Photograph — endgadget

Novek, an Internet-of-Things (IoT) company has been announced as one of eight global recipients of the inaugural round of grants from the Strive Community Innovation Fund.

The UK-based company working with micro-retailers in Kenya will receive a share of $1 million in total grant funding towards their work developing an IoT-enabled washing powder dispenser enabling Kenyan micro-retailers to better serve their customers.

Washing powder is a widely sold, everyday commodity which comes with a large environmental impact due to its use of single-use plastics, and customer demand is varied in terms of quantities leading to complexities in stock management. The innovative IoT tech will enable small businesses to reduce stock outages and their environmental impact.

“Small businesses are key to our success as a company,” said Zahid Mitha, CEO of Novek. “Here in Kenya, they represent 70 per cent of retail revenues. We believe that if we improve both the product they deliver to customers and their incomes, we will ultimately drive economic prosperity for everyone.”

Small businesses, like the ones supported by Novek’s innovations, are essential agents of inclusive growth, with estimates indicating that they provide 70 per cent of total employment worldwide. This is even more prevalent in low-income countries, with around 90 per cent of employment stemming from businesses with under 10 employees. Novek, alongside the seven other awardees, is transforming how small businesses operate and are supported in a world that is rapidly digitizing.

Strive Community is a global philanthropic initiative launched by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth in partnership with Caribou Digital. The initiative is focused on strengthening the resilience of small businesses and supporting their growth. Since companies that struggle to make effective use of new technologies risk being left behind, the Innovation Fund was established to spark truly innovative, digital, and data-first solutions that will boost small businesses’ efforts to go digital.

“Digital technologies are rapidly transforming the way businesses interact with their customers, with their employees, and with a global marketplace,” said Shamina Singh, President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “These Innovation Fund grantees are all introducing creative solutions that have the potential to not only ease the challenges of digitization for small businesses but unlock its promise, enabling them to grow and thrive.”

The other winners, chosen from more than 650 applicants globally, are as follows:

  • Boost Technology Ltd, South Africa, Nigeria.
    • Trialling a new service that combines data analysis, behavioural science and conversational commerce to empower small retailers with insights to make them more resilient.
  • Flourish FI, Brazil
    • Using behavioural insights, open banking data combined with tried & tested game mechanics to drive improved financial management and financial decision-making by small business owners.
  • XR Global, Brazil
    • Testing the potential of virtual reality (VR) to upskill small businesses, by bringing learners into immersive experiences.
  • Open Contracting Partnership, USA/Colombia
    • Creating a marketplace that leverages open data about government contract awards to seamlessly connect small businesses winning contracts with financial institutions that can offer them credit.
  • FUNDES & Argidius, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia
    • Connect traditional merchants to the most appropriate digitization tools by creating a marketplace.
  • ChatGenie, Philippines
    • Building new features that reduce friction in the sales process for small businesses selling via social commerce. The solution also enables the management of multiple social commerce channels within a single app.
  • Boost Capital, Cambodia
    • Scaling up smartphone-enabled loans and financial education, and jumpstarting the creation of a virtuous cycle in which businesses engaging in digital financial education are rewarded with better access to financial services.

Small businesses can learn more about the Strive Community, funding, and partnership opportunities by visiting www.strivecommunity.org and signing up to receive email updates.

About the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The Center leverages the company’s core assets and competencies, including data insights, expertise and technology, while administering the philanthropic Mastercard Impact Fund, to produce independent research, scale global programs and empower a community of thinkers, leaders and doers on the front lines of inclusive growth. 

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