speaking. This is the only way to ensure social harmony and economic advancement. It sounds, we sometimes tend to forget the wise words set out by our previous generations where it almost had that language is culture and culture is language. And that was why we are so full-heartedly focused on trying to revitalise that integration of the non-Chinese speaking children into the mainstream fabric of Hong Kong society. So moving on to the next slide and my final slide. So that’s a little bit about myself. Andrew has been very kind and already introduced me. In my previous life from 4,000 years ago, I used to be a banker. And this year we our organization has grown very well this year.
The SCMP warranted us the HR representation award in the HEO category, which was basically respecting us and crediting us with having run, through the COVID pandemic and not have any layoffs and not have any breakouts and kept ourselves fully operational and functional. In 2017 we were the winners of the operation Santa Claus UBS NGO leadership program, which was a nine month program. And that was the program which helped us launch our second. So developing IBEL sustainable operations and a robust ecosystem is what we are trying to do. And we are trying to do this by constantly partnering with educational institutions, by foundations, corporates, and creating opportunities for Hong Kong’s underserved children. The Primary objective has to be about integrating them, not just academically, but providing them various opportunities out of classroom activities, which allow for their physical wellbeing, their mental wellbeing, and give them a sense that Hong Kong is home and develop and get around sensing that sense of engagement and ownership with the place. Once they take pride in that, and that is how a society will integrate and develop and blossom and go. Thank you very much.
Andrew Wells: Thank you very much, Manoj, on yet another interesting and different perspective of very curiously different yet united perspectives on this area of Social Enterprise. Can we now open the floor to questions and answers?
We’ve received quite a few questions already. Members of the audience, please do put in more on whichever subject or to whichever speakers or speakers you wish. Now I exercise moderator’s traditional privilege and ask the first question which should be addressed really to all I think to all speakers.
It’s a very basic question, which is: What’s the key motive? Or if you prefer, the key philosophy behind setting up a Social Enterprise in Hong Kong and going beyond that, why do we need them at all, an argument which has been put to me quite forcefully by some businessmen, is that because Social Enterprises are not obliged to have to produce a profit per se, there is no way of demonstrating the actual value they produce. So how would our different speakers respond briefly to that? Maybe I could ask Manoj to lead on that one.
Manoj Dhar: Thanks, Andrew. I think one key difference between a pure profit driven corporations and organizations. Profit driving. So therein, it’s a business opportunity which comes into play first and foremost.
And then there’s this entire thing, which is the business machinery, which goes around trying to create that demand that, as in the case of a Social Enterprise, the entire premise and the entire, I’m not saying it’s a matter of a higher moral code or a higher social consciousness, but yes, to a certain extent, it is about addressing the gap, addressing the social support lacking here and now, and then dealing with the social gap first and foremost, and then figuring out a way of being self-sustaining, et cetera, et cetera. So I think fundamentally that is one major difference between a profit enterprise and a Social Enterprise.
Andrew Wells: Thank you, would anybody else like to comment?
Neville Shroff, JP: Andrew, if I may, you asked for the key motives and all that. I think basically, I think we need an understanding of the world situation today and the challenges that people are facing around the world in emerging markets, in certain countries, in Asia, the poverty that is existing –
if more and more people can understand what is really happening in the outside world and not just within themselves, I think that is a motivation for them to maybe enlighten themselves into doing something better. I think the larger corporations, and I’m very much involved with CSL. And I think that’s being instilled into people within their own company.
I think that’s a very important factor in a driving force for Social Enterprises. Yes. Be profitable. So you can share that money around, not saying that you should give it all away. But give it a small percentage away, 5%, 2%, 10%, whatever it may be that your company can afford to do. And I think that sort of understanding is critical for for a Social Enterprises to progress forward.
Andrew Wells: Thanks Neville. I have a question now, if I may for Geetanjali, are there any particular challenges that you think you face or have faced, whether it’s as a conventional entrepreneur or as the head of a charity, by virtue simply of being a woman? Or perhaps in fact there are advantages?
