Organic farms in Arunachal Pradesh, mobile schools and hospitals in Andhra Pradesh, efforts to cleaner cities in Delhi and Mumbai, the country’s youth has a large percentage of do-gooders. When the existing system does not satisfy them and they have the aspiration and determination to change the state of things, social entrepreneurs emerge like beacons of light.
In the vast, diverse diaspora that is India, the rise of such social entrepreneurs has been steady in the last decade.
India has been portrayed as a complex place to get things done – politically, culturally and geographically. But it is such complexities, which give rise to the best innovation. On the other hand, India has been celebrated as the leader for social entrepreneurship globally. When issues are complex, high level of innovation is automatically born to solve it. International collaborations will continue to forge the best solutions for not just India, but showcase it as a solution for the world.”
Mr. Vishnu Swaminathan, Leader South Asia, Ashoka India.
Opportunities and growth factors
Opportunities for social entrepreneurs and other social stakeholders in India are countless. Overall it can be said, that the huge number of people, the relative low cost of establishing a company, the vibrant social enterprise ecosystem and India’s challenges with poverty are main reasons for the rise of social entrepreneurs in India. In addition, India’s social entrepreneurship ecosystem is one of the most sophisticated in the world, giving multiple possibilities to connect with local partners, to learn and to pursue innovative solutions to one of India’s numerous social challenges in the fields of education, agriculture, healthcare, renewable energy, manufacturing and skills development.
Many of the current growth can also be attributed to the current government’s outlook to promote India as a digitally enabled country with innovative ideas. Many technology entrepreneurs have become social entrepreneurs aspiring to create cheaper and easily available benefits to the rural and poor. Social entrepreneurship is on the verge of hitting a tipping point. The generation Y is a new, connected, socially-conscious, energized global cohort who finds innovation for good very appealing.
As the Government of India comes up with more schemes to support social entrepreneurs, India continues to witness the huge shift towards an entrepreneurship business model. This 2016, as the focus shifted from Unicorn companies to small businesses, perhaps we can see a shift on our focus from the revenue generated to the lives impacted.
Brun healthcare is battling the number of stillbirths in rural India with its patented new labor-monitoring tool that helps midwives in rural areas to monitor the delivery.
Healthcare is a rising area of both concern and opportunity. Majority of the Indian population is rural, poor and with limited access to healthcare. The medical help provided in many places in India is still not monitored and sometimes done by unqualified people. It is enterprises like Brun that lead the path to a better tomorrow. Another aspect to the ill health is poor living conditions and lack of clean drinking water.
Swami Samarth has developed a safe, durable, and clean biomass cook stove, designed to meet the needs of women in rural India. It is a much needed change to the Indian woman who is affected by indoor air pollution due to lack of access to clean cook stove and suffers many health problems.
Team SOS spoke with an aspiring social entrepreneur, Yeshasvi Pachpore, the Founder, Digimpact Labs. Yeshasvi feels, “Social entrepreneurship has been present in India in different forms like corporate philanthropy and non-profits. With so many committed people, it has helped India in ensuring inclusive growth but these models have their own limitations and the need surpasses the resources. To expedite the process of inclusive growth, more people should be committed to address the needs as well as the model should focus on self sustainability rather than philanthopy and working on grant based non-profit models where operational costs take over the social objective.”
Of course with a country as huge as ours, this is a big step and maybe hybrid models that generate revenue while fulfilling social goals can be opted.
In her credit, Yeshasvi is taking positive steps to ensure India does achieve the dream of her Prime Minister of making a digitally enabled country- “At Digimpact, we started with working on data driven decision making for social organizations by generating better insights and converting these insights to actions in real time. We developed a data collection app for android, which works offline and supports multiple languages and we are working on developing program design and visualization dashboard. The other stream of work we focus on, is developing data driven, technology enabled business solutions which can directly link the underprivileged groups to bigger markets, improve their livelihoods and bring them to mainstream groups contributing to country’s economy rather than be always seen as economic burden depending on grants and schemes.”
Challenges and the way ahead
Networks and organizations like Sankalp Forum, supporting early stage social entrepreneurs are increasing to support the growing need for quality support; fueling a high-impact social entrepreneurship ecosystem. But the challenges even in the present ecosystem where there is so much connectivity are many.
The major concerns of an average social entrepreneur in India today is first the lack of funding. The lack of funding creates a cascading effect on some important areas like finding a strong team and also in creating strategic plans to scale up.
Yeshasvi says, “The main challenge which I find for social entrepreneurs who are new in the sector is to find the right connect which can help them reach the beneficiaries. Social entrepreneurship should be formally recognized by government as a field of endeavor, courses should be provided by prestigious collages so that best practices and capacities can be replicated faster for social change rather than be limited to few geographical areas. It is not always necessary to innovate, most of the times appropriate replication of best practices can achieve the desire results.”