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Food Systems Live!: Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

Join a community of entrepreneurs in weekly, live online sessions with Harvard University faculty and leaders around the globe to learn about opportunities in emerging economies focused on food systems, agriculture, nutrition, sustainability and food security.

Learn how to navigate entrepreneurial opportunities across emerging markets and develop a capstone business plan. Enroll by January 23 to join this course and earn a verified certificate!

Food Systems Live!: Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies
This course is archived
Future dates to be announced

Food Systems Live!: Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

Join a community of entrepreneurs in weekly, live online sessions with Harvard University faculty and leaders around the globe to learn about opportunities in emerging economies focused on food systems, agriculture, nutrition, sustainability and food security.

Learn how to navigate entrepreneurial opportunities across emerging markets and develop a capstone business plan. Enroll by January 23 to join this course and earn a verified certificate!

Food Systems Live!: Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies
9 weeks
10–12 hours per week
Instructor-led on a course schedule
This course is archived
Future dates to be announced

About this course

Skip About this course

Global food systems in emerging economies were once geared largely towards tourist populations and exports. But, as food security, nutrition concerns, and agricultural sustainability continue to be primary drivers for opportunity in these economies, the focus has shifted; a better understanding of the fundamental dynamics in these countries is therefore needed to solve core problems.

In Food Systems Live!, learners will gather each week with fellow entrepreneurs, both to learn from Harvard faculty and global leaders in the fields of food, agriculture, and nutrition, and to identify opportunities to build scalable solutions for food safety, security, and nutrition in emerging economies. By engaging with peers and experts in real time, learners will be prepared to answer “what’s next?” for the global food and agricultural industry. Specific topics to be covered include supply chain innovations, e-commerce retail platforms, and novel operating models for agriculture.

Each week, learners will engage with asynchronous course content and readings, culminating in a dynamic live webinar discussion. In addition, each learner has the option to participate in a capstone learning experience: developing a business plan week by week. At the end of the course, these plans will be reviewed and critiqued by a panel of highly-qualified experts and business professionals from emerging economies. Judges will vote on the business plans, and those with the newest, most innovative ideas will receive a prize awarded by the Sight and Life Foundation –helping bring their project to life!

The asynchronous course content draws upon existing case studies from Harvard’s Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies course, covering diverse sectors such as health care, commerce and eCommerce, fintech, and infrastructure. The content will focus on specific emerging economies across large geographic regions, such as India and South Asia, China, Africa, and Latin America. Learners will examine real-world case studies, understanding prior attempts to address challenges across emerging markets, identifying points of opportunity for smart entrepreneurial efforts, and proposing and developing their own creative solutions. The course also touches on issues related to financing, scaling operations, branding, management of property rights, and how to appropriately assess progress and social value–all in the context of the fast-growing but institutionally compromised settings of emerging markets.

Food Systems Live!: Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies enables participants to identify innovative, entrepreneurial approaches through online lectures, peer-to-peer learning, and live interactions with global leaders in food systems.

At a glance

  • Institution: HarvardX
  • Subject: Business & Management
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    Main prerequisite is an interest in identifying and working on entrepreneurial opportunities in food systems, agriculture, nutrition, and/or sustainability. Some exposure to business in any emerging economy is a plus.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Agriculture, Food Security, Property Rights, Innovation, Operations, Food Safety And Sanitation, Branding, Management, Supply Chain, Data Import/Export, Financial Technology (FinTech), Business Planning, Scalability

What you'll learn

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  • Appreciate how unique food system challenges in emerging economies have previously been addressed
  • Recognize the opportunities for improvements or innovations to solve food security and sustainability around the globe
  • Understand the concepts and frameworks for identifying and evaluating the viability of such opportunities
  • Apply an entrepreneurial mindset to various aspects of a business plan through live interactions with Harvard faculty and industry experts
  • Develop solutions to food system challenges that can be incorporated into your organization

Week 1: Identifying an Opportunity–Institutional Voids
Live Session: Saturday, January 28th 2023

Institutional voids are a defining characteristic of emerging markets. To be an effective entrepreneur, one has to learn to not only find a way around these institutional voids but also render them into opportunities. Week One's sessions will define what is meant by institutional voids, how these voids are prevalent throughout emerging markets, and the ways in which two companies in different African regions and industries effectively turned these voids into opportunities. Ultimately, winning in an emerging market often comes when an entrepreneur builds upon a simple idea, but one that is needed to fill or circumvent a challenging institutional void.