Geetanjali Dhar: Yes. I think the issues as a woman… I will come to the issues first as an entrepreneur. First of course, these days, if you’re not particularly, past couple of years, they’ve been very challenging for all entrepreneurs, women in particular, for sure, because they’ve had to juggle the professional needs and personal needs as well.
The job losses that have happened, the businesses that have folded have primarily first hit the women entrepreneurs. And they’re also because, as women, that is one aspect, the other aspect is as women try to scale up their business, as they try to get more resources. That is, we, as a group feel that is a definite barrier in the market. And in terms of funding, which we’ve been getting over gradually there traditionally has been a barrier of lack of access to funding.
Basically, apart from that, I think most of the problems would be same for female entrepreneurs or male entrepreneurs, but the funding part, I feel the rest of the market, we need to work more on it. We need to provide more access and resources to women entrepreneurs because women think four steps ahead when there is a problem.
So when they’re presented in the problem, it’ll be a holistic solution. And that may take a little bit of time, but we need to have patience and give them time and patience and more resources. So I think funding is the only factor which comes to my mind and which I also I’m working at to break down the barrier for.
Andrew Wells: Thank you. Thank you for that Geetanjali.. And that’s a positive answer, I think if I can now turn to Innocent. And I’ll ask you this with your experience, both of, again, both of the business world and also of the Africa Center and Social Enterprise you, you had a fairly rough time both before and after you came to Hong Kong, I think that’s quite well known, do you find that within Hong Kong, we pride ourselves on inclusivity, but do you find the Hong Kong attitudes to race and inclusivity affect the operation of Social Enterprises, especially ones that are focused on ethnic minorities here. And if you do find that then what can you do about it?
Innocent Mutanga: I know when it comes to addressing a problem, especially social problem s, there is a need. Usually the conversation, the narrative is around focusing, almost everybody like, no, you are looking too big. Can you focus? Which community, okay. You say what, the Nepalese? So oh that’s too broad.
Can you focus a little bit more? The youth? Like, oh, okay. The youth, but that’s too broad. There’s usually the, when it comes to addressing problems, there’s usually the push towards focusing on a particular community. But now the thing is of course that brings again, that, it excludes other people as well, then that ends up excluding other people, but I totally understand, that, you probably can address a problem and that’s, you’re really focused on it, but it ended up excluding other particular communities, who may not have a longer history in the place let’s take, for example, Hong Kong. I think, when it comes to, what we saw. The gap is that a lot of solutions that were being put in place by most of the, minority focused Social Enterprises or even the charity organizations. I think they really didn’t really give a sense much of the Africans as a whole, anybody black in a sense. So those problems, then they remain. For the Chinese problems, there’s a whole social welfare department, which is dedicated to addressing those.
When the Jockey Club was sponsoring almost all the other organizations who are doing all that, all those different activities as well. So there definitely were gaps. When it comes to addressing things, which probably affect people of African descent in a sense. So that’s, at least, in some way where we also come in as well, but again, how we look at things is, it’s not "come and help the Africans", it’s not like that.
It is, the Africans helping themselves to address issues that affect themselves and be able to, of course benefit from it, be it to shape the narrative from it, in a sense. So I’m totally not a big fan of the big savior who is coming in from somewhere and say, oh yeah, I’m going to be helping you guys here, toilet papers here, all these different things, here, you just sleep in next time, get the toilet paper and go to the toilet, I’m totally not a big fan of that.
I’m usually the guy who’s, how do we empower, a particular individual, that they themselves, they really fully, truly feel empowered and feel a sense of ownership in changing their own scenery, not somebody else changing their own scenario. I always say being able to sit in the on the driver’s seat and be able to change things.
Is there an ethnic issue to it, a class issue to it. Yeah, they definitely are. But I guess a lot of those problems are rooted in the fact that, the way people think of addressing issues and in society, it’s, they focus too much on focusing and focusing and focusing and then other people get left out without the resources, and the opportunities that other people have.
