One of the growth strategies that has been given priority within the Ricoh Group is “Creating Shared Value (CSV),” which seeks to solve social issues by offering new value developed through our business activities. We capitalize on our technologies, products and services, human resources, and other resources to become part of the solutions for social issues as well as to build new markets, attract new customers and introduce innovation.
Aiming business growth through solving social issues
India has the largest population of children in the world, but many of these children drop out of school or are unable to attend school to begin with. There are various reasons for the low rates of school attendance, including lack of public awareness as to education needs, low quality of educational services, and insufficient infrastructure and teaching materials. We recognize that Ricoh, as a business organization that provides in-classroom support through its products and services, can play a role in supporting India’s education system to build a foundation for the country’s development. In 2011, we started a cooperative project with Save the Children and donated printers to schools, local governments, and NGOs that support education. We hope the printers will help the organizations to improve the quality of classes, information delivery, and school operation.
In October 2013, we started supporting classes where projectors and digital teaching materials are used effectively to provide children with enjoyable and high-quality learning experiences. We also started a survey to develop commercial-purpose solution packages that can be offered to education markets in developing countries.
Children in India, especially those in poor areas, do not have opportunities to meet or learn about people and cultures outside of their daily experience. We believed it important for these children to have opportunities to broaden their horizons through videos and pictures. The projectors and digital teaching materials have the potential to contribute enormously to the improvement of educational quality because they can deliver information in a very easy-to-understand way via the big screen.
In the first phase, incooperation with the educational institutions at state and district levels that are responsible for teacher training and curriculum development, we provided teacher training and material development for 4th- and 5th-grade environmental studies classes at 10 schools in Delhi and the states of Telangana and Bihar respectively. In the classrooms equipped with a projector, the teacher and children communicated more freely than before with the help of the digital materials and hands-on styles of learning activities. The classes with projectors and digital teaching materials were proven effective, with big differences observed before and after the activities in such indexes as children’s academic achievement, teaching skills of teachers, and motivation levels on both sides.
The second phase was started in October 2015 at 20 schools in Telangana. We assisted the schools with the development of digital teaching materials for language studies (Telugu, English) and usage of the materials in class, expanding the scope of target grades and subjects and increasing teacher training. Through these activities, we have helped the schools build systems to continually improve the quality of classroom education. Part of the results from the activities were adopted by the district education bureaus to enhance the local school education quality, specifically by organizing more than 100 digital materials developed by participating teachers to create an openly downloadable database while including development of digital materials in the teacher training course curriculum.
The above achievements have been recognized by the education bureau of Telangana State, which has decided to expand the introduction of ICT*1-based class learning models to schools statewide. To launch this initiative, some schools have already installed Ricoh’s projectors. Going forward, we will develop commercial solution packages that include projectors and IT services, using findings and understandings gained throughout the education support program to more precisely meet local needs, thereby aiming to contribute to improving education quality on a long-term basis through our business.
■ Results of the program through utilization of digital duplicators
While rapid economic growth is being witnessed in many emerging and developing countries, there are still considerable population groups in these nations living in poverty, often referred to as the BOP (Base of the Pyramid). In India, Ricoh supports local people in the creation and expansion of their businesses as a way of providing on-going assistance in solving various challenges that confront people in the BOP who reside in rural areas in particular. Through these efforts, we aspire to play a major role in enhancing quality of life in rural areas and reducing the income gap between urban and rural residents, while pursuing our future business opportunities.
Ricoh and Drishtee, a local social enterprise and partner for the project, selected a rural village in Bihar state located in the northeast of India as a target village. Employees selected from among many volunteers stayed in the village twice, one month each time, in 2010 and 2011. At first, emphasis was placed on building relationships with the villagers. By understanding the local lifestyle and culture, and through repeated face-to-face communication, we tried to identify residents’ concerns and needs. From these experiences, we concluded that in order to ensure sustainable development of this village that faces many challenges, we should support local people to create and expand their businesses, and stay close to such entrepreneurs to explore our business opportunities. This conclusion became our basic policy for this project.
