What It Takes For Social Entrepreneurs To Succeed In India

Social entrepreneurship has the ability to work towards eradicating all social evils and bring about a social impact that is beneficial for all.

Where India has been rated as the third largest Entrepreneurial industry in the world, the country is also home to nearly 350 million people living below poverty line (World Bank reports).

While many do not even taste the fruit of education or jobs, about a third of the total 1.2 billion population is devoid of any of the basic amenities of food, shelter, clothing and healthcare. 

How about ideas where both entrepreneurship and these social issues of the country get intermingled to make India a country with brighter future for the underprivileged as well?

Social entrepreneurship has the ability to work towards eradicating all social evils and bring about a social impact that is beneficial for all. These social changes are much more effective than what a Non-governmental Organization (NGO) is able to fulfil. While NGOs only come into play when there is a major upheaval or uprising regarding a prime social evil, and effect short-term, small-scale and transient changes, social entrepreneurship can aim to strive for long-term goals with more prompt and permanent effects. Areas where government support systems and NGOs fail, social entrepreneurship has proved to thrive better.

Social Entrepreneurships are emerging as effective business models as the business idea is motivated more by social benefits rather than personal gains and eradicating social problems is the main motto and earning profits is secondary.

Whether it be the Grameen Bank of handicapped Dr. Muhammad Yunnus that has received the Nobel Peace Prize and offers low-interest loans to the poor who have nothing to pose as the collateral or security in case they are not able to repay the loan amount, or the Aravind Eye Hospital by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy and Thulasiraj D Ravilla way back in 1976 that has treated more than two million patients, mostly for free or the Social Entrepreneur Award winner, Brij Kothari of ‘Planet Read and Bookbox’ that aims at getting rid of illiteracy, we have a successful business model in making in India: Social Entrepreneurship.

Just Change, SEWA, Childline, Barefoot College, Fair Trade Forum, Dream a Dream, et al are just a few of the success stories.

If you are driven by passion, innovative solutions and ambition to eradicate social issues of the country through business breakthroughs, you may build a successful social empire with lesser challenges and better facilities for all. But for that you first need to be aware of the roadblocks and understand the ways in which you can succeed:

Figure out what social cause affects you the most

You may not be able to solve all issues and tackle all problems. So make a list of the causes that affect you the most and work on the cause that you most strongly feel about. Then find out why this cause is troubling you and what are the issues within the cause that you would need to handle. You may be able to figure out effective and cheaper ways to solve the issue or else you can engage yourself with NGOs at first to understand where your passion lies.

Research on Incubators, Universities and Institutes Offering Guidance and Finance

There are business corporations and Incubators such as Rainer Arnhold Fellowship that is a two-year fellowship and trains you to solve health, poverty and conservation issues in developing countries. You will also get around INR 60,000 as an annual stipend. UnLtd India in Mumbai again offers a one-year programme for people working on projects both part-time and full-time. There is a vast funding that is offered for people working at different levels. A summer fellowship called Unreasonable Institute plays a pivotal role in training entrepreneurs with necessary skills by taking them all the way to US to work with mentors and entrepreneurs across the globe. At the end of a successfully completed programme, entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas to the investors, who will then choose to fund some of the best concepts. Echoing Green is yet another initiative that offers two-year fellowship for social entrepreneur start-ups where grants are allowed separately for individuals and partner groups. Entrepreneurs are also offered with stipends and health insurance deals in this programme. There are some firms that dedicatedly invest in social entrepreneur companies that can have a positive impact on the society. Some are Agora partnerships, Acumen Fund, First Light Ventures and Good Capital.

Have a big idea but start with a small initiative in a niche area

Make partnerships with individuals and organizations that are compatible with your idea and have the same goals and objectives to achieve stability in your venture and learn what will be good for the company and what will not. You may partner with other small-scale organizations, matching your scale, to give your venture the necessary base.

Aim towards Financial sustainability of the business and not individual profits

Since yours is not a traditional business idea and hence is not aimed at keeping profit margins, you need to affiliate your venture with a charity organization or an institution working for a cause, donate some company profits and fundraise using innovative methods that bring out the social element in your business idea.

There are some self-help groups in India that consist of few people who gather their savings per month and collect them in a funding account from where they can borrow when needed. This especially happens in the rural set-up. The group may be linked to a bank where they all hold a joint account. The group is deemed eligible for a bank loan after at least six months of repaying loans among the group members. The bank relies on its monitoring of this group and the peer pressure. The idea of micro-financing works very well with the poor as they do not have money to open a bank account, neither can they offer collaterals in lieu of their loan, nor are they able to deal with the paperwork formalities on account of their illiteracy.

The success rates of Bharatiya Samruddhi Investments and Consulting Services and SKS Microfinanace that lends microloans and insurance to poor women in rural areas of India bear a testimony to the fact that microfinance is a fast mushrooming field in India, especially in the impoverished places of the country.

Change is the only constant thing

You may have to try different techniques and business tactics or models to finally taste success. Don’t be hopeful that the moment you launch your start-up it will be ready and growing. For people to understand and relate to your business idea, it takes time and much of patience.

Check Out Web Resources

To maintain and kindle your interest in social entrepreneurship, you can check out these web resources viz., www.ilid.org, www.ediindia.org and www.nsef-india.org. While ILID helpa social entrepreneurs understand, innovate and improve upon delivering their best efforts and coming up with best results for the underprivileged class, EDI offers you to learn all about social entrepreneurship through distance diploma course. You can enrol yourself for this programme at any age with a graduation degree or technical diploma. EDI is supported by some government banks and financial pillars of India such as IDBI, IFCI, ICICI and SBI. NSEF is associated with social entrepreneurial activities in as many as 30 academic organizations and is linked to 50 social enterprises that promote social entrepreneurship and help you get educated and inspired and even support your social entrepreneurship ventures through congenial environments. Even Narsee Monjee Instuitute of Management Studies and Tata Institute of Social Sciences offer diploma programme (MBA) and two-year M.A. degree in social entrepreneurship respectively.

Keep track of your goal and accomplishments so far

If you become profit-oriented and do not care about why you started with your social entrepreneurship venture at the first place, you will not succeed. However, if you take your passion for solving the social issues through business strategies into consideration and keep track of your goals and how much you have achieved so far, then you will always be in association with the right people, customers, partners, events, programmes and publications. 

All said and done, you must not think of the social entrepreneurship activities as a charity. It is as much a business and you would need to employ effective practices, put the best possible strategies in place and improvise on management issues as you would do in any other business set-up. You will need to recruit people who are more experienced than you in their specific areas and also market your business by creating a personality of your brand and using the social media websites. You must also follow transparent and ethical practices and dealings with your investors, partners and donors, if any. Make your reports as clear and transparent as possible and connect emotionally with your customers through verbal communication, videos, blogs, et al. Partner with people who have similar interests and goals as you.

Start off the New Year with a positive note for the society. Start off with your own social entrepreneur enterprise. All the Best!

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