“Our goal is to generalize the CSR culture among companies. We plan to organize workshops by 2023 in schools and high schools, hoping that the initiative will be facilitated by public bodies “. More details with Emna Kefi, digital expert. Interview.
Can you give us a brief overview of your professional background?
I am a digital expert and I started my career in 2002 in the maritime sector as an operations manager with the mission to modernize work processes. After 3 years, I joined AfDB as a SAP consultant (ERP) for a one year assignment. I then joined a multinational specializing in digital, a multi-channel technology platform where I was initially responsible for major clients, ending up in the position of customer service director and managing nearly 300 clients. In 2013 I launched into entrepreneurship where I co-founded my first WEB agency “Jasmine Interactive”, where I was a consultant-expert in digital marketing, seconded to French clients. The CSR APP has come along the way and was officially launched in 2020.
What was the trigger that prompted you to design your platform?
We have always had the gift of transforming a story into a web project, one of our customers wanted to communicate his CSR Corporate Social Responsibility strategy with his plants. In fact, after an internal audit, he realized that his employees had no idea what the box was doing in terms of CSR. He therefore asked us to design and develop a tool that allows this.
We launched the prototype at the end of 2015, after a few months we had almost 70% of the employees using the platform regularly. Following this success, the client launched the CSR week, an annual meeting where solidarity projects, support for associations multiply … These results impressed us, so we became interested in CSR and here we are with a platform entirely dedicated to CSR.
How did you develop your project?
We started by training on CSR, its scope, its history … and then we move on to the study of the needs of companies, employees, consumers … Do you know that 70% of employees say they are frustrated at not being involved? in the CSR strategy of their companies. More than 50% of consumers want brands to communicate their commitments. Furthermore, less than 30% of companies do CSR versus 70% who really want to.
We then did a technological check to find out if CSR platforms already exist. And to our surprise, the market was still a virgin.
What is the main concept of your startup?
The CSR APP is a web application, i.e. a SAAS platform dedicated to the operational management of CSR. It is the first African platform specialized in CSR and one of the first CSR platforms in Europe. It allows a company to manage its CSR online by involving its staff in the CSR actions it implements. It also allows you to communicate with stakeholders about your actions. We start from a basic reference and each central question is broken down into several objectives, each objective can be achieved in different ways: solidarity activities, employee input on a certain theme, surveys, articles, etc.
Each action has its own report which can be shared internally or with its stakeholders. There is then a report by objective, a report by central question and an overall report on the entire reference framework. The platform has three versions: a multi-country, multi-branch, multi-department big account version: the company can set goals by country, by branches, by departments … for example, you can set goals for the office purchases of the subsidiary Parisian in France. Shares can be assigned to managers of all purchasing departments, all branches and all countries combined.
We also have a Startup version, with a training and consulting component, in which we introduce startups and SMEs to CSR and set the benchmark for them according to international standards (ISO 26000). We also propose goals and ensure follow-up.
As for the CSR Consultant version, we integrate the consultants’ audit sheets and we rely on certain results to set the axes on which the company will work.
How does your platform make life easier for customers?
It is a digital solution, therefore, a huge time saver for carrying out the actions. Plus, everything is concentrated in one place, which makes it easier for you to prepare reports. And ultimately, communicating with stakeholders is just a click away.
For now, our customers are satisfied and renew their subscriptions every year. We work in “white label”, which involves the non-disclosure of references.
How do you see the evolution of your project?
It is an internal product first developed within our WEB agency prior to its official launch as a startup in 2020. We have not used external funding. Fundraising is possible, but it will come later. For now, we are more interested in acquiring customers.
What are the most memorable occasions of your career?
I have been lucky to have a very rich career, but if I have to talk about a highlight, it will be our participation in Emerging Valley in 2019. We have been selected to represent Tunisia during this event. This is my first introduction to the start-up ecosystem. At 40 I was surrounded by young start-ups aged 20 to 25 who spoke a language I did not understand, I was struck by their determination, their ability to defend their projects, to find financing … They gave me the desire to be successful and taught me the tricks of the entrepreneurial world.
I advise young people to start as employees before embarking on their own project, it may be advice from the older generation, but it is important to work for someone, to know how it goes concretely before launching. The administrative aspect, the human resources aspect, the financial aspect can be a handicap for creativity.
The other piece of advice I could give is to choose your partners well. I had the chance to meet two fantastic people, Julien and Khaled, with whom we share the same values. We were able to complement each other, as we have a different background. The three of us combine technology, commercial aspects and customer loyalty We are a collective of agencies based between France and Tunisia, most of our customers are European but we strongly believe in Africa and we want to expand from here. We support young African start-ups through the SIBC (mentoring) program, we sponsor the “Lighthouse of Tunisian Entrepreneurship” organized by Aceede, our “start-up s’engage” offer is a very interesting offer where we support startups by presenting them to the CSR and offering them our platform at a reduced price. But this is not enough, we want to generalize the culture of CSR among young people, we plan to conduct workshops, in 2023, in schools and high schools, we hope that the initiative will be facilitated by public bodies.
What will the new big trends be?
I believe that Covid-19 has had a positive impact and has allowed the introduction of digital technology in Tunisian homes. Today the “Tunisian” digital is mainly based on RS. I don’t know if I can afford to criticize this, but with my students we analyze every year the Tunisian-style communication the “souk: tlammoutlammou” the “prices please” the “REP MP” … I have to admit that’s how it begins to give fruits. I think, in the next 10 years, the foundations will be adopted by the market, e-commerce platforms, sites, online orders… we will end up aligning or exporting our strategy.
What is the benefit for a large group of acquiring young innovative start-ups?
Freshness, novelty, audacity but also “duty” we must lend a hand to young people and believe in them and it is for the good of the whole community. Customers are important too, without customers we don’t exist. Whoever says technology says continuous evolution, so we need to dedicate time to Research and Development. You also need to open up to the world, not limit yourself to a niche clientele. So I would say both are equally important.
What mistakes shouldn’t a young startup leader make?
Your product must meet a real need. Any beginner must listen to his client to adapt to his needs. It is necessary to have a stable economic model to reduce its costs, which must be continuously updated. Furthermore, the operational aspect must not be neglected, the daily management of the company is very important and can guarantee the sustainability of a company or not.
Can technology contribute to the happiness of society?
After 20 years in the digital world, I would say yes, it makes things easier, improves daily life, but also increases loneliness and the number of lonely people.
Virtual life must never replace human contact: shopping, touching the product, chatting with the seller, meeting new people, calling each other, seeing each other for large and small occasions… they must be part of our daily life.
What will you say to conclude?
I love the concept of CSR: taking future generations, the land, the people (employees, customers, suppliers, etc.). I can’t wait to see the concept of CSR generalized and adopted by all companies.