Social Entrepreneurship is Sexy

By | March 22, 2010

On 12 March 2010, we concluded our Annual Startup Showcase Event – HeadStart, this time at Hyderabad. One of the panel discussion topic was “Challenges in Social Entrepreneurship” and we had an amazing panel for this. This blog post is a summary of the discussion.

Members of the Panel were – Ms Lindsay Clinton, Director of Beyond Profit Magazine; Ms Yasmina McCarty, Founder and Director of Green Mango; Ramakrishna NK, Co-Founder and CEO of RangDe; Ramesh V, Founder CEO and Director of Ecomove Solutions Pvt.Ltd and Asgar Ali of Roshan Vikas.

The discussion started with introduction of the Panelists. Ms. Lindsay was gracious to be the moderator of the panel.

Being Indian’s, working for our society is a natural urge and interest, however, the greatness of Lindsay and Yasmina is that they are not Indian’s and choose to live in India to make a difference to the world where it is required. There are many other countries/regions in the world which they could have picked, whatever the reasons are and whatever their choices are, I am really impressed and respect both of them for choosing India for their work. Not only Lindsay and Yasmina, but there are many other not Indian’s (I can use the word ‘foreigner’, but chose not to so that I can use the country’s name) who are living in India and making a difference to the way we live.

Here is a brief of what each of them is working on:

Beyond Profit -Beyond Profit is a Social Entrepreneurship magazine focusing on bringing out stories of Social Enterprises in India and across the globe.

Green Mango – it is a placeholder for all daily jobs. Green Mango focus’s on building a database of prospective employers for Carpentry, Milk Vendors, Catering, Drivers etc. The team of Green Mango drills across the streets to find and give you the best possible service providers. Green Mango is based out of Hyderabad, India.

Ecomove -Ecomove Solutions was started in October 2008, with a motive of providing pick-up-drop services of bicycles for users to use for short journeys. This helps in contributing to reducing environment pollution and also provides opportunity for the user to exercise. Ecomove not only rents bicycles, but also battery operated two-wheelers and four-wheelers. Ecomove is based out of Mumbai, India.

Roshan Vikas – Roshan Vikas works with Women community to provide them the technical and marketing skills to run small artisan businesses to gain income independence.

RangDe -RangDe, based out of Chennai, India primarily focus’s on making micro-credit accessible to every low-income household by lowering the interest rates through innovative measures.

Here is a summary of the discussion, Key Questions and Answers by the Panel and attendees.

What does it take to be a Social Entrepreneur?

The very thought of wanting to be a Social Entrepreneur is quite different and this comes out of seeing people struggling with daily lives. Unlike any other businesses, Social Enterprises are build for long term. These enterprises do not diverge into various businesses, but focus core on one problem and address the solution in as many ways as possible. To be a Social Entrepreneur, one needs to have the determination, commitment and passion. These become the primary attributes for the success of the organization. Social Entrepreneurs come with loads of sacrifices and only the passion will keep the organization going.

Ms. Lindsay says that Social Entrepreneurship is Sexy in the west.

How did families support their decisions be to be Social Entrepreneurs?

For each of the panel members, families have been their biggest source of inspiration and motivation. Each one of them have been earning a good living and having beautiful lives, however, when they choose to do something very different, even though there have been initial apprehensions, each one could achieve what they are doing today.

It is a very big sacrifice for each of them personally to leave a fat paycheck and move on to change the world. You had to be present to see emotions of each of these amazing Social Entrepreneurs; I really do not have words to express what each of them shared from their personal lives.

Why is Social Entrepreneurship not regarded as mainstream entrepreneurship in India?

Various reasons – Societal acceptance, No formal education and no mainstream attention.

Not only Social Entrepreneurship, but also Entrepreneurship itself has not been the mainstream profession in India. There is no coverage of Entrepreneurial / Innovation education in our Education System. Colleges/Universities have laid strong foundation for Engineering and Medical professions but there are no places where Entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged. However, today, we have few universities offering courses on Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship (Ex, Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Ahmedabad).

Acceptance for Entrepreneurship at homes has not been big. Students/wanna be entrepreneurs are not encouraged much due to uneven financial in-flow. India has been a country of middle-income families and in the last 5-10 years, things have been changing. Aspirations to take on big things such as owning house, car and financial security are taking a big seat in everyone’s life. In this situation, Entrepreneurship/Social Entrepreneurship is not regarded as a step for financial success. This is one of the key reasons for not being accepted by Society when you start something on your own to build a future that is quite uncertain.

Also, India is a country where parents fund children till they secure a job and have a steady income. Children are not nurtured to handle life independently. This directly has an impact on how can they manage business or drive their passion without knowing how to handle any situation.

Mainstream and Media attention also adds to the non-societal acceptance. Government does not have encouraging policies for aspiring entrepreneurs. Bureaucracy plays a key role. Instead of encouraging Innovation and Entrepreneurship, roadblocks are created and thereby discouraging aspirations.

How do we define Social Entrepreneurship?

Social Entrepreneurship is a form of Entrepreneurship where your vision and mission is about providing a solution to a societal problem. Social Entrepreneurship is just not about making money, but a bigger aspect of solving a societal problem where a common man is benefited.

Social Entrepreneurship is not always “not-for-profit”. This is one common mis-assumption people have. I covered few aspects of understanding/fundamentals of Social Entrepreneurship earlier at Understanding Social Entrepreneurship.

There are two other very informative questions, which came up in the discussion. However, I am not able to fill in all the information today as I am working on gathering information. Will keep updating the blog as and when I find appropriate answers for these questions along with what has been discussed. If you have any points, please do send them to harinath {at} headstart {dot} in.

  • What organizations are in India which can help build Social Enterprises?
  • Are there organizations where I can share my idea and they help realize my dream?

As promised in the event, here is the link to the mailing list on Social Enterprises and Social Entrepreneurship.

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3 thoughts on “Social Entrepreneurship is Sexy

  1. Arvind Sridharan

    Great post highlighting the social entrepreneurship scenario in India. Looking forward to to the answers to the remaining questions.

    Meanwhile I would like to bring to your attention a spelling mistake. Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Ahmadabad should read Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Ahmedabad, is it not?

  2. Hari Post author

    @Arvind. It is now corrected and thank you for your feedback. Will get to the remaining questions soon.

    @Ramesh Thank you

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