So for us, I’m saying, okay, resources? No, but the opportunities, it’s this huge opportunity gap in a sense, which a lot of people who probably lack. In a sense so are those. And also when come to research data, even the census in Hong Kong, they probably just, they, at least for the last census that they didn’t have any important data that’s useful data now, on Africans or anyone black, totally useless data, but I’m also paying money for them to collect that data as well.
So I’m like, yeah, I’m paying my tax, but what you’re collecting is totally not useful to me. So there’s all those issues where even the money that we use, that we put into the government institutions, it doesn’t really benefit us because the way that amount is allocated, being used, is not working.
So there’s a lot of it. There’s definitely a lot of it, yeah.
Andrew Wells: Thanks, Innocent. I have a question from the audience from Peter Man, addressed to Neville, which is saying, which is asking that: in the past, Hong Kong people have been generous contributors to the voluntary sector. Do you see that trend is continuing? I should perhaps say that I’m not actually sure that I agree that if you measure it up statistically, that they were so generous in the past. But maybe that’s part of the question as well.
Neville Shroff, JP: Thank you, Peter, for that question. Yes, certainly. I think Hong Kong has been generous in the past, Andrew, if we look at the history of the generosity in Hong Kong, I think you’ll find that to be the case.
And if any history is anything to go by, I think it will continue in the future. But more than that, I think today’s education, today’s schooling in Hong Kong has got a caring curriculum in it. You find students who are going abroad to help, in to Vietnam, in to Cambodia, in to China, helping poverty-stricken areas and orphanages and people like that.
So I think volunteering service amongst the youngsters is definitely growing far more than ever before, mainly because the schools are educating children into that scenario, thinking them into that mindset. Yeah. So I do set see this trend continuing in Hong Kong. I certainly hope it will do. Thank you.
Andrew Wells: Thanks Neville. Another question from Peter, this one address to Manoj, the question is this: it looks like the Hong Kong government is putting more resources, financial resources into the education of ethnic minorities. Do you think that your efforts have raised awareness of this issue? And I would add to that as well. Do you think that money is the only thing that matters in this context?
Manoj Dhar: Thanks, Peter. Yeah, the two questions are very closely related, so without a doubt, financial funding is very crucial. There’s absolutely no denying the fact, I think I think have answered the question that raising the awareness level, not only regarding the problem, but also raising the awareness to get the narrative right.
Every society on this planet – this is another society and every society has its challenges and ups and downs. So the awareness level has to be, regarding the challenge and the awareness level has also to be regarding, it’s a challenge. And every challenge has a solution. So it has to be a responsible build of the narrative and of responsible storytelling. If that is what people relate to and are able to understand, then yes, then funding becomes much easier now in terms of the Hong Kong government. Well, the Hong Kong government has been committing resources specifically towards the education of children for a while now, almost going back 2, 3, 4, 5 years, and 15 years of schooling in Hong Kong is free anyways.
So which works out really well for the socioeconomically marginalised segment, but I think the key portion and the key part there is that, while the funding and the resource commitment has been there, but the accountability of when the funding is sent and the resources were committed: How was it effectively utilized or not utilized?
So I think that is the one, which from the government side, has yet to be seen. And then from what, from their audit commission report in March this year and the esteemed CE also mentioned kindergartens in the last policy address. So I think they are moving in the right direction. And yeah, I would be so lucky if it was a bit to do with the IBELs, trying to raise the awareness levels in the right direction.
Andrew Wells: Oh, thanks for that. I have a question from another member of the audience who is anonymous. And that is this: What are the major difficulties of setting up a Social Enterprise in Hong Kong in comparison to setting one up somewhere else? And what are the things which may be easier in Hong Kong? For those of you who’ve have that kind of experience, does it make any difference if you set it up in Hong Kong in the first place, or whether it’s set up overseas and then you have a branch in Hong Kong. Maybe I could address that to Geetanjali in the first place,
Geetanjali Dhar: Thank you, I would very much like to answer that because I am in the process of setting up a Social Enterprise right now, it is a very tedious process. There is a lot of paperwork required. However, if one is really passionate about the cause and when looks around, there are plenty of resource available who offer some of the services pro bono, for Social Enterprise’s setting up. They help you, which can help you in offsetting the costs, which otherwise for a startup, are humungous.
