Making an Impact

social entrepreneurship

2 guys from Kanpur, Ankit Agarwal and Karan Rastogi are on a mission to reduce pollution in the Ganges. They co-founded HelpUsGreen – a social enterprise that recycles flowering waste to produce products such as fertilizers and incense sticks. The idea was well received, the duo winning the ISB iDiya Challenge 2015, the IIT Kanpur social challenge 2015 and the Tata Social enterprise challenge 2016 (TSEC) to name a few.

Meanwhile, Akanksha Hazari, a Cambridge graduate ideated m.Paani. She presented the same at the Hult Social Innovation Challenge. Aimed at the under privileged, m.Paani customers receive social rewards that can be redeemed for clean water credits for things that they buy, a venture that implements mobile-based loyalty programs that help communities living at the bottom of the pyramid. Winning the top position at Hult, the venture already has interested telecom partners in India and Africa and is set to release a pilot in Mumbai.

These are the products of an increasingly aware and active sector of impact entrepreneurship in India. Ankit, Karan, Akanksha and many such entrepreneurs in the sector strive to build a business that makes the world a better place.

Social Entrepreneurship (also known as Impact Entrepreneurship) is a social and economic phenomenon that has been gaining traction in India rapidly in recent years. A new generation of entrepreneurs is redefining business by creating enterprises that create social value parallel to profit. Foundations and investors are recognizing the value of these ventures, as can be seen from the increasing interest in impact investment and social innovation competitions. As these entrepreneurs look to increase social welfare, the idea is to deliver that on a sustainable scale.

Where once, traditionally, NGOs and charities were seen as the norm in tackling some of the most pressing social issues, today, we see individuals tackling these issues via entrepreneurial ventures and ideas. This trend has seen ever-increasing number of graduates and professionals setting up their own innovative initiatives to tackle some of India’s deep rooted social issues.

Although, there does exist a sense of vagueness in concept and terminology. These enterprises can be non-profit, for profit or even cooperatives. The term “social enterprise” may also be used to describe a “non-governmental organization,” or a “non-profit,” or a “charity,” with only small differences in meaning.  Yet an in depth study would reveal differences in underlying rationale, social values and economic systems – and the differences can be substantial.

In essence, the word “impact entrepreneurship” implies tackling social issues through private initiatives. These can be further classified on the basis of –
1. End objective (for-profit vs non-profit)
2. Ownership (private vs cooperative)
3. Model (market, employment, support, etc.)

Social entrepreneurship is driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, motivated by a social mission and aims to generate positive externalities at a competitive and self-sustainable scale.

Currently, these social enterprises run into thousands in number, reaching millions of people across the country, and the numbers are only going to increase. For perspective, these enterprises cater to a niche such as –

Agriculture – From urban farms to organic fertilizers, we’re seeing entrepreneurs leveraging technology to improve and uplift the conditions in the agricultural space.

Education – Marred by sub-par public education system and gender gaps, literacy rates in India are well below the World average. Moreover, India will have over 100 million youth added in the next 10 years. Impact entrepreneurs are tackling challenges such as youth employability, advancing girls’ education etc.

Energy – As governments across the world identify and stress the need to push for sustainable solutions for energy, India’s energy deficit is over 4200 MW. Impact entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative measures to connect that last mile.

Finance – India has over 100 million active donors. Corporate Social Responsibility spending is also estimated to unlock as much as INR 20,000 crore annually for the Indian social sector. Meanwhile, millions of rural poor – artisans, farmers, etc. have no means of finance. A new generation of impact entrepreneurs is trying to bridge the gap. Moreover, to empower those at the bottom of the pyramid, entrepreneurs are coming up with ventures in microfinance, lifting many out of poverty.

Health – Despite government schemes and private associations, India’s public health care system ranks poorly. Metrics such as infant mortality rate, malnutrition, etc. paint a dire picture. Social enterprises are building devices, networks and partnerships to improve healthcare facilities.

We are seeing a rising interest and competence in ventures in the impact space. However, it is far from saturated. Home to the world’s largest population of poor, there is scope for a lot more. The message is out. If you have the means and the capability to make an impact, to make the world a better place – there is no dearth of motivation. And you can deliver social benefits parallel to profit!

Visit us at Impactpreneurs to discover and connect with companies in the impact space.

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