The noble trend of Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR), has finally bloomed in South Korea. The notion of CSR stresses corporations the importance of being committed to ethical principles both in micro and macro level: that is, respectively, legal obligation and contribution toward a greater social utility. Corporations that are genuinely committed to the CSR aim for something bigger: substantial progress in social utility. Cleaner environment, lower poverty rate, better access to the education among the social minorities, for example, are some of the ultimate goals that those corporations try to achieve. Unfortunately, however, in Asian regions, the culture of CSR is still in a fledgling status; CSR is deemed to be the sole realm of huge multinational firms. South Korea, apparently, also had not been an exception--until now.
KakaoTalk’s First Social Impact Project, MAKERS
In May 2015, Kakao Corporation has launched a new mobile Build to Order (BTO) platform called “Makers with Kakao (MAKERS)” as the first project of its “Social Impact” Project. The “Social Impact” is the project in which Kakao seeks to utilize social media and mobile to fundamentally change conventional ways of living a greater social utility.
The platform is based on two key features: precision in consumer data and efficiency in production. First, the precision in consumer data--MAKERS allows the manufacturers that signed the contract with Kakao to receive orders from KakaoTalk users. Kakao will upload limited products that will be proposed by those registered enterprises on the MAKERS platform, which can be accessed by clicking its tab. Bags, clothes, figures and cups will be first products available. Secondly, in regard to the efficiency in production-vendors will be able to start production once the minimum order quantity is exceeded, therefore allowing themselves to receive higher guarantee in profits and lower waste from excessive production. MAKERS also offers consumers an option to request what is called “Encore Order.” Encore Order allows consumers who wish to buy ‘limited’ products on MAKERS after the original time interval to make an order to re-request the products. In other words, the products that are labeled as ‘limited’ on MAKERS platform are not actually ‘limited.’
The True Significance of MAKERS
MAKERS carries a heavy importance in the sense that it will progress social utility of Korea. Startups are rising as the new social trend as the problem of unemployment began to resurface. The biggest obstacle they mainly encounter, apparently, is the problem of insufficiency in both fund and marketing experience to fund the products that they wish to sell. MAKERS is expected to help those fledgling startups and ultimately form the social atmosphere that facilitates people’s startups.
MAKERS will be able to provide such ventures and startups the valuable opportunities to combat their insufficient financial capacities. MAKERS provides that platform for marketing. It not only reduces the cost for marketing but also the cost required to have access to a certain population of consumers.
Potential Obstacles the MAKERS Could Encounter
MAKERS has potential obstacles that need to be addressed as quickly as possible, because that obstacle can possibly contradict the MAKERS’s fundamental emphasis on CSR.
The most serious problem is information imbalance between producers that are signed with MAKERS and consumers who are trying to buy their products. MAKERS is a platform that is not only producer-based but also consumer-based, considering that it both tries to care about the consumers’ taste of item and producers’ efficiency in management. However, its features are slightly more based on producers’ utility. What makes this problematic is that consumers are unfairly treated in terms of amounts of information regarding productions they are provided. In order for producers to be part of the signed enterprises of MAKERS, they need to pass certain criteria MAKERS proposed them. First problem here is that consumers are not specifically aware of this criteria; in other words, MAKERS lack consumer transparency. Consumers deserve to know why certain enterprises are able to gain privilege to access potential buyers. Furthermore, consumers have comparatively less information regarding the productions than producers.
The only information that they can possibly get is what are uploaded by the producers and partially by the MAKERS. Also, those productions are not sold outside of the platform MAKERS provides due to its limitedness in production; thus, there exists no other ‘reliable’ source of information other than that on the platform. Plagiarism, therefore, is one of the possibilities of those imbalances of not only information but also trust.
Kakao May Be the First, but It Should Not Be the Last
Despite all the pros and potential cons of the MAKERS, it is undeniable that it brought the culture of a genuine corporate social responsibility. It is also important that CSR, in Korea, is finally no longer the sole realm of “Chaebol” companies--the wave of culture of entrepreneurship has at last begun in Korea. We should not let this wave to be halted.