Understanding Social Entrepreneurship

25 07 2009

Last week, I wrote a small article for Pluggd.in. They featured this article as Understanding Social Entrepreneurship and Characteristics of Social Entrepreneur.

For regular readers of my blog, here is the same article…

We use the term “Entrepreneur” for a person who has created something which has a value preposition to the stakeholders in big/small way. Now, I am not going deep into defining Human Entrepreneurship, however, will stick to getting more understanding of “Social Entrepreneurship” over the course of this article.

There are three key “parameters” to the Entrepreneur – Problem, Solution, Value – what I call PSV.

Problem – Every Entrepreneur has identified a problem and wants to provide the most effective and efficient solution to the Problem.

Solution – Is it the most effective and efficient solution to the identified problem is what defines the success of the “Entrepreneur”.

Value – Does the solution create value to its Stakeholders (Self, Investors and End-Users)

Ensuring a “right angled triangle” ensures the success of the Entrepreneur and the Solution. Look at any example from JRD Tata to C.K.Ranganathan (CavinKare). Every person and every organization has brought a great value preposition to their/it’s “entrepreneurial” skills.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

This topic has been visited by many eminent personalities and I am no authority to define this again. However, let me link you to the well-accepted definition and also few of my analogies.

Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition published by Stanford Social Innovation provides an in-depth understanding of the subject.

In this paper, the author drills down the meaning of Entrepreneurship and quotes quite a few names that go synonymous with the word “Entrepreneur”. Entrepreneurs have existed since the time life came to earth. If you go back to the beginning and the most accepted names of the first life – Adam and Eve are definitely Entrepreneurs. Everything what Adam and Eve did was Entrepreneurial! Eating, Sleeping, giving life, living a life and eventually death. Every thing and every aspect is Entrepreneurial. Each one of us are Entrepreneurs in one way or the other. Then what is different?

The term “social” has been pre-fixed to “Entrepreneurship” long ago. The best and great example of Social Entrepreneur is Mahatma Gandhi. There can be no other best synonymous personality to attach the definition to. What is the difference you see in Mahatma? It is very simple,

  • Problem – Free India
  • Solution – Non-Violent fight to ensure that the British Rule ends
  • Value – Value for Stakeholders and Time

Stakeholders – Citizens, Rulers, Self. In this case, the Investor and End user are the same (Citizens of India).

Time – ~40 Years

Just look at how the problem has been addressed – Gandhiji never retorted to any violent act and always sticked to his principal of non-violence. He “enrolled” his stakeholders (citizens of the country and also the Rulers) to arrive at the solution.

Result – The Rulers went back and the Citizens achieved their freedom. What did Gandhiji get? The satisfaction of the solution to the problem he identified and also setting an example of solving life problems with peace.

This is exactly what Social Entrepreneurship is all about. Here, the entrepreneur identifies a “pain point” and continuously works on providing a solution by refining the solution time and again. This is what happened exactly in the “freedom struggle”. We saw many protests, freedom walk, showing our displeasure with silence etc etc. All these are the parameters and factors where the methodology went through many cycles of refinement before the end result is achieved.

A social Entrepreneur works on the similar aspects. He/She does not mind the time and effort, but works only towards refining the solution to the problem identified.

I would like to touch upon few classic examples and I urge you to research more into how the solutions were derived (the scope of this article would not allow me to go into deep of each of the solutions)

Jaipur Foot, ITC’s e-Choupal, Trichy Police (A classic Example of Social change in a short-span of time) and Dr. Sudharshan of Vivekananda Trust are just few to mention. There are many other eminent personalities working for the change they believe in.

And if you want to look at Technology Social Entrepreneurs we have Orlando Rincon Bonilla of PraqueSoft, based in Columbia and Saloni Malhotra of DesiCrew, based in Chennai.

If I keep listing down, the names do not end. What do they do different and How do they do it? You have to really understand their ideologies from the bottom see how they changed lives of many people around them.

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneur

  • The usual ideologies and principals do not holdback social Entrepreneurs. They are always looking at breaking them.
  • Social Entrepreneurs are impatient. They do not go well with the bureaucracy around them.
  • Social Entrepreneurs have the patience, energy and enthusiasm to teach others.
  • Social Entrepreneurs combine Innovation, Resources and Opportunity to derive solutions to Social problems.
  • This should be first in the list, Social Entrepreneurs DO NOT loose their FOCUS anytime.
  • Social Entrepreneurs always jump in before having their resources in place. They are not traditional.
  • Social Entrepreneurs ALWAYS believe that every one can Perform and have the capacity to do so.
  • Social Entrepreneurs ALWAYS display DETERMINATION
  • Social Entrepreneurs can ALWAYS measure and monitor their results.

