Connecting directly with workers and communities glonally to get feedback and create a more transparent and responsible supply chain.
Pitch us on your solution
The company's vision is a world where workers are actively engaged in improving their working conditions. Where technology facilitates inclusive social dialogue to ensure workers can effectively and safely engage with suppliers, buyers and supporting third-parties to achieve a living wage, ensure basic human rights, health and safety standards, access to skills training, and freedom of association.
The vision is bold, innovative because the average corporate supply chain has more than 5,000 different suppliers; many MNCs have over 50,000 suppliers. Five years from now, Ulula's thought leadership and efforts to transform conventional approaches to audits will result in making worker voice mainstream. Ulula's productized turn-key worker voice tool will be in the market, enabling companies to self-onboard and deploy the tool across their supply chain.
What is the problem you are solving?
Globalization and geopolitical issues in the last 30 years have contributed to worker exploitation and cheap labor preventing access to living wages and working conditions void of human rights violations. According to the International Labour Organization, there are an estimated 40 million global modern-day slaves, driving an estimated annual profit of US$150 billion. Despite increasing regulation mandating greater human rights due diligence and disclosures in the U.K, France, Australia and beyond; discrimination, harassment, and other abuses are pervasive. Further dislocations from the 4th industrial revolution are also threatening to undermine labor bargaining position.
To address this challenge, Ulula built a worker voice platform that connects businesses to the workers they affect to create more transparent, accountable and productive supply chains. By leveraging diverse and accessible information communication technology to connect businesses with their stakeholders in real-time, companies gather information in real-time directly from stakeholders and enhance social dialogue between the stakeholders. Workers submit information anonymously and data is analyzed to provide companies a comprehensive living report on conditions inside factory walls. Not only does this aim to mitigate risk but also ensures complete transparency across the supply chain anywhere in the world to better manage working conditions.
Who are you serving?
With nearly 3.3 billion workers unable to obtain a decent livelihood (ILO), Ulula has the potential to impact a large portion of the world's workforce.
Due to the challenges of accessing remote production sites, cost, and cultural and language barriers, today, organizations and companies rarely collect worker insights to capture on-the-ground realities in factories and agricultural fields across the world. When they do, they predominantly rely on traditional communication means: interviews, focus groups, street surveys. With an estimated 40 million (ILO) modern-day slaves, these methods of consultation do not provide the confidentiality and anonymity that workers would require to report on instances of slavery, forced labour or workplace harassment.
In 2013, 1,134 workers lost their lives in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. Six months ago, 300 died in the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil. The two incidents occurred in different regions, sectors and time. Yet, the two tragedies received a clean audit before the accidents and workers documented the problems (sometimes on their cellphones) but were never heard. Ulula provides an alternative and complementary solution to address the failures of the current model by creating a safe, accessible feedback channel for the workers.
What is your solution?
Using Ulula's tool, clients and partners can continuously monitor labour conditions, enabling them to address issues proactively and invest in remediation programs. Suppliers benefit from a more engaged workforce, reducing turnover, thereby increasing productivity and demonstrating compliance. Workers are continuously engaged and have the ability to contribute insights and anonymously to raise grievances across the entire supply chain.
Workers can interact with the system through accessible communication channels including voice calls, text message, custom apps, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger as well as the web to adapt to local context and needs. The Ulula platform works across languages and scripts to ensure stakeholders can easily participate. The integrated platform for data collection and content management enables:
Automated surveys support compliance and impact monitoring. Features such as skip logic, sampling, randomization and airtime incentives ensure clients get a robust representative data according.
Grievance mechanism enables workers to anonymously report an incident or a grievance. --
The case management function provides a simple and easy mechanism to respond to feedback and resolve questions in a collaborative, timely and effective manner.
Broadcast content to support content and information sharing (alerts, check-ins, capacity building, and training).
Visual dashboards are accessible to authorized users to view real-time analytics on a single and unified dashboard through their personalized and secure access.
Through strategic partnerships, Ulula is positioned to scale deployment globally. Partnerships with hundreds of mobile operators enable data collection through mobile phones in over 100 countries. Ulula also has global deployment partnerships to meet client growth requirements.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?Toronto, ON, Canada
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Ulula offers the most cost-effective, accessible and scalable worker voice solution allowing clients and partners to reach more vulnerable workers. Ulula offers more channels including SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, web forms and apps. Partnerships with global telecommunication channels ensure Ulula can deploy almost anywhere where clients source from. Unlike competitors, Ulula's use of AI and chatbots scale and automate the process, allowing clients to scale across their supply chain and visualize aggregated labour data in real-time on their dashboards.
The solution is also easy to integrate into product offering of professional service providers (e.g. auditors, consulting firms) to improve their verification systems and scale more rapidly, across their entire supply chain, from raw materials to final production. Clients can customize and adapt Ulula's tool to match their monitoring needs and operational strategies (Ulula is a modular platform), making Ulula one of the more flexible solutions on the market.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Combining accessible communication channels with sophisticated AI-powered chatbots and analytics, technology is at the heart of Ulula's core solution.
Ulula's multilingual platform enables accessible digital engagement that can facilitate the creation of continuous, accessible and anonymized monitoring systems for victims and communities to report slavery, human trafficking and abusive workplaces, enabling organizations, governments, and companies with ground-truthed data to design locally sustainable and scalable solutions to end labour rights abuses. Automated SMS and voice chatbot interactions that work on any device and do not require internet connection will ensure that our communication systems are accessible to the broad population irrespective of literacy levels or access to more advanced technology such as smartphones. Using multiple languages will ensure accessibility for migrant workers.
