Highlight Value-Creating CSR
Two projects that address social issues
Ricoh is implementing the following two projects in India as part of its efforts to contribute to society while achieving growth: the Education Support Program and BOP (Base of the Pyramid) project. While the education support program aims to improve the educational environment and expand the market by taking advantage of existing business, the BOP project addresses issues facing the poor and creates new business opportunities on a long-term basis, transcending the framework of existing Ricoh business.
Creating an educational network using Ricoh products
Integrating social contributions and marketing
Ricoh held a dialogue on bridging the digital divide to explore the possibility of social contribution through business activities in February 2010, inviting an international organization, NGOs and leading companies. After discussion, we came up with some plans, among which we selected "education support" as a key concept because of its association with "providing sound values to young people" on which Ricoh places high priority in its social contribution activities. We also considered that education support activities would allow us to contribute to achieve the UN millennium development goals (MDGs). As a result of further discussion on how we can use our products and create marketing opportunities, we decided to provide education support in India where there are many children who cannot go to school or drop out of school. There are many reasons for this, including low educational awareness, poor educational quality, and insufficient infrastructure. Taking this situation into account, we thought we could contribute to improving the educational environment by using Ricoh's digital duplicators to print materials and documents used at schools. At the same time, based on our findings on how printing machines are used in schools, we can develop a new market.
A system that helps local communities to improve their educational environment on their own
An education support program scheduled to run from May 2011 to March 2013 in Medak, Andhara Pradesh in India was started in cooperation with Save the Children. At the end of January 2011, Ricoh staff visited schools and local educational bureaus to survey the local situation. Interviews not only with government staff but also with teachers and children in schools revealed that many schools badly need printing machines. We also found that children are absent from school during the farming season, and it is important to raise community awareness about education.
In 2011, the first year of the program, we donated digital duplicators for printing documents and materials to 10 organizations including schools, child resource centers, and local educational bureaus. At two child resource centers that play a leading role in the region, we organized awareness raising activities aiming at improving the learning environment, including intensive training sessions for school management committees and establishing children's groups. Efforts are focused on strengthening the network among local educational bureaus, schools, communities and children so that local people can eventually improve their educational environment sustainably on their own.
Corporate Partnership Department (Acting Director of Osaka Office)
Save the Children Japan (SCJ)
All those involved in this program share the same objective of improving the quality of education from the planning phase and have communicated with each other to find a strategic framework that would enable us to generate sustainable results while benefiting both business and society. In addition to constructing an IT infrastructure, we will train and develop specialists who can operate and manage the established infrastructure through coordination with the education support activities of Save the Children. It is expected that this kind of concerted effort will make possible what has been impossible up to now. Ricoh's program is a new and challenging project also for Save the Children Japan. We look forward to continuing to work together with Ricoh as partners, taking advantage of the strengths of both the NGO and the company in such a way as to improve children's educational environment.
Creating new business opportunities to address local issues
While significant economic growth is occurring in developing countries, the poor who form the base of the pyramid (BOP) in these countries still face many social issues. Merely bringing products that have been developed to market in developed countries will not solve these issues. Ricoh therefore started its efforts by understanding the issues that poor people are facing. Ricoh staff stay in a local community to experience life there and build trusting relationships with local people. We believe that we can contribute to sustainable development in local communities only after understanding their culture and customs and identifying their problems and by making a concerted effort to find solutions. Ricoh's BOP Project was started with the aim of creating new business opportunities transcending the framework of existing business.
The first stay with emphasis on building trusting relationships with the local community
Before starting the stay, Ricoh conducted a pre-project survey in cooperation with a local company. A rural village in Bihar state located in the northeast of India was selected as a target village. Employees selected from among more than 100 volunteers stayed in the village twice, for a month each time. During the first stay (October-November 2010), emphasis was placed on building relationships with villagers. Local people do not speak frankly about their problems if you suddenly turn up to conduct a survey, so we organized events including cricket, debates, sing songs and painting exhibits, with the hope of spreading information on Ricoh so that as many people as possible become familiar with our company. The staff staying there visited local people many times to talk with them and tried to understand their culture and how they think. This kind of continual face-to-face communication fosters a sense of security, making it easier to observe their living environment. After taking sufficient time to build trusting relationships with villagers, group interviews and other surveys were conducted to gather information, which was classified and organized. In the second stay, a more focused survey was conducted.
Second stay when interviews were conducted in priority fields and an ideas competition was held
Two approaches to assessing the possibility of new business opportunities
Even if we stay in the target area, the amount of information we can gather is still limited. Ricoh therefore took the following two approaches to avoid complacency in identifying new business opportunities:
Developing business ideas generated by Ricoh based on local survey results
Information gathered in the first stay was carefully reviewed to select business fields for which an additional survey was conducted. Through these activities, business ideas that would benefit the local community were selected. We are going to discuss with local partner company to develop specific business plans so that the selected business ideas can help solve local problems and create local employment.
Developing business ideas to support local entrepreneurs
An ideas competition was held to identify business ideas generated by villagers and future entrepreneurs. Among 31 proposed ideas (13 from female applicants, 18 from male), three were selected using the following screening criteria: entrepreneurial passion, how determined the applicant is to start a business, the possibility of developing the business, and its contribution to local employment. We provided them with training on business management, marketing and other knowledge and skills required for starting business. Since May, some have started their own small businesses. While helping these entrepreneurs to make their new businesses successful, Ricoh will continue to search for more ideas to support their businesses.
Product Marketing Center
Ricoh Global Marketing Department
Through my experience of being immersed in the life of a farming village for one month, I was able to understand the villagers' aspirations, thoughts and needs, that I had never imagined in Japan. Some things you can't find out until you talk to the people: for example, many women are interested in skin whitening and people there enjoy singing and dancing along to music from a cell phone. While I lived there, my wish to help them realize their dreams and to provide them with what they need grew stronger. The experience made me believe strongly that what needs to be done in BOP markets is the same as what needs to be done in existing business projects: always be ready to listen to the market and your customers; ask yourself what you should do for your customers; and make proposals to respond to their needs. I am determined to become this kind of marketer.