A Step Ahead to UNLOCK Entrepreneurial Potential through Empretec HiEERA Program at the 8th World Investment Forum

8th World Investment Forum 2023
8th World Investment Forum 2023

The 8th World Investment Forum focused on “Purpose Driven Entrepreneurship,” bringing together a diverse Indian delegation affiliated with the UNCTAD Empretec program. Representatives from various regions showcased impactful projects. Discussions emphasized practical steps for cultural initiatives and addressing funding challenges. Integrating SDGs into business plans was a key theme. The event also celebrated Women in Business Awards and highlighted community-driven development. Valuable insights were shared on business development, emphasizing transparency and trust. The forum culminated with concrete plans for cross-cultural ventures, highlighting the potential of entrepreneurship for positive change.

It may be difficult to summarize the essence of five days spent at the 8th World Investment Forum (WIF) from 16th October 2023 to 20th October 2023, but may be the phrase “PURPOSE DRIVEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP” could encapsulate all the five days of deliberations in and out of the room. I was part of the delegation from India representing diversity, united by one common thread – the UNCTAD Empretec program for India, facilitated by the Empretec India Foundation (EIF). The delegation included Empretec program representatives from India, with sponsorship from SIDBI, along with HiEERAs from Nagaland, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Odisha, Manipur, and Karnataka.

The HiEERA, which stands for High Impact Entrepreneurs from Emerging Regions for Action, have undergone a meticulous process of mining and polishing. They have consistently showcased their commitment to community building through both their personal endeavors and enterprises. Now, they are prepared to leverage their experiences in capacity building at local, national, and global levels.All five days were all about round table discussions with sponsors, delegates, and program representatives absorbing from sessions, deliberating on possible business outcomes, and the possible ways to move from “talk” to “walking the talk”.

Day 1: October 16, 2023

Started with an evening impromptu round table (philosophically) in an informal setting at the hotel late evening.

Questions and most of the times their answers too lay in the questions asked. We discussed about ROI (Return on investment) on culture building and how it would manifest into action on the ground. We also deliberated on how we could look at breaking down the large project into smaller modules, which are within the locus of control of implementing entrepreneurs, most of us being startups when it comes to multi-stakeholder enterprises, a Complex for Simplex solutions.

Impromptu Roundtable in an Informal Setting - 8th WIF 2023
Impromptu Roundtable in an Informal Setting – 8th WIF 2023

The meeting was summed up as a lovely meet up with Subranshuji. In spite of late hours, we discussed in detail about the grounding of projects in Nagaland, which has been supported by SIDBI for capacity development.

Some of the key points that I understood from these discussion were:

  1. Work out the addressable market size, give the larger projection, and then from that take up a smaller part of minimum manageable and viable scale to pilot as the first step towards a larger goal.
  2. Keep focus on one project at a time, do not spread thin.
  3. Work on the access to market – have contracts in place.
  4. Investment and active involvement in the businesses of entrepreneurs from developing regions are contingent on their ability to lead and manage the project with responsibility and commitment. It’s important that they possess the confidence and capability to independently sustain the project, even in the event of a senior entrepreneur exiting. Deliberate on each project for ways it can fail. These will be questions any financial body will also ask.
  5. Get projects implemented on the ground, which would justify the input for culture building and manifest into actual impact. Put together realistic investible projects led by HiEERAs from developing regions

A critical review from a sponsor, who is invested in our success, is crucial for the success of the mission itself, as it is a part of the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nagaland. Their insights and questions were very helpful for us, and perhaps these were the same questions which we have been deliberating since beginning of August in preparing BMCs (Business Model Canvases) for each project.

Day 2: October 17, 2023

Global Investment Gamechangers Summit at 8th WIF
Global Investment Gamechangers Summit at 8th WIF

Meetings over breakfast, sessions on path breaking technologies, discussing challenges and opportunities that the innovators may have faced.

