DBS, a Singapore-headquartered bank notable for its digital-focused approach, has awarded S$1.1 million (US$825,000) to 14 social enterprises, as part of the 2017 Social Enterprise Grant Programme run by its social entrepreneurship foundation.

The grants awarded ranged from S$50,000 (US$37,500) and S$160,000 (US$120,000). The startups that received them spanned across DBS’s key markets, including Hong Kong, China, India, Indonesia and Taiwan and were selected based on their ability to identify and address a social need as well as their business model sustainability and business innovation model.

In an official press release, the DBS Foundation said the grants will enable these startups to scale their businesses and commercialise their solutions. It hopes that the startups will be able to generate jobs for the underprivileged and build eco-friendly solutions relating to food and waste management.

“As a purpose-driven organisation, we believe that it is crucial for us to create impact beyond banking…beyond grant funding, we look forward to working with them to help them do well and do good, whether through mentorship, knowledge sharing with other experienced SEs, or by providing DBS procurement opportunities,” said Karen Ngui, Board Member of DBS Foundation and DBS’ Head of Group Strategic Marketing & Communications.

The DBS Foundation was established in 2014 with S$50 million (US$37.5 million) in its war chest. Since then, it has awarded S$3.5 million (US$2.6 million) to over 260 social enterprises.

So, without further ado, let’s check out the 14 social enterprises that received this new round of grants.


This Singapore startup hires Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) to do transcribing for its video captioning service. The company currently transcribes about 20 video hours per month and hopes to increase that number to 200 hours per month. It also aims to use the funding to increase its PwDs team to 12 by this year and ramp up product development.

Edible Garden City

This Singapore startup aims to make cities more self-sufficient by helping real estate companies, businesses as well as individuals to develop and maintain edible gardens. It integrates natural systems with technology such as hydroponics, aquaponics and insect farming.

The gardens can be grown in underutilised spaces such as rooftops and under viaducts. The company wants to use the grant to develop and scale up microgreens production and for development of closed loop agriculture systems.


This Singapore startup wants to reduce organic by-product wastage generated within the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry, through upcycling.

For example, they are currently testing the concept by focusing on the juice industry, upcycling fruit juice pulp and peel wastage into animal feed for the Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Using biochemical technology to process byproduct wastage, they turn the byproducts into usable products such as organic eco-friendly detergents or essential oils currently used in beauty and skin care products.

The company will use the grant to accelerate its product research and marketing efforts.

Pure Milk Co.

The Taiwanese startup wants to help small farms become more sustainable by purchasing safe milk from them at fair trade prices then reselling them. The company ensures that the milk is in good condition and all nutritional information is transparent.

Pure Milk Co. also offers vet training so farmers can become more effective cattle vets. The company also collaborates with other social enterprises in Taiwan to boost the industry’s logistics fulfillment and delivery services.

The company will use the funding to establish SOPs, data management systems; gather market intelligence on dairy products; and build equipment in cold chain logistics.

Knight Digital Technology

This Taiwanese startup has built an online platform that helps delivery drivers optimise their travel routes so they can deliver goods to needy families more effectively.

The company has helped 30 trucks deliver about 1,883 items, assisting about 360 families every year. It will use the grant to enhance its cloud-based intelligent container warehousing, and expand its business operations network to increase employment opportunities.


This Taiwanese startup develops eco-friendly pest control services using its greenhouse bee rearing technology, helping farmers improve their production while being eco-friendly and also providing safer conditions for bees to produce honey.

It will use the grant to increase production capacity, raise awareness on the importance of bees to the environment and food security.


This Taiwanese startup uses IoT solutions to upcycle agricultural waste and organic waste from biogas power generators and water treatment plants into organic fertiliser.

Its goal is to establish “electricity-generating composting areas” and aims to develop non-pesticide cultivation management techniques for clean, good-value food through the IoT.

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It will use the grant for team expansion, research and development on IoT-based smart farming management.

Eco-Greenergy Limited

This Hong Kong startup wants to proliferate food waste recycling initiatives. For example, its Zero Ground Coffee campaign upcycles used coffee grounds from cafes into compostable products such as soap, fertiliser and flower pots. 5 per cent of the campaign’s profit was donated to food waste-related research teams in Hong Kong to support long-term industry development.

It will use the grant to set up a production and activity facility in Hong Kong and to develop new products such as compostable cutlery from coffee grounds.

Fantastic Dream

This Hong Kong-based startup uses prominent YouTubers and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in Hong Kong to “positively influence and inspire youths”. It organises events and talk shows for teenagers to inspire to chase their dreams and educate them on the dangers of addictions.

Additionally, it develops career education content and youth engagement programmes on YouTube. Fantastic Dream will use the grant to develop new content and youth engagement initiatives.

Du’Anyam Weaving Goods

This Indonesian startup wants to help traditional wicker weaving workers, who are women in rural Indonesia, find a larger market via its e-commerce wholesale craft platform.

To date, it has helped over 400 women artisans and aims to increase that number to 2,000 by 2020. The company aims to use the grant to expand and streamline production, increase sales via the online platform, and expand overseas.

Pandawa Agri Indonesia (PAI)

This Indonesian startup has a grand ambition: It wants to half the growth of synthetic agriculture products. It aims to achieve this by developing eco-friendly weed and pest solutions that can help farmers achieve 30 per cent cost savings.

The team works alongside farmers, educating them on the negative effects of high pesticide application. It also trains young people as “Agriculture Ambassadors” to inculcate youth appreciation.

The company will use the grant to set up a new production facility.

HarvestWild Organic Solutions

This Indian startup aims to turn “neglected agricultural produce into a useful product”. For example, during the lean agriculture season, they encourage farmers in remote areas to collect soap nuts from surrounding forest areas and convert the nuts into liquid laundry and dishwashing detergents.

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This line of organic detergents is called BubbleNut Wash and the company hopes it can replace chemical-intensive products.

It will use the grant to set up a solvent extraction unit and expand its team.


This Indian startup has built a low-cost, modular greenhouse bundled with end-to-end services called the “Greenhouse-in-a-Box” (GIB). Its objective would be to help farmers grow seven times more food using 90 per cent less water.

Kheyti also works with partners to extend farmer financing, input connections, ongoing production advice as well as market access. It claims it can guarantee farmers supplemental incomes of at least S$100 (US$75) per month.

The company will use the grant to drive the product to full-scale commercial launch.


This Chinese startup helps students in rural China plan their careers by connecting them with professionals from all walks of life.

The professionals can contribute their stories via video, voice, text through WeChat and other media platforms. The company will use the grant to strengthen the online platform, recruit quality guest speakers so they can reach out to at least 2,500 rural secondary students.