Ashish Gadnis joins us this week on What We Don't Know. As a senior strategic advisor to the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals and winner of the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Innovate for Refugees Award, Gadnis, an expert on how capitalism collides with humanitarianism, sits down with Xander to explain how.
As we come back from the season of giving and consuming, it’s a great time to learn how Gadnis uses his tech-savvy gifts to help farmers and recyclers overcome economic adversity. Gadnis, who grew up in poverty says, "Technology came to people in poverty; it didn't enable people out of poverty."
Gadnis is the CEO of the software company, Ban Qu (BQ), which he founded in 2012. Ban Qu is the first blockchain supply chain to empower refugees and workers in extreme poverty by giving them an identity in the form of being "bankable". BQ users don't need the latest smartphone to run the program; it's a simple SMS system that confirms pertinent data of crops, sales, and transactions, including the quality, quantity, and payout, all in one's native language. "We use blockchain as a service. We run it just like you use Netflix," Gadnis explains, "We connect the supply chain farmer, cooperative, aggregator, and the brewery."
This transparency prevents farmers from being taken advantage of while remaining simplified for users’ general technological skills. Gadnis says it gives farmers better access to fair loans, insurance and allows them to build their economic passport. “In today's world, your data as a farmer is sitting in an NGO database, in a crop insurance database, it’s sitting in a social enterprise database.” Gadnis explains, “So what we have done is we brought everything at the farmer so the farmer can say, ‘I grow coffee, I grow cassava...I use mobile money’, it’s a passport.”
'Fair Trade' is a brilliant marketing tool, however, it rarely helps farmers. "Today a consumer picks up a bag of coffee that says 'Fair Trade; Rwanda' In all honesty there's a good chance that whoever made that is totally lying to you," says Gadnis. The intentions are good with mostly positive results, but loopholes remain which is what BQ prevents as well as child labor.
BQ’s Arise Program offers education in place of working. Its blockchain accountability prevents tobacco farms from hiring minors. Gadnis believes that many brands often want to do the right thing but get bogged down in gathering stats first for years where time is of the essence particularly during the pandemic. He states, “Because of COVID, 2 million new children have been pushed into child labor.”
Ashish’s mission is to become a multi-million dollar software business while at the same time raising hard-working people out of the grips of extreme poverty to reach their economic growth.
At the end of the day, these hard-working people deserve to own their own data. They deserve to be able to say, 'I exist in the supply chain because I grow your coffee, I make your jeans, I mine your cobalt that you use in your iPhone' That's what BanQu does.”