Some key takeaways from the session were:

  1. Mindset and Culture are important elements in implementing disruptive solutions.
  2. Funding – discussing customer money instead of venture capital could potentially lead to a higher success rate.
  3. The low credibility of women in receiving funding was highlighted.
  4. Make SDG a part of DNA, Not a PR (Public Relationship) agenda.

Listening to this and reflecting back validated my personal belief and Empretec’s Empirical research on the importance of mindset, value chain building and integrating SDGs into business plans, and make them a routine. This validation further gave a boost to the way I personally have been persisting with recycling, repurposing, and upcycling initiatives.

Networking continued with other Empretec Centers as we discussed about cross-border linkages with HiEERA program, exploring possibilities of Foundry Cluster in these countries and building around it. The relevance of transparency leading to trust through the Empretec practice of documenting decision-making, which in turn leads to trust.These discussions during the standing interactions have laid the foundation for cross-border linkages with India.

Some phrases that caught attention during the session on Entrepreneurship and Urban Development:

  1. Maintain the balance between tradition and new innovations.
  2. It takes a village to raise a child.
  3. It takes a village to raise entrepreneurship.
  4. Urban poverty is so real. Gentrification – the process of renovating or revitalizing a deteriorated urban area, often resulting in the displacement of lower-income residents and businesses by wealthier individuals and businesses.
  5. PPP (Public-Private Partnership) to create more sustainable ecosystems.
  6. In Africa, the challenge is of basic infrastructure.
  7. Create an environment that is investment-friendly.
  8. Ease of doing business – It’s happening in Lagos.
  9. Welcome foreign talent to solve local problems.
  10. I think that government is a representation of citizens, and therefore, the role of citizens in policy implementation is equally important.
  11. Entitlement expectations at both sides may need to be addressed.
  12. Eat your problems for lunch.

Day 3: October 18, 2023

Investment Forum discussions opened up few thoughts around what could be an investment in community development.

  1. Financial (an asset which has a clear measurable value in community and tradeable agnostic to what one does).
  2. Time (an asset which is subjective and value increases with specialization, reduces with generalization, not an easy tradeable instrument).
  3. Intellect and Experience (an asset which presently is valued only by a few experts, but to me the best valuation could come from the return it gives to the receiver of the intellectual capital by the value it brings to the customer, perhaps can be valued by the customer).
  4. Community Consciousness (an asset that is gaining value to my mind as I delve into the same by contributing my decision-making process at an average above 8.96 decisions in a FB group curated by Empretec program in India).

Perhaps one may want to create an asset portfolio that captures the four investments, linking them to a common tangible asset. This can be considered for Social or Development investment towards community development.

Starting the morning with discussions of India’s role in Zimbabwe for technology absorption through the Empretec program in presence of Ms Busi Bango & Dr Subhranshu were insightful, added to the continued interaction with Mr Dennis – Botswana with this background of social investment.

Business Linkages Discussion between Lokho Paul from Pro Rural and Manish Kothari from Rhino Machines

Conversations of 16th and 17th led to an impromptu Business Linkages discussion between two HiEERAs – Lokho Paul from Pro Rural – NGO in Nagaland and Manish Kothari – Rhino Machines SPB technology owner for setting up the first pilot in Nagaland. Outside the round table conferences, this round table led to a very important step of moving from “watching the race from outside” to “running the race on the track and testing one’s ability to run”. This was after all a cross-cultural engagement between a social and commercial entity under a proposed joint multi-stakeholder venture that could help understand the “surmountable” and “insurmountable” challenges that may exist.

Manish Kothari - Certificate of Achievement - 8th WIF 2023
Manish Kothari – Certificate of Achievement – 8th WIF 2023

A project with a goal set in pen, to move forward, and a plan set in pencil, allowing for a timeline that could be revised depending on circumstances. Chuchuyimlang village in Nagaland was recognized as the 1st HiEERA village having adopted the program for community building, and Senapati in Manipur as the 2nd HiEERA village in India.

