By Bhaskar Chakrabarti- Professor, Public Policy & Management Group, IIM Calcutta
Covering a spectrum usual of our newsletter, Poonam Bir Kasturi, in this issue, focuses on the complexity of viability, product development and marketing in an organisation involved with waste management. In a thoroughly analytical work, lucidly presented, Shashank Kumar shows how to address the problems of small farmers related to limited access to technology and information. In another article, it is equally interesting to see how ONganic Food has developed a reliable supply chain for organic produces grown by small farmers in West Bengal through both wholesale and retail channels.
Recently, Innovation Park was chosen as one of the incubators to support social enterprises in low income states. We organised various outreach programmes in different parts of eastern India to promote the idea of social entrepreneurship amongst the youth, including programmes that took place in educational institutions in small cities and towns. We chose six startups under the INVENT programme supported by the Technology Development Board, Government of India in partnership with the Department for International Development, UK. You will find the details of these startups in this newsletter too.
Finally, this issue brings to you a glimpse of one of the biggest social entrepreneurship events in India, the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, held at IIM Calcutta in January 2017.
By Poonam Bir Kasturi, Founder - Daily Dump
When I started, the term ’social entrepreneur’ was not as widespread as it is now; neither did the term carry the power as it does now.
To begin with, I do not see myself as a social entrepreneur. I see myself as an experimenter who is on a journey, which like all journeys is a mix of highs, lows, tough times, times of fulfilments, doubt and gratitude. My constant motivation has been the urge to understand the world better before my time is up. It is the curiosity to figure out where one should intervene and where one should not, that has kept me going. So my journey has been of a designer on a journey of discovery.
I was interested in seeing how a big intimidating problem like waste could be addressed in a new way using design.
Waste, I feel is not the problem, it is a symptom. The real problem is that Man is detached from Nature. The need of the hour is to create a new kind of relationship with Nature, a relationship where the intersection of technology, nature and large systems are not seen as contradictory or at war with each other.
So I began with a product that did not look dirty but was also simple, so unthreatening that it would seem like nothing at all. I wanted to create something that was so “ordinary” that it would fly under the radar of the grandmasters of waste – the municipality, contractors, experts and naysayers. It would not be perceived as a threat, so it had greater chances of being adopted without being snuffed out prematurely by some large technological promise or a large business imperative. I was willing to accept uncertainty, and ready to participate and learn from the first prototypes in the market with the hunch that the inherent beauty of a natural process and urgency of keeping 60% out of landfills will finally find some traction.
This is how Daily Dump came into effect. Daily Dump is a design led brand – a pioneer in designing and building products and services for decentralized waste management in homes, communities, offices and public spaces. We are in the mindset changing business – mindsets about “waste”, about marginal livelihoods, about whose job it is to take care of “waste”, about how we can harm less.
To quote from The Designerly Ways of Knowing – “By, this, I mean that design is persuasive. …Design is rhetorical also in the sense that the designer, in constructing a design proposal, constructs a particular kind of argument, in which a final conclusion is developed and evaluated as it develops against both known goals and previously unsuspected implication.” This is what is expected from the designer – they need to explore enough to produce something that not only is functional but also opens up new ways of engaging with the world.
As I call it a journey, there were many challenges that I faced in my path which included:
Since I had chosen to be a “Not for Greed” company and did not want to take any investment till I had a clear idea that this would endure, we had very little money to work with. However, we still had to keep afloat to experiment and do R & D.
It was very important that we created a product that worked but we did not have the luxury of time, so we did what was called action testing and rapid changes as we went along. Every bit of feedback was furiously worked into the next batch and that is how we evolved the products. This was highly challenging.
We did not have a budget for marketing, so we had to devise simple ways to get people to remember our story. This was very challenging to keep going as various other pressures of running the business were always pulling in another direction.
However I feel happy to see that the start up social entrepreneurship stage has become very attractive for young people and I do see more and more interesting concepts in this sector. The increase of services, products that change behaviour, efforts to reduce poverty are all very laudable. I think the young will do better than we can imagine and I wish more power to them!
My message for those young people out there would be- Make your world simple, have enough time to dream. This will build your muscle of mastery. When you reach 50 you would have travelled light and it would be a blessing.