So one thing, do a little bit of both, putting one’s capital. Look around for the resources which Hong Kong generously provides. And then set up a Social Enterprise. But one has to be ready for the long haul. One has to be ready for first, setting up the company. After that one has to apply for section 88, section 88 is what is required for the tax exemption, it is what is required and then you have to be ready for the whole thing together. You have to be approved and registered for at least 12 to 15 months. If you’re not taking legal help, paid legal help, after that, once you have the section 88, then you have to wait for another two years and hopefully, if you’re lucky enough, you can get it as a member of the HKCSS and then you are a respected Social Enterprise, which can gain access to, other services, funding, or pro bono help from other particular areas.
Number one, if you do want to set up a Social Enterprise, one is go through the paid process. You get a reputed legal firm on to set it up, help them to help you set it up. And second is, go do your homework, what you want to do, and then approach people for the platforms who can offer it pro bono. But you have to wait for minimum of two to three years for the whole thing before you start your operations under the Social Enterprise.
Andrew Wells: Thanks very much. I’m conscious of the time. I’m glad to see that in the chat column quite a few questions that have been put forward and answered separately. Maybe I could ask one last question for any, or all speakers to consider. And that’s this, if you had to sum it up briefly, what would you say? How would you say that you managed to find the resources? Not only in terms of finance, which we’ve touched on a bit, but also simply in terms of time and people, given all the commitments which you all have to do, both the work and the conventional work and the Social Enterprises that you do. So I leave it open to who would like to go first.
Manoj Dhar: I think it’s a matter of the scale and the volume of the work at hand, the volume of the initiative. It’s not a project because it’s not time bound. So I think from that perspective depending upon the scale, I can only talk from my personal experience. So when we started initially, I was literally doing that, I was trying to be in two places and, run here run there, be extra smart with my time. But I think when you get involved in it, and then you really want to do the absolute very best, you can, and to the very best of your abilities, and do it in the widest possible manner. Then I think it’s difficult to be able to do two things? Which is why I had to take a conscious decision perhaps to just focus on one thing and develop and extrapolate, and, try and do the best one could possibly do. So that’s just my personal experience.
Andrew Wells: That’s interesting, what about you, Innocent, if I can ask, because you spend five days plus a week at a big bank or a big financial institution of some kind, and then you spend two days a week at the African Center. How does that work?
Innocent Mutanga: Oh, I don’t know. When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, it’s a very easy thing to do. And I think that’s probably where, where the difference matters. I think in addition, of course, how easy it is for me? In a sense it’s very difficult. No, no doubt about it. It’s definitely difficult. There are it’s fun challenges, but a lot of those challenges, anything that is exciting in a sense like, you know what, I’m going to be able to overcome them. But I guess one of the things that I do, is to be a bit more strategic in the long-term, for example, and I’m one of those guys that lives in Tuen Mun, so I, for those that don’t know where that is, I’m about an hour away from Central. That means I need to travel every morning, come to Central. And the reason I do that, is because the work I do in the Social Enterprise area, it needs a lot of reading and understanding of the communities and the societies.
So I have to do a lot of those meetings. I’m always constantly operating in a sense so that helps me to always be up, because that’s probably one of the major difference that’s, that usually differentiates between a Social Enterprise that succeeds, and one that doesn’t. Because one that doesn’t probably think they’ve already figured it out already, and they’re not really reading up and learning anymore, because they have this special access to industry, but for me, it’s constantly learning and reading. I think that helps me at least to keep up, as well as, waking up early, I sleep a little less and I think those are some of the things that I do.
Andrew Wells: Pretty briefly, Geetanjali or Neville?