There are many other unique characteristics, but the above stand out.

In their book “The Power of Unreasonable People“, John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan mention that Social Business can be categorized in three models:

  • Leveraged Non-Profit Ventures
  • Hybrid Non-Profit Ventures
  • Social Business Ventures

A Leveraged Non-Profit Venture focuses on addressing a Social Problem, which might benefit the Economically Vulnerable.

Classic Illustration of this kind of venture is the Barefoot College.

A Hybrid Non-Profit Venture focuses on delivering goods/services to the section of the population which has been ignored or left out by the mainstream products/services.

Classic Illustration of this kind of venture is Arvind Eye Clinic.

A Social Business Venture provides goods/services with a specific mission. This venture makes profits by providing its services, but the focus is not in making more and more profits, but to ensure the good/service reaches as many as possible.

Classic Illustration is the Grameen Danone and AMUL.

Where do we go from here?

The concept and subject of Social Entrepreneurship is most astonishing. There are loads to do and very less people and time. Today, there are Universities and Educational Institutions teaching Social Entrepreneurship. Can you learn Social Entrepreneurship in class? I am not highly qualified to comment on this, but the essence of Social Entrepreneurship is the PASSION, DETERMINATION and FOCUS. What you learn in class are just instruments for you to change the world…

Best Social Enterprises of 2009

26 06 2009

Check out the best social enterprises of 2009 http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/131/eureka-social-enterprises-of-the-year.html

Power of Cooperatives

1 01 2009

Last Friday, I was at a book shop and the first book I stumbled upon was I too had a dream. I was looking for any books by/on Dr. Kurian for a long time and finally found it. I just picked up the book and began reading. Today, I completed it.I have to rate this a 5 Star. An amazing narration and very well written and compiled.

I didn’t know what to name this post. First, I wanted to name it as “Malayalee.Milk & Movie” (Read the book and I am sure that you would agree with me on the title).

Well for those of you who are wondering what this book is all about, it is the amazing story of Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) and journey of Dr. Verghese Kurian as India’s Milk Man.If there was anything which is a box-office and smashing hit in the Indian Cooperative Movement, it is the story of AMUL. I am definitely not going into the details of the book, but would want to highlight the key aspects of the Operation Flood.

What made me read the book non-stop is how bureaucratic our country has been in accepting the Cooperative methodology. India is a country with more than 70% of the population living in the villages. Since the independence, we have had many Government’s which came and went and also we saw a lot of development in many areas of life. In fact, I would not hesitate to say that no other country has come this far in the first 60 Years of Independence (comparing to countries which have been ruled by some other nation). However, there is a long way to go.

During the course of this book, Dr. Kurian emphasizes the importance of making farmers responsible for their produce, marketing and returns. What this simply means is giving the ownership and the Government playing the role of ensuring appropriate avenues are available. Well, to be very honest, this is the most difficult thing which any country can achieve. But, Dr. Kurian proved that with commitment and dedication we can definitely achieve this. What you need is the Will and the Belief in your dream.

I personally understood one aspect – The Primer Minister’s are people with a dream, and believe me, only people with that commitment get to the position (there are definitely exceptions too). In this book, Dr. Kurian writes about his personal interaction with almost all Prime Ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru to P V Narasimha Rao (after which Dr. Kurian retired). The key aspect is the team which surrounds this super power of our Country.

If you are an aspiring Entrepreneur/Social Entrepreneur, I highly recommend you reading this book.

Also, in this book, Dr. Kurian jumps deep into how Operation Flood, one of India’s most successful cooperative project came into existance and how long it took for them to succeed.

Social Entrepreneurs in India – Part 1

21 12 2008

I was searching for a central repository of Social Entrepreneurs in India to understand various social concerns which are being addressed. Unfortunately, when I searched for the above text “Social Entrepreneurs in India”, I could not get the relevent links, except for one link which gives me a simple, small list on Wikipedia.

I decided to make a central repository of all Social Entrepreneurs and Enterprises in the country and highlight their work and dedication. I started with Ashoka list which is available on their site and compiled a list of 247 Ashoka Fellows. I do not want to put up the list here, but want to highlight the area’s in which they are working:


Banking on Social Change – Seeking Financial Solutions for All

16 11 2008

I am a bit late in writing about this project, but this is an initiative from ChangeMakers, an organization associated with Ashoka for providing Social and Financial Security for the rural poor. 

The competition is being supported by the Citi Group and there is a cash award of $5000 for the winning team/innovation. 

There have been around 280 entries from 43 countries who have sent their innovation and the panel selected 13 entries to the finals. Now, you can make a difference by voting for the best entries you think are the best innovations. 

