Social Entrepreneurship In India Is The Panacea For Social Change And Improvement

Social Entrepreneurship In India Is The Panacea For Social Change And Improvement
Social entrepreneurship is the application of business acumen, strategies and entrepreneur skills not for profit but to improve the conditions of human beings and the environment, and India does need it for effective social change, growth and reforms.

Despite the best efforts of the government and other organisations, about 400 million Indians live on less than $1 per day. The 2012 HDI (human development index) report for countries indicates a poor ranking of 136 out of 187 for India.

India has been concentrating on a growth index through manufacturing and IT sectors but the resulting benefits have not gone to the bottom of the pyramid. Income inequality has doubled in the last 20 years.

India is unique in the diversity of its regions and people. Often local problems need local solutions. It is here that social entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurs or SOCENTS come into the picture and build bridges to social improvement.

Combine this with the Indian spirit of Jugaad and there have been innumerable instances of simple inventions and adaptations that have changed life for the better not just economically, but on the comfort level also.

A growing change in the perception of life goals has led to a large number of educated, highly trained professionals turning into SOCENTS. This is desirable as they bring their professional and business acumen and can create and put into place working, sustainable and profitable solutions to local problems.

Harish Hande, co-founder of Selco Solar, has over the past 18 years through his company installed over 1.35-lakh solar systems. He went a step further and created an entire ecosystem, including finance and farmer co-operatives to create income generating activities. The Selco Incubation Centre mentors social entrepreneurs. Selco Foundation, the philanthropic segment of Selco, provides the rural poor with renewable energy services that they can use for income generating activities.

Verghese Kurien, father of the Milk Revolution, turned India form a milk importer to the world’s largest milk producer and today AMUL is a byword in milk and dairy products.

Interestingly, many of the projects have not been single product innovations but have led to all-round related growth and development. They have transformed not just individuals but communities and in the case of Kurien the whole country.

Eye care was one of the most neglected health sectors in India. Doctor G Venkataswamy founded the Aravind Eye Hospital, which is today one of the world’s largest facilities for affordable, top-quality eye care.

Vaatsalya Healthcare brought healthcare to the rural poor.

Doctor Sugata Mishra’s Hole in the Wall experiment with computer accessibility to untrained poor children was a success in making computer knowledge available and was a starting point for other social enterprises for furthering computer education amongst the poor.

The list is endless. India is the global centre for social entrepreneurship.

However, the biggest boon has been the rise of ‘Microfinance’. Vikram Akula established SKS Microfinance in 1988 paving the way for several social microfinance set ups such as Milaap at the grass root level.

The tremendous contribution made by SOCENTS should be encouraged. The government should make it easier for Indian and foreign investments in Socents via easy taxation policies, regulatory frameworks and guidelines. The government could also create social impact bonds like in the United Kingdom to encourage social innovation. Another project that can be emulated is the Singapore Impact Investment Fund that provides private and public platforms for raising capital efficiently for social enterprises.

The corporate sector has also contributed and the Tata group has been in the forefront through their various trusts and the Tata School of Social Sciences in fostering social entrepreneurship. The Shell Foundation-funded Husk Power Systems in its enterprise to obtain power from rice husk.

The government has now made it mandatory through the CSR Bill (corporate social responsibility in the new Companies Act) for big corporations to set aside 2% of their profits for social programmes that include investments in social business ventures. This will open up funding of more than a billion dollars for Socents and further growth of social entrepreneurship in India.

India should take into account depleting natural resources and focus on environment-friendly and sustaining social innovations to balance growth with environment concerns. The China example of economic growth at the cost of rising pollution should serve as a deterrent. Pollution has become one of the major causes of social unrest in China.

The changes in economic models from capitalism to a more socially responsible capitalism have thrown the focus on social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship is here to stay and could well be the major economic growth factor for India and to achieve the ‘Indian dream - sarvajana sukhonobhava’, ie, let everyone be happy.