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Scale Up: How do Social Enterprises Meet the Challenge?
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Scale Up: How do Social Enterprises Meet the Challenge?

The Business Call to Action (BCtA), in collaboration with Columbia Business School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, and the Global Business School Network, will host a panel discussion featuring representatives from leading social enterprises in the energy, agriculture, and health sectors.

When: Monday, September 24
6:30 - 8:30 pm
Where: Columbia University Club of New York, Alexander Hamilton Room
15 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 
United States

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Through creation of innovative business models, social enterprises—which seek both profitability and development impact—have captured the attention of the business world and development community. Nonetheless, obstacles abound when these companies attempt to reach scale, including low-cost production, "off-grid” distribution, product affordability, new product awareness and enabling regulation.

The Business Call to Action (BCtA), in collaboration with Columbia Business School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Global Business School Network and the Acumen Fund, invite you to a panel discussion featuring representatives from leading social enterprises in the health, water and sanitation, and textile industries. The discussion will focus on the following questions:

  • What are some of the challenges unique to social enterprises attempting to reach scale, and how have social entrepreneurs overcome these challenges?

  • How are these lessons applicable to social enterprises operating in another market, sector, or region?

  • Is it necessary for social enterprises to reach scale in order to achieve development impact, or is it sufficient for some social enterprises to remain niche actors in a larger market?


Keynote Address: Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovations Officer, Acumen Fund

Panel Moderator: Professor Murray B. Low, Director, the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Columbia Business School


Asha Chaudhary, CEO, Jaipur Rugs Company

Ashifi Gogo, CEO, Sproxil

Sameer Mithal, Executive Vice President of Business Development, WaterHealth International


***Please plan to join us for the Wine and Cheese Networking Reception to follow the panel discussion

Speaker Bios

Sasha DichterSasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer, Acumen FundAcumen Fund

Acumen Fund is a global non-profit venture capital fund headquartered in New York City, focused on supporting the delivery of critical services – water, health, housing, energy, agriculture – at affordable prices to the four billion people who lack access in India, Pakistan, and East Africa. Acumen Fund currently supports $73 million in investments with 65 social enterprises.

As Acumen’s Chief Innovation Officer, Sasha is responsible for growing the impact of Acumen Fund’s work through its investment in leaders and the spread of ideas. This includes the Acumen Fund Fellows Program and +acumen chapters; work in knowledge, metrics, and policy; as well as resource mobilization from Acumen’s global Partner community. Before Acumen Fund, Sasha worked as Global Manager of Corporate Citizenship at GE Money, expanding financial offerings to underserved communities globally; and as a Senior Program Manager at IBM, spearheading the company’s corporate citizenship strategy and launching a leadership program for school administrators. Sasha began his career as a management consultant for Booz | Allen | Hamilton in the firm's telecommunications practice. Sasha holds a BA from Harvard College, a Masters in Public Administration in International Development from Harvard’s Kennedy School and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


Asha ChaudharyAsha Chaudhary, CEO, Jaipur RugsJaipur Rugs


Jaipur Rugs, India’s largest hand-knotted rug manufacturer, is a vertically integrated manufacturer providing retailers with lifestyle-driven products that are both stylish and socially responsible.


As CEO of Jaipur Rugs Company, Asha Chaudhary brings a unique perspective to the industry. Growing up in the rug industry, Asha was mentored by her father and Jaipur Rugs founder NK Chaudhary. Beginning with two looms, Asha watched as he evolved the fledgling business into an international company that now employs over 40,000 talented weavers and artisans. Arriving in the U.S. for her undergraduate work in 1997, she matriculated as a Dean’s List scholar from Atlanta’s Emory University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. Since 2005, she helmed the company’s Atlanta-based U.S. headquarters, expanding on her father’s original vision to broaden both the range of products and scope of Jaipur’s customer base.


Ashifi GogoAshifi Gogo, CEO, Sproxil, Inc.Sproxil


Ashifi is CEO of Sproxil, a venture-backed for-profit enterprise that delivers product authentication and supply chain consulting services to pharmaceutical companies. Sproxil’s services allow end-consumers to verify with a simple free text message that they are not purchasing counterfeit medication. Pharmaceutical companies pay service fees to Sproxil for the increase in sales of genuine pharmaceutical products.

Ashifi is an expert in end-consumer authentication technologies. He is Six Sigma Black Belt certified in Good Manufacturing Practice and Continuous Process Improvement. He previously co-founded VSOL, a VoIP company that provides telephone services to the administration of a 24,000-student university in Ghana. Ashifi holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and a double-major B.A. in Mathematics and Physics from Whitman College, both from the USA. He is Dartmouth's first-ever Ph.D. Innovation Fellow.


Sameer MithalSameer Mithal, Executive Vice President, Business Developemnt, WaterHealth InternationalWaterhealth

Mr. Mithal is the Executive Vice President of Business Development at WaterHealth International (WHI) based in New York and has been with the company since 2009. WaterHealth International offers an immediately deployable strategy for processing healthy drinking water in underserved communities.

In his role for WHI, Mr. Mithal leads the company’s global business development initiatives as well as managing operations in Africa and Bangladesh. During his time with WHI, he has been responsible for the company’s expansion into three new countries (Nigeria, Liberia and Bangladesh). Prior to joining WaterHealth International, Mr. Mithal was a Senior Principal with IBB Consulting Group focused on strategy, new product definition and business development opportunities for companies in the cable, media and communications industries. Mr. Mithal has also been a Founder and Managing Partner of a technology development company, VP of Business Development/Operations for a media focused start-up company and worked for Booz & Company on projects in Asia, Latin America and Europe. Mr. Mithal holds an MBA from The Wharton School in Strategy and Finance, an MS in Computer Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering from the Western Australian Institute of Technology.