The one thing I remind myself, daily: Nature is a mystery. We don’t know everything and that is a good thing.
By Shashank Kumar, Founder - Green Agrevolution
With an aim of maximizing profit per unit area of small farmers, I started Farms & Farmers (FnF) Foundation in 2010 through which training modules for farmers as well as micro entrepreneurs were designed. Currently FnF has been working with institutions like DFID, FICCI, CISCO, ITC, NABARD, Department of Agriculture-Bihar and many more.
After being exposed to the challenges of small farmers related to limited access to market, technology & information, I founded Green Agrevolution Pvt. Ltd. in 2012. In last 5 years, we have developed a unique model & technology innovation “DeHaat” to offer end to end agricultural services to small & marginal farmers at affordable cost. DeHaat is one stop destination for small farmers for all their agricultural needs.
75% of Indian farmers are small who have less than 1 Ha of landholding & average annual income is INR 50,000-70,000 from agricultural earnings. A scarce agri value chain service for these small farmers is the major reason behind low productivity & low profitability. They rely on multiple channels for their various agriculture needs – Agri inputs (seed, fertilizer, crop protection), crop advisory, relevant information, farm equipment, credit, insurance & market linkage of farm produce. Overall transaction cost is too high for them to afford & these existing channels are not efficient & transparent enough.
“DeHaat” provides complete end to end agri services to small farmers. It is an ICT based platform – which brings all agri offerings for small farmers under one roof. It is a farmers’ marketplace which connects small farmers to their various needs – Seeds, fertilizers, equipment, crop advisory & market linkage through network of micro entrepreneurs. Through DeHaat platform, on one hand, farmers get access to best input companies like DuPont, Syngenta, UPL, Bayer and on the other hand they also get access to institutional buyers like Cargill, Sabziwala, ITC, Spencer’s, Amrapali, Reliance fresh and many more.
Being a technology based innovation, we get 100% visibility up to the farmer level and hence we create “Direct access to Farmers” for various agricultural stakeholders such as large institutional buyers, agri input, insurance companies & financial institutions.
We strongly believe in the linkage and not just information to small farmers. In terms of impact, associated farmers experience 10-15% cost savings against input linkage as they get connected to competitive source for quality seed or other inputs. They have achieved approximately 20% improvement in farm productivity and lastly they experience 12%-15% better farm gate price due to elimination of intermediaries and logistic support through DeHaat. Overall these small farmers have experienced close to 50% increment in their net income from agriculture.
Currently 40 micro entreprenenurs are running DeHaat to serve more than 15,200 farmers in India (Bihar,U.P. & Odisha) for their various agri demands related to Input, Information & Market.
Due to limited connectivity in rural area, the cost of onboarding farmers is quite high. However penetration of smart phone is increasing. With that intention, we are going to launch a farmer version of DeHaat application very soon.
By 2020, we aim to work with 1 million farmers to provide them end to end services related to agricultural inputs, consultation & market linkage of farm produce.
We have reached many milestones including winning Millennium Alliance (2014),Vodafone Mobile for Good (2015) & Action for India-AFI (2016).I have been a part of PM-India delegation to East Africa for promoting mobile based technology in Agriculture for small farmers in Kenya.
There is a serious shortage of social venture incubators to provide the capacity-building and incubation support needed at idea/pilot/test in India, particularly in the low income states. If more investment were available to test new ideas generated by India’s entrepreneurs, India would have been well placed to develop solutions to entrenched global development challenges, of relevance not only to India, but also to other low income countries.
In order to address this challenge, Technology Development Board (TDB), Government of India in partnership with Department for International Development (DFID), UK has initiated the INVENT (Innovative Ventures and Technologies for Development) program. This program aims to support up to 400 entrepreneurs in the 8 low income states (UP, MP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Orissa and West Bengal) and make at least 50 of them investable in the next 5 years. Based on its 15 years of experience in incubating social enterprise, Villgro is supporting 4 other incubators with the ultimate goal of creating a viable social enterprise (for-profit) pipeline for impact investments in the above mentioned low income states (LIS) of India.
IIM Calcutta Innovation Park has been chosen as one of the incubators to support social enterprises in low income states (Bihