It is the next big wave, driven by a generation of visionary individuals committed to driving social change
Sanjay Prakash | July 11, 2023
Social entrepreneurship is rapidly gaining momentum in India as a powerful force for positive change. With a growing number of individuals stepping up to address pressing social issues, social entrepreneurs are emerging as the next big wave in the country.
The rise of social entrepreneurship in India
Over the past decade, India has witnessed a significant rise in social entrepreneurship. Young and passionate individuals are actively seeking innovative ways to address social problems and create sustainable solutions. The increasing awareness about social issues, coupled with a desire to make a tangible impact, has fuelled the growth of this sector. Social entrepreneurs combine entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and a deep-rooted commitment to social change, making them powerful catalysts for transformation.
Impact of social entrepreneurs
Social entrepreneurs are revolutionising the way India tackles its most pressing challenges. They are not content with traditional approaches; instead, they identify systemic issues and develop innovative models to address them. Social entrepreneurs leverage business principles and policies to create sustainable enterprises that prioritise social impact. By adopting a hybrid model that balances financial viability with a social mission, they are able to attract investment and scale their initiatives.
Key sectors of focus
Social entrepreneurs in India are making significant strides in various sectors. Here are some prominent areas where they are creating a positive impact.
1. Education: With a focus on enhancing access to quality education, social entrepreneurs are leveraging technology, innovative teaching methods, and community engagement to bridge gaps in education and skill development. Shreya Kothawale, Batch SBI YFI 2020-21, during her fellowship journey, initiated a project, ‘Portable Digital Night schools’, in Dhani, Ajmer district of Rajasthan, for the children who were not able to go to government schools on a regular basis. The idea was initiated as the children were involved in household chores during the daytime. The project was sustained with community involvement, and it was scaled up to 22 locations in the district.
2. Healthcare: Social entrepreneurs are addressing healthcare challenges by developing affordable and accessible solutions, particularly in rural and marginalised communities. They are leveraging technology, social campaigns and community-based models to improve healthcare delivery. Dr Monalisa, a fellow of SBI YFI Batch 2015-16, started ‘Ek Pahal: Aao Bat Karein’ in Rajasthan to spread the word and awareness about menstrual health and hygiene among adolescent girls and women. She created a team called ‘Health Champions’, and with the support of the team, she used interactive tools such as games, puzzles and videos in local languages to overcome the communication barrier. She debunked the myths associated with menstrual hygiene in the community by holding sessions for women of all ages.
Similar steps were taken by Kavya Menon, a fellow of SBI YFI Batch 2014-15, in Tamil Nadu, who observed a high dropout rate amongst girls after puberty. Through interactions with girls and women in the community, she identified the lack of menstrual education and the need for accessible/affordable menstrual products. To make them aware of the same, Kavya became a menstrual educator. She identified nurses and teachers and trained them to be educators to spread awareness. Despite initial resistance, her efforts gradually reduced social stigma and empowered community members to continue the awareness among girls and women.
3. Rural development and livelihood generation: Social entrepreneurs are working towards sustainable agriculture, rural development, farmer empowerment and alternative livelihood generation. They are introducing innovative techniques, promoting organic practices, and facilitating market linkages to improve the lives of rural communities. For example, Saloni Sacheti, an alumnus of SBI Youth for India Fellowship batch 2017-18, started a social enterprise named ‘Baansuli’, in Dangs, Gujarat, as a traditional jewellery-making enterprise with only five women. Now, the enterprise has 25+ women, producing products ranging from jewellery to home decor and utility products such as mug, lamp, etc., with a yearly sale of about Rs. 7 lakh. Through a small social enterprise initiative, she was able to empower the tribal women financially.
4. Environmental sustainability: Social entrepreneurs are leading initiatives to combat climate change, promote renewable energy, and address environmental degradation. They are developing innovative technologies, advocating for sustainable practices, and creating awareness about conservation. Ruchinilo Kemp, co-founder of Kenono Foundation and an alumnus of SBI Youth for India fellowship batch 2015-16, was able to set up a community-led organisation ushering a vision of collective ownership and responsibility for holistic community development of forest-dependent communities in Nagaland and surrounding areas.
In order to achieve the holistic development of the community, Kenono Foundation followed a two-step approach. It has developed a set of pathways for enhancing conservation and livelihoods in community conserved areas (CCAs) and elevated the role of Community Conservation in the policy space both at the State and National levels.
The Kenono Foundation conservation initiative till now has covered 6,000 hectares of forest area and tribal communities, benefiting over 1,600 families with 9800 people.
Support ecosystem for social entrepreneurs
To foster the growth of social entrepreneurship in India, a robust support ecosystem has emerged. Various organisations, incubators, and accelerators are providing mentorship through fellowships like SBI YFI or workshops, funding, and capacity-building programs to nurture social entrepreneurs. Grants like SBI YFI Sahyog offer financial aid to support the YFI alumni’s for-profit or non-profit enterprises. This is different from conventional CSR grants as this seed grant intends to offer support to the YFI alumni ventures for a range of interventions that may not usually fall under the ambit of conventional CSR grants.
Government initiatives, such as the Atal Innovation Mission and the Start-up India program, have further bolstered the ecosystem by offering funding opportunities and regulatory support.
Social entrepreneurship is the next big wave in India, driven by a generation of visionary individuals committed to driving social change. These entrepreneurs are bringing innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity to the forefront. By addressing critical issues in education, healthcare, agriculture, and the environment, they are transforming the lives of millions of people. With the continued support of the ecosystem, social entrepreneurs in India will play a vital role in shaping a brighter and more equitable future for the country.
Sanjay Prakash is MD & CEO, SBI Foundation.
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