OPEN or The Organic Pine Nut Enterprise is a for-profit enterprise that invests and innovates Pakistan’s underdeveloped pine nut value chain to increase the income & capacity of small farmers. Through a cooperative model, OPEN aims to increase and improve production, processing, arrange organic certification and supply this commodity to high-end local and international markets. We are lucky to have Zahoor, the founder of OPEN, share his thoughts with us in a Q & A session with us. You can read more about his work on his blog here
Q: 1 Tell us a little about how you started OPEN. What motivated you to start it?
I came to know about Organic Pine Nut potential during a visit to Chitral (a small town in Northern Pakistan) in November 2011. On my visit, I met the people from Chitral Innovative Development Organization who welcomed me with a lot of warmth. Their story about how they turned pine nuts from waste to a valuable product along with its visible impact on economic growth in the area inspired me to get involved. However, there was a visible need in their marketing and outreach strategy and great potential for mobility of the innovation. I realized that I would provide value by supporting indigenous, remote and resource-poor communities to take this innovation forward and scale it up to 3 other similar and adjacent valleys in the district. What motivated me was the very visible impact of this initiative, coupled with further potential and the lack of any support network for these cut-off communities that do not ask for charity and handouts but investments. This is how we started building OPEN.
Q:2 What is the social need that OPEN is trying to meet?
OPEN is trying to improve the economic conditions of the local resource poor communities by raising their net share in the returns generated through the production, processing and marketing of pine nuts. We believe that improving economic conditions entails a whole chain of social change, as they will improve their livelihoods, education opportunities and access to other basic facilities. Our efforts are also aimed at promoting social entrepreneurship. Moreover, OPEN will ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and will contribute towards environmental protection in the long run.
Q:3 How have you gone about meeting that need? How do you aim to achieve your goals?
To meet the need, we have researched the agriculture (pine nut) and renewable energy sectors in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, have prepared business plans, and are now pooling resources and support networks to take forward the existing value chains in a way that could yield more value, jobs, and environmental impact. We aim to achieve this goal by building sustainable social business models that fosters innovation that could be scale up in the long term.
Q:4 What do you think of i2i’s role in the field and the work it is doing in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, social investment funds are rare while those that are available mostly support the well-established models of social enterprise. Start-ups hardly get any attention and support in their nascent stages as they pose all the risks associated with early stage enterprises. Along the same line, the not for profit sector has a very different focus with short term plans and projects that mostly rests within the UN System or bilateral agencies. We have been struggling to find an angel investor for quite a period but could not come across anyone aligned with our goals and model. i2i being the only known angel investment accelerator came out to be a real angel to us. i2i is different in a way that it connects the needy enterprises to the resources it knows locally and globally and also provides business support during the process.
We see i2i as a pioneer and leader in the angel social investment sector in Pakistan because there is such a huge potential in this sector across Pakistan. I2i could further explore this potential by expanding its network to various parts of the country to reach out to social enterprises, academia, and professional networks. It also can incubate ideas worth testing. We are optimistic that i2i will soon be at the forefront and hopes it will flourish to the heights of excellence in the sector in Pakistan.
Q:5 What do you hope to achieve by being an i2i enterprise?
We hope with i2i we will be able to better showcase our product to investors and support networks, access investments/funds and network with like-minded communities. Being an i2i enterprise, we expect to get a better understanding, execution, and scaling up of OPEN through its technical and financial resource building.
Are you interested in becoming an i2i Enterprise, too? Click here for our guidelines & application! Deadline for the Fall [Pilot] Accelerator is September 5th!
Sana Rafiq is i2i’s Social Media Intern, pursuing a B.A. in Economics and Political Science at Carleton College, MN. Her passions include new economics and sustainable development. She is an avid reader and loves discussions on philosophy, the number zero, and complexity.