The platform allows people to access real-time visual analytics, providing an instant and holistic overview of labour conditions across their global supply chain. The system can be easily configured to create specific privileges for different user groups to access the data according to their needs and responsibilities. The approach also enables data sharing between supply chain actors and across buyers and brands to support collaboration for better impact across the supply chain. The data can be easily downloaded in csv formats and integrated into other ERP systems through API endpoints such as Microsoft Azure and SupplyShift.
Ulula is working with several blockchain partners to explore how to store worker voice data into the supply chain ledger and planning to leverage
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Ulula works in countries with a high risk of forced labor including China, India, The Congo and Indonesia where a total estimated 14 million modern slaves live. Ulula has now deployed its system in 18 countries with high social and labor risks, directly reaching 300,000 workers.
Conflict minerals, DRC: In partnership with the International Peace and Information Service (IPIS) and funding from Apple Inc., Ulula collected the largest dataset on labor and human rights impacts in five provinces, offering representative insights for 115,000 miners working in the area. The impact study has been used by Apple Inc. in its SEC conflict minerals filing
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil - Indonesia and Malaysia: Ulula and the RSPO collaboratively designed a worker voice survey instrument aligned with the RSPO Principles and Criteria, and a worker feedback intake form, which was launched at estates and mills in Indonesia and Malaysia.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Ulula's financial impact is measured by the ability to meet revenue targets determined yearly. Social impact is measured by the number of workers on our system and change in working conditions reported through the platform.
Financial viability ensures longevity. Social impact indicates progress towards company goals. Ulula's top three goals support Ulula's goal of scaling globally to ensure access to the solution:
1. Grow and scale projects with each client each year by increasing sites and facilities.
2. Bring 500,000 more workers on the system
3. Grow the team internationally by hiring full-time staff outside of North America
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Similar to other cloud software solutions, privacy presents a potential external risk. Ulula works with highly sensitive information, such as worker insights, supplier performance and social compliance analytics. As a trusted third-party, Ulula is trusted to ensure proper safeguards are in place to protect against data breaches.
Effectively managing internal growth as the team hires more talent is an internal challenge. In the last 18 months, the Ulula team secured large scale projects with sector leaders such as the Responsible Business Alliance, and The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. Using venture capital funding, the team will nearly double in size in the next eight months to meet increasing client, partnership and R&D demand. The leadership team is currently undergoing an inclusive approach to determine how to best support the company through this transition.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
With support from IBM, Ulula manages privacy risk by hosting the solution on secure servers. The Ulula system is inherently protective of workers' identities, encrypting phone numbers as soon as a worker engage with the tool. All the data that comes into the platform via telecommunication channels is safely stored and secured. The technical team and Ulula's Chief Technology Officer conduct regular 'stress tests' and work closely with telecommunication partners to monitor potential hacks. Ulula is also compliant with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards on data privacy and security. Considered to be the world's leading and most rigorous data privacy regulation, GDPR has influenced other updates to privacy regulations and policies.
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How many people work on your solution team?
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Ulula is an award-winning social enterprise with headquarters in Toronto, management in New York, and the technology team in Lahore, Pakistan.
Originally a U.S. company, thanks to Toronto's supportive technology and innovation ecosystem, Ulula moved its headquarters to Canada in 2017. Since the move, the Toronto team has benefited from access to talent, funding opportunities, and innovation partners, which continue to help the company grow and scale.
Ulula's CEO, Antoine Heuty is strategically based in New York to capture the U.S. market and participate in local events and activities where many key stakeholders have their operations. The development team in Lahore has been with Ulula since its inception and has been invaluable to Ulula's success and growth. To meet increasing demand, the team plans to build a local development team in Toronto.
While Ulula's technology is critical to the company's success and ability to meet client requirements, the unique value proposition and competitive advantage lie in the team's intellectual property and subject matter expertise. The team is comprised of 18 industry professionals in technology, data analytics, stakeholder engagement, and business and human rights. The diverse and multi-disciplinary team has deep experience working across emerging markets and designing human-centered programs to help create tangible benefits and value for all stakeholders. The management team brings over 60 collective years in social impact, international development, management, consulting and economics.
What is your business model?
Ulula is a SaaS-based social enterprise with recurring revenues from software licenses.
Ulula has grown substantially both in revenue and team size, demonstrating both market demand and willingness to pay for the software. In 2018, the team nearly doubled revenue from 2017. In 2019, the team has booked more than half a million US dollars in deals and well positioned to meet the annual target of US$1.4 million.
While the company continues to operate on a lean model, the team has secured nearly US$300,000 from various grant funding programs and closed USD$2,000,000 in venture capital investment from two rounds in Q42017 and Q22019.
Ulula's ability to scale quickly strengthens the business model and revenue generating potential in the future. Based on market trends and historical sales, Ulula is projected to reach US$8 million in revenue in 2021.
Why are you applying to Solve?
In 2017, Ulula launched SpotOn using prize money from a previous Toronto pitch competition. The initiative is dedicated to gathering labour data to support the efforts of grassroots organizations to improve working conditions in the palm oil, minerals, and textile sector. In collaboration with local partners in Tamil Nadu, India, Ulula has sourced data from over 600 garment workers.
Resources from being selected as a Solver will help scale SpotOn to Cobalt in the DRC, Palm Oil in Indonesia, and garment in Vietnam. Funding will cover deployment and telecommunication costs; marketing and outreach efforts to inform key stakeholders of the SpotOn project and findings.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?