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Transforming a Hidden Gem into a Sustainable Tilapia Enterprise

From Folk Wisdom to Financial Feasibility: A Social Enterprise Strategy for Sustainable Growth

a man holding a tilapia fish over a bowl
a man holding a tilapia fish over a bowl

Synopsis:

This case study explores the journey of a social enterprise company that partnered with a remote village in Southern Thailand. The company discovered a treasure trove of folk wisdom and a breeding ground for high-quality tilapia, but the villagers struggled to earn a fair living. By collaborating, the project aimed to:

  • Increase village income: Transform tilapia into high-value-added products.

  • Achieve zero waste: Utilize every part of the fish to create value.

  • Improve livelihoods: Empower villagers through sustainable practices.

As a strategic analyst and feasibility expert, I was drawn to the project that fueled by my passion for sustainable development, I embarked on a comprehensive feasibility analysis to unlock its true potential.

Challenge:

  • The initial business plan lacked financial feasibility. Key unknowns included pricing, real costs, waste from transportation and processing, and competition from domestic tilapia.

  • The existing tilapia operation faced several limitations: low-value products, limited market access, and reliance on intermediaries.

  • Additionally, their customer base mainly consisted of budget-conscious Malaysian buyers, limiting potential income growth. The selling price has already been set, so raising the price is very challenging because it is the same product.

Methodology:

A comprehensive feasibility study was conducted in 4-months, analyzing:

  • Target market: High-end restaurants and consumers seeking premium fish.

  • Competition: Domestic tilapia and imported alternatives.

  • Production costs: Farming, processing, packaging, and transportation.

  • Profitability: Projected sales volume, margin, and return on investment.

With a comprehensive approach was adopted, focusing on:

  • Branding: Partnering with a fish breeding company to introduce a superior tilapia strain, "Black Pearl," known for its unique texture and flavor.

  • Sustainable Practices: Implementing a zero waste system and optimizing breeding, minimizing waste, and adhering to strict environmental standards.

  • Community Empowerment: Collaborating with villagers, providing training, and ensuring fair profit sharing.

  • Value Creation: Developing premium packaging, and crafting a compelling brand story.

  • Marketing: Identifying high-value customers seeking premium, sustainably sourced tilapia.

  • Financial analysis: Assessing project profitability and potential return on investment.

Project Deliverables:

Financial analysis: Identified the project's current unprofitability due to:

  • Low sales volume: Target customer group not purchasing enough.

  • Domestic competition: Price sensitivity and cheaper alternatives.

  • High waste: Weight loss during processing and transportation impacting costs.

  • High selling & admin expenses: Relative to sales revenue.

Recommendations:

  • Pilot testing: Test sales to see results without investing in a marketing plan, including risk exposure or increased sales opportunities.

  • Focus on exports: Achieve higher profit per unit and compete on quality.

  • Optimize production: Minimize waste and reduce costs.

  • Reduce selling & admin expenses: Improve operational efficiency.

  • Maintain data-driven decision-making: Regularly track key metrics and conduct market research to identify future plans.

Conclusion:

The project serves as a valuable case study for social enterprises seeking to balance social impact with financial sustainability. While the initial outcome fell short of profitability expectations, the project laid a strong foundation for future success. A comprehensive analysis before launch, understanding the target market and competition, optimizing production to minimize waste and maximize efficiency, and aligning social impact with profit are all essential elements for sustainable success.

A valuable case study for social enterprises, demonstrating the need for careful planning and ongoing exploration of alternative models and partnerships to achieve its mission of empowering the community and promoting sustainable practices, seeking solutions that achieve both social impact and financial viability in the long run.

Ready to tackle your own complex feasibility study or learn more? Let's discuss your project and how my expertise can help you achieve your goals, or contact me to explore potential collaborations.