Murray LowMurray B. Low, Director, the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Columbia Business SchoolColumbia

Professor Low is an experienced entrepreneur and a leading authority on entrepreneurship in independent, corporate and not-for-profit settings. As the founder of the Columbia Entrepreneurship Program, he has worked to make entrepreneurship a viable career option for MBA graduates. He has also worked to improve business education in developing countries, particularly in Africa. Low consults to both small and large companies, family businesses and not-for-profits. He teaches executive seminars in the areas of entrepreneurship and strategic management and makes frequent presentations to academic and industry groups. He has published widely in academic and practitioner journals and is a regular commentator in the media.



Sahba SobhaniSahba Sobhani, Acting Program Manager, Business Call to ActionBCtA

Sahba Sobhani is a Team Leader in the Innovation and Development Alliances Cluster of the Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy of the United Nations Development Programme and is the Acting Manager the Business Call to Action (BCtA). He also serves as the manager of the UNDP’s Growing Inclusive Markets Initiative which is a research and advocacy initiative with a forthcoming 2013 Africa regional report on the role of enabling organizations in supporting inclusive businesses. He was the lead author of the first GIM report, "Creating Value for All: Strategies for Doing Business with the Poor” which was translated in seven languages and launched in 50 countries since July 2008. He was also the lead author for the 2010 report titled "The MDGs: Everyone’s Business”. He served as the first Interim Director of the UNDP Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD) established in partnership with the Turkish Government, the first global center of its kind established with a major emerging country.

Sahba Sobhani has also worked in the private sector at Idealab in Palo Alto and Newscom Limited in Singapore. He is a graduate of Yale University and the Fletcher School of Diplomacy. He is a national of the U.S. and Burkina Faso.



Guy Pfeffermann

Guy Pfeffermann, CEO and Founder, Global Business School NetworkGBSN

In 2003 Guy Pfeffermann founded the Global Business School Network on the principle that skilled management is critical to successful international development. After 40 years as an economist at the World Bank, including 15 years as Chief Economist at the International Finance Corporation, he saw too often how lack of management talent was impeding economic and social development in communities throughout the developing world. Now as CEO of GBSN, which started at the IFC and is today an independent nonprofit, Guy oversees programs and events that harness the expertise and passion of a worldwide network of leading business schools to strengthen the institutions and educators who deliver management education for the developing world. GBSN’s unique approach pairs a robust network of experts with efficient administration to build institutional capacity, foster collaboration and disseminate knowledge, all aimed at promoting management education that delivers international best practice with local relevance.

Born in Montauban, France, Mr. Pfeffermann received his Licence en Droit et Sciences Economiques in Paris in 1962 and was awarded first prize, Concours General, a French national inter-university essay competition. He was a Besse scholar at St. Antony's College, Oxford from 1962-65 and received a B.Litt. (Oxon.) in 1967 for his thesis: "Industrial Labour in Senegal”.

Mr. Pfeffermann joined the World Bank in 1966, where he served as Chief Economist for the Latin America and Caribbean Region from 1979-87 and Chief of Debt and Macroeconomic Adjustment division from 1987-88. He was the Director of the Economics Department and Chief Economist for the International Finance Corporation from 1988-2003. From 2000-2003 he was also an Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. From 2003-2007, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the GlobalGiving Foundation. He published "Paths out of Poverty – The Role of Private Enterprise in Developing Countries (IFC, 2000). He is currently on the Advisory Board of the Association of African Business Schools (AABS). His most recent publications (with Nora Brown) include "Empowering tomorrow’s African entrepreneurs and managers: the Global Business School Network,” Journal of International Relations and Development (2011) and "Counting on Agribusiness,” SAISPHERE: Growth Ahead for Global Agriculture (2012).


Business Call to ActionAbout the Business Call to Action

The BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. Worldwide, over 50 companies have responded to the BCtA by making commitments to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions through business ventures that engage low-income people as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services. The BCtA is supported by the Australian Agency for International Development, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the UK Department for International Development, the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Global Compact, the Clinton Global Initiative and the International Business Leaders Forum. For more information, visit


ColumbiaAbout Columbia Business School and the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center

Led by Dean R. Glenn Hubbard, the Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School is at the forefront of management education for a rapidly changing world. The school’s cutting-edge curriculum bridges academic theory and practice, equipping students with an entrepreneurial mindset to recognize and capture opportunity in a competitive business environment. Beyond academic rigor and teaching excellence, the school offers programs that are designed to give students practical experience making decisions in real-world environments. The school offers MBA and Executive MBA (EMBA) degrees, as well as non-degree Executive Education programs. For more information, visit


The mission of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center is to instill entrepreneurial thinking in all Columbia Business School students and to create a community of business practitioners with a lifelong commitment to achieving social and economic progress through entrepreneurship.


GBSNAbout the Global Business School Network

GBSN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington DC working to strengthen management education for emerging markets through a unique global network of business schools. The network helps to provide the rigorous yet practical local training business and management students’ demand, resulting in a stronger pool of local leadership and management talent for all sectors. For more information, visit:


With Many Thanks to Media Sponsor

Business Fights PovertyBusiness Fights Poverty

Business Fights Poverty is a vibrant community of individuals from business, the international donor community, non-government organisations and academia – all of whom share a passion for fighting poverty through business.

Business Fights Poverty provides its members with targeted peer-to-peer engagement and hot-off-the-press, mission-critical knowledge.  Learn more at

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