On the same day, I, Manish Kothari was recognized for his contributions and decision-making through a unique appreciation by the Empretec program in India. The event gave a very unique opportunity for Empretecos to drift and philosophize over personal, enterprise, and community in an environment of transparency and trust. An offsite impromptu gathering that led to strengthening the foundation of many more business linkages, once again showed that business is based on relationships first and balance sheet later.

6 HiEERAS Reflecting - WIF 2023

This photograph of the drift by one of the six HiEERAs deliberating was perhaps the icing on the cake, a moment that will stay etched in our minds for a long time.

Iram Maimuna - Women in Business Awards - 8th WIF 2023
Iram Maimuna – Women in Business Awards – 8th WIF 2023

The day culminated with the celebration of India’s Iram Maimuna being one of the finalists for Women in Business Awards. Jovia Kisakaye, Uganda won the final, but to us each women was a winner there.

Day 4: October 19, 2023

The highlight of the day was SIDBI’s CGM being part of the session on Investing in Business Development, as he shared the role of SIDBI in developmental activities.

SIDBI Session at WIF 2023
SIDBI Session at WIF 2023

The highlight of the day was another impromptu discussion between all the stakeholders, sharing what and how they will go about implementing projects in Nagaland, what is the investment, timeline, and the first real-time questioning about startups being incubated by experienced Entrepreneurs.A step ahead has been taken in moving the projects from discussion table to ground implementation.

The churning of four days gave an impetus to the mission, setting the pace for business development on the foundation of culture building.

Day 5: October 20, 2023

From planning to action, discussions over a cup of coffee about what comes next. An action plan was formed for the visit of the Nagaland delegation to Anand, Gujarat, in mid-November. The purpose was to explore various multi-stakeholder projects centered around reuse, repurpose, art, craft, healthcare, and also include a visit to Muni Seva Ashram to emulate a model self-sustained village ecosystem.

An evening interaction on the challenges of cultural due diligence, organizational culture with a senior HR professional, who is also an Empretec participant, aimed to conduct a risk analysis on cross-cultural business linkages, considering the possible challenges and opportunities.

An evening interaction provided a platform to address the challenges of cultural due diligence and organizational culture. A senior HR professional, also an Empreteco, joined the discussion, conducting a thorough risk analysis on the prospects of cross-cultural business linkages. The session shed light on potential hurdles and opportunities, offering a strategic approach to navigate them.

The day concluded with two HiEERAs, Shilpi Dutta Som and I, engaging in an in-depth conversation about their respective journeys and beliefs. Together, they explored ways to leverage their individual strengths for collaborative growth. This exchange exemplified an innovative approach to make the most of available time, reaffirming their commitment to community building.

Concluding Thoughts

I am so proud of the outcomes of 15 years of input. Empretec India has maintained its focus on INPUT rather than OUTPUT (कर्म पे ध्यान, बिना फल की इच्छा), on the factors that contribute to making the output happen.

The 12 delegates, practitioners from India, representing the EIF program in addition to their own work, have been nothing short of a statement of achievement. Accompanied by a sponsor’s representative who sat with the delegation and guided them on how the INPUTS could manifest into OUTCOMES was another important takeaway. The bonding amongst HiEERAs – a few diamonds from India, committed to development through collaboration and partnership, by establishing multi-stakeholder enterprises that would work in tandem with public institutions to contribute to community development through enterprise.

Each of the diamonds shone and left a mark at the WIF 2023. As one of the beneficiaries of the program, benefiting from it, my heart swells with pride for being part of a mission that continues to grow on a strong foundation.


  • Manish Kothari

    Manish Kothari is the Managing Director at Rhino Machines Pvt Ltd, a visionary leader at the forefront of promoting antiviral technologies, fostering ecommerce solutions, championing Made in India products, driving wasterecycling initiatives, and inspiring groundbreaking product innovation. With his passion for sustainability and innovation, he continues to pave the way for transformative advancements in multiple sectors.


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