Business Plan Building Commences: At the end of each week, students will apply the lessons learned as a guide to building a solid business plan. The first week, for example, will focus on getting an entrepreneur to think about opportunities available in their region, and get the participant to think about practical and insightful ways to size their market, think about the stakeholders that would be involved in launching their ventures, as well as thinking about what strategic advantages they have that would lead to success.

Week 2: Standardization and Scaling
Live Session: Saturday, February 4th 2023

How does an entrepreneur decide which aspects of a viable business model lend themselves to standardization so that the model can be scaled? Is scale best sought in a particular instance within a country, a region, or continent-wide? Related to this, how does one make the pitch to providers of growth capital? How, if at all, does that pitch differ from that made to attract start-up capital in the first instance? Capital can be obtained from a range of sources, each with its pros and cons.

Week 3: Thinking about Your Brand
Live Session: Saturday, February 18th 2023

In this week, students will focus on building a brand that garners broad-based support and loyalty. Brands communicate intangible promises–trust, integrity, reliability, respect, among others. On a practical note, how can brands be conceived and nurtured in environments where the specialist intermediaries often helpful in building brands are not always available (market research firms, advertising platforms, agencies that value brands)? How should one think of the cost of branding one’s venture? To what extent is the paucity of trusted brands an opportunity rather than a limitation for the astute entrepreneur?

Week 4: Defending your business model from its inception
Live Session: Saturday, March 4th 2023

At the heart of Week Four's learning is the key question: How does an entrepreneur defend their idea? Put another way, how can you protect the results of your creativity? Patenting as a formal protective mechanism is sometimes useful, though for the most part has less utility in emerging markets such as those in Africa, India, or areas of Latin America when compared to mature economies. So how can one think more holistically, by incorporating other barriers to imitation? What are the tradeoffs involved in doing so?

Week 5: Partnerships and Platforms
Live Session: Saturday, March 11th 2023

Students this week will consider multiple platforms–ranging from government-sponsored initiatives to technology and media platforms–that an entrepreneur can tap into as vehicles for success. Indeed, all entrepreneurs should consider actively leveraging such entities. Platforms lower the cost of customer access, allow one to contribute to and benefit from knowledge sharing, and permit the continued reinvention of the business.

Week 6: Launching your Business Venture
Live Session: Saturday, March 25th 2023

The final week will focus on the execution of the business plan. All students participating in the business plan module will submit their final business plan in week six, and chosen for the final, live pitch session in front of a jury of business leaders and experts. The live session will then culminate in a course wrap up where the faculty will offer students a review of the course’s key learnings.

Learner testimonials

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“During South Africa's lockdown, I decided to better utilize my time and embark on an online course to enhance my knowledge. Professor Tarun Khanna of Harvard Business School was instrumental in teaching the meaning of institutional voids, showcasing various examples of entrepreneurial ventures within emerging markets and how to identify opportunities and cultivate solutions with lateral and human-centric thinking."
- Danita de Canha, Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies student from South Africa

"My parents have lived and worked in Africa and the Middle East for the best part of their lives. I live in London and I work in impact investing, which I have a passion for. The Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies course connected strongly with impact investing, especially on all things to do with institutional voids."
- Mark Alex Dimitriou, Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies student based in London

About the instructors

Frequently Asked Questions

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When do I need to enroll for this course? The enrollment deadline is January 23rd, 2023.

Are there financial aid opportunities or scholarships available for this course? Yes, in collaboration with Sight and Life, we are able to offer a limited number of full scholarships for this course. Apply here. The deadline to apply is January 6th, 2023.

How will this course be assessed? This course will be graded on a completion basis. For students to pass the course, full engagement with the reading material and online videos is required as well as attendance of the live webinar components and breakout sessions.

How is the course going to facilitate a conducive online experience? The course will offer multiple formats designed to be inclusive of all preferred learning styles. These include a lecture-style webinar every week for participants who sign up for the verified certificate, as well as small-group exercises.

What is the Business Plan component and is it required to complete the course? This component is entirely optional. Given that this is a course focused on building an entrepreneurial mindset, we strongly encourage students to participate in this capstone project to get the most out of the course. These business plans will be peer-reviewed and discussed in smaller groups. In addition, faculty and staff will curate them and select the best plans for a qualified jury to evaluate.

What support mechanisms will be available to ensure my success? Aside from the weekly discussions where course staff will facilitate engagement, students will be able to receive staff guidance as appropriate.

When are the weekly live sessions? The weekly live sessions are on the following Saturdays: January 28, February 4, February 18, March 4, March 11, and March 25.

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