Here are the final 13, out of which 3 are from India 🙂

1. Free Social Security to Disadvantaged and Rural Population, OASiS.

2. A Holistic approach to micro-insurance – Breaking the cycle of illness and debt, Healing Fields Foundation. 

3. Sampoorna Suraksha – Social Security for all occasions, Shri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project. 

You need to register with ChangeMakers first as a user and then you need to caste your vote. All project information and the implementation model is described in detail in the respective nomination description pages. 

Be a Change Maker and vote for the idea which you believe is the best and support the organizations dedicated to change the way we live.

Social Entrepreneur of Year 2007

31 12 2007

The Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation and The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in collaboration with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Confederation of India Industry (CII) give away the “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” award every year. This award is decided by nominations received from across the country. This award carries the title of “Khemka Fellow” and Rs.8,00,000 (Eight Lakhs / Eight Hundred Thousand Indian Rupees).

Nominations for this award for 2007

Harish Hande, SELCO
Climate Change, Rural Financing, Base of Pyramid Economics, Alternative Energy.
SELCO provides solar electrification solutions to the rural people in India. Around 57% of India population do not have access to electricity adding to unreliable power supply. SELCO provides solar electricity to people below the poverty line through a combination of customized home lighting, innovative doorstep financing and understanding the market need. SELCO has reached around 80,000 clients in Karnataka and Kerala and now working with people in Gujarat.

Rajendra Joshi, Saath
Public Private Partnerships, Base of Pyramid Economics, Urban Issues, Livelihood
Unplanned/Unprecedented migration is a major problem in various parts of the world and India being no different. In Ahmedabad alone, almost 40% of the city’s residents live in slums without access to basic amenities. Among this population, only 1 in 5 have private bathrooms (latrines) and only 1 in 4 have access to HealthCare and more than 50% rely on in-formal livelihood.
Saath works with Private and Government organization is creating an affordable cost model where people in these areas are not evicted and a small amount is charged for providing with amenities like roads, water, sanitation, lights etc. Saath then worked with private electric company and government to bring out charges which is a third of actual cost to get electricity and provided this to the people in slums. The companies realized a 30% increase in revenue and also the government has benefited with the tax paid. In total, Saath has worked with more than 70,000 families in Ahmedabad including 10,000 people through Slum Networking Project and 40,000 households through Urban Resource Centers.

Pravin Mahajan, Janarth
Education, Migration Issues, Labor
There are more than 30 Million (30 Lakhs) children who are taken out of school as their parents migrate in India.
Pravi has worked in creating education opportunities for these children by creating hostels for children who’s parents migrate for work and also Shakharshalas or the on-site schools for children who go along with their parents. These schools are accredited by the government and ensure that students from Shakharshalas are re-admitted into regular schools at any time. Janarth has reached around 10,000 children and proved its quality in education and also is working with Government of Maharashtra to have these schools in every district through out the state.

Chetna Gala Sinha, Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank Ltd.
Rural Development, Livelihood Development, Banking

The Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank Ltd(MDMSB) and Mann Vikas Samajik Sanstha (MVSS) together develop systems that rural women need to evolve as successful entrepreneurs and build financial assets. Chetna has established the first Indian rural all women bank through equity within tribal women and also the bank runs by all rural women. The bank works in creating products from their client perspective such as micro-pensions and customized health insurance schemes. MDMSB and MVSS have collectively reached around 58,000 women in five districts of Maharashtra. Expansion plans include states of Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

The Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 has been awarded to Mr.Harish Hande of SELCO.

Hope to see more nominations and more finalists in the coming years.

You are read more about the above nominations at http://www.schwabfound.org/india/.

WEF Tech Pioneers 2007

28 11 2007

Recently, i was going through the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2007 list which has been published. This list is published every year recognizing the most innovative enterprises around the world. The list is very interesting and gives us an overview of the organization selected and the reason as to why the organization is listed.

I am very happy, impressed and also sad to see only 1 organization from India made it to the list – Drishtee. Now, what does Drishtee do and why are they different?
Dristee is a rural network for delivering information services to Villages, using an electronic information kiosk, known as Drishtee Soochnalaya. These kiosks are run by local entrepreneurs who charge residents for access.
Changing lives in rural India is no small Vision and it needs loads of dedication to be able to achieve it. Drishtee is very strong in its Vision and has gone past various milestones in the last Seven Years of inception.
What Does Drishtee do?
The organization has categorized itself into various aspects, but the punch-line is that it is concentrating in providing self-employment to rural entrepreneurs and also providing opportunity for the rural population to have access to the latest information.
Drishtee’s initiation spreads into Education, HealthCare, Employment Generation, Women Empowerment and Micro-Finance.