Cricket event for young people
Developing a resource map with local women
In 2011, we organized a business idea competition to tap into local people’s insight and identify future entrepreneurs. Among 31 submitted ideas, we decided to support the launch of two businesses proposed by two women. Based on local needs and issues identified through twice staying in the village, we also examined numerous business ideas that would benefit the local community, narrowing them down to two selections: a Photo Print Shop for photo-loving locals that would utilize Ricoh’s resources; and a Women’s Shop operated by women for the empowerment of and job creation for women.
For both these businesses, we selected prospective local entrepreneurs wishing to operate the shops in the village and provided them with necessary training and support to get started. The first Women’s Shop opened in December 2011, with the number increasing to as many as 70 in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana by March 2017. Women’s Shops have brought about a number of positive effects such as increased income for female entrepreneurs, enhanced empowerment of women, improved status of women in each area, and an enlivened women’s community.
Riding on this success, we are committed together with our partner Drishtee to support the growth of Women’s Shops to a total of 250 by 2019, with 50,000 women empowered under the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) promoted by UNESCO.
Business training for prospective entrepreneur winners of the business idea competition
Entrepreneur running the first Women's Shop
An event at a Women’s Shop—an opportunity for women to form their own community
Regarding the Photo Print Shop, although Ricoh’s printers and cameras were provided to explore new photo print services together with the entrepreneur, the shop had to be closed in March 2015 due to the difficulty in establishing a sustainable earnings model. On the other hand, Women’s Shops manage their sales and inventory efficiently by utilizing a tablet-based, simple system provided in cooperation with Ricoh IT Solutions and Ricoh India. We will continue to support the development of a platform for business opportunities in India by ensuring that Women’s Shops maintain operation and expansion of their network, as well as by assisting the formulation of networks and communities connecting rural and urban areas to facilitate the flow of goods, information, and money between them. Based on this platform, we will also continue to pursue Ricoh's future business ideas that will be instrumental in solving issues prevalent in rural areas.
Research on problems encountered at shops
A Women’s Shop owner using a tablet
“My days are more rewarding since I opened the shop.”
There are three reasons why I opened the shop. First, a shop in the village would mean that the women here would not have to go shopping at the store four kilometers away. Second, I could do my own shopping right here. And third, I could bring in some money for my family.
Since the shop opened its doors for business, I’ve handled lots of products and I’ve been able to talk to a variety of people. I just love it. The village women say the shop is so convenient. They really appreciate having a shop right in the neighborhood where they can buy an item that they suddenly run out of or pick up a small gift to take if they suddenly have to pay a visit to someone.
Before I had the shop, I just whiled away my time at home, not doing anything of particular importance. But now, I spend time working, and I can chat with my customers. My days are much more rewarding. I’m now making profit of several thousand rupees a month. If I can boost sales higher, I’d like to expand the shop. Then, when the kids are older, I’d like to get qualifications to be a beauty professional and that should bring in more customers.
In 2015, Ricoh began exploring ideas for thermal media businesses that can resolve such issues. The unit supplies barcode labels and other display media to retailers, logistics firms, and manufacturers.
In November that year, we joined hands with an Indonesian nonprofit organization to conduct surveys to learn more about the lives of middle class and low-income people in and around Surabaya, the nation’s second largest city. The effort entailed interviews at farms, fishing villages, shops, hospitals, schools, and residences.
The surveys revealed significant challenges with water, electricity, and other infrastructure, unstable agricultural incomes, problems with chilled food supply chains, and hygiene and health issues.
We decided to focus on food security in light of issues that the surveys raised, the Indonesian government’s priority fields, and the Sustainable Development Goals. We look to create new businesses that can help boost the safety, security, and nutrition of food, targeting grains produced in the country.