Geetanjali Dhar: Well what I do is, I believe a lot in networking. I think networking and getting together a group of like-minded people who share your ideology. And when you combine the strengths of the friends or the colleagues or the peer-group, you have a solution for the problem that is everyone’s strengths’ combined. So I am working whenever I can and I spread the word around. This has been many times that we are afraid to ask for help, put out our problems out in the open, but it helps me. It’s always helped for me to talk about them because you never know what brilliant idea the other person might have.
Andrew Wells: Totally agree with you. Totally agree. Very important. Neville, I have some idea how you manage because we’ve actually traveled together and things like that. But if you have to sum it up?
Neville Shroff, JP: Very very simply, get a good team, get a good, intellectual bunch of people together and very important, learn to delegate. I think delegation is very important. That is something that took me a while to do because I wanted to do everything myself and just not possible. And you can’t be in two places at once as everyone knows.
And I cannot multitask for a start, you can ask my wife on that point. So I do ask for support and help and delegate. So I think those are the key things to get a good team and delegate. If you can do that, it’s basically solved.
Andrew Wells: Passion, assistance, team-building, delegation, networking, lots of good ideas there. With the chairman’s permission I think I need now to draw this to a close, unless Julia, perhaps you have any questions you’d like to put to any of our distinguished guests?
Julia Charlton: No, it’s all wonderful. I will say a few words when you finish Andrew.
Andrew Wells: Okay. I shall be brief – for all four of our distinguished speakers, as well as for the participants, thanks so much for attending. In the interest of time we do have to bring this webinar now to a conclusion. And for those whose questions haven’t been answered, as I said earlier, glad to see that some of them will be pursued later with individual speakers with exchanges of messages and emails. Thank you for your patient and thorough replies to all the questions.
Speaking for myself, I feel that I’ve learned a lot in terms of how varied and multifaceted and complicated this whole Social Enterprise world is in Hong Kong. And I think that’s probably an unappreciated fact, unappreciated in the sense that people may do one or two things, but they don’t realize how many things are being done, and I think that all the unsung and largely unpaid leaders of these enterprises such as yourselves deserve our warm support. And it’s clear too, that the Commonwealth connection with Social Enterprises is a strong one. So let’s just all give our speakers of virtual round of applause for their time!
And I would also like to ask you to ask participants to keep an eye on our website for future functions and events, get in touch if you have suggestions to make. Something that we were discussing with the panelists before the start of this webinar, was that probably, this webinar itself would generate opportunities for follow-up other webinars. And I think that’s certainly true. I can think of two or three without even, without even trying very hard. So that’s been a very productive aspect of this occasion in my view and with those words, finally, can I hand the floor back to our chairman, Julia Charlton for her concluding remarks.
Julia Charlton: Thank you. Thank you very much to our great moderator, Andrew. And I’d like to thank the panelists. It was really amazing to hear from you and Neville. It was so interesting to know about the subterranean work under the radar. And so much of it, such as the Parsee Zoroastrian Charity Funds.
Innocent, I loved your references to how you’re living in the community, that is totally on, on the money, I think. And I thought you really hit the nail on the head when you talked about people who are focusing on focusing, because we do hear so much about that, don’t we,. And I also loved your references to the opportunity gap. I think that’s really important everywhere, but also in Hong Kong .
Geetanjali, it was wonderful that you’re focusing so much on women entrepreneurs and I really think you’re absolutely right when you talk about the difficulties in women, raising funds for their startups and so on, that’s such an issue, and there’s a lot of us research in particular about how difficult it is for women to raise funds. I think we definitely have another webinar in there, Geetanjali, and maybe we can invite some of the people who are actually looking to raise money to present their projects. And thank you very much for talking about such an important initiative.
I think it’s so important to focus on language as a means of access to education, because without the language, it doesn’t matter how much education might be there. If you can’t actually make use of it, then it really is not valuable to the individual. So it’s wonderful to hear from such diverse sectors and very exciting to know that so much interesting work is going on in Hong Kong at the moment.
Thank you all so much and thank you to everyone who attended. We very much look forward to seeing you again, as Andrew said, and have a great evening. Bye.