How ziplining nomadic tribesmen could help to change people's perception of entrepreneurs

Photography book by Hong Kong NGO hopes to challenge the way we think about entrepreneurs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 3:14am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 3:43am

An Iranian who built a zipline to carry nomadic tribesmen and their livestock across a river and an unemployed person who grows vegetables in the centre of Detroit may seem to have little in common.

But both have a shot at being featured in a book that aims to change the way Hongkongers think about entrepreneurs.

While neither is likely to be featured in the Forbes 100, both are among the 2,000 submissions for The Other Hundred, a not-for-profit photography book by the Global Institute For Tomorrow (Gift), a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organisation.

Gift began the project last year to provide a "counterpoint to the mainstream media consensus about some of today's most important issues". The first edition focused on "people who are not rich, but deserve to be celebrated", while the second edition - to be published in December - focuses on entrepreneurship.

"Ninety-nine per cent of entrepreneurs never went to business school and never had a franchise ... who are they?" asked Gift's founder, Chandran Nair, yesterday.

Nair wants to challenge the conception linking wealth to successful entrepreneurship and instead give credit to the unsung heroes who support society's daily operations.

Members of the selection panel each have their own interpretations of entrepreneurship.

"It's somebody who's doing something new and somebody who's taking a risk," Simon Cartledge of Big Brains, a research and publishing company, said.

For Lisa Botos, of gallery Ooi Botos, it is about having a spirit of adaptability. "Some could be successful, and some are just beginning," she said.

While the panel is still wading through submissions from 130 countries, some examples have already stood out. These include a German family that has been making wooden vessels for six generations; a Vietnamese who makes affordable incubators for babies in a country where child mortality is high; and a group of Spanish musicians who take part in virtual concerts online.

Nair said there had been huge interest from mainland China and India, while they had received four submissions from Hong Kong - including from an old man who turned his fishing boat into a ferry and carries passengers to and from the city's outlying islands, and a family who recycles their waste.

But he said the book would not be part of the upcoming Book Fair because of a lack of interest from local bookstores, adding that Hongkongers seemed more interested in local events than people abroad. He hopes The Other Hundred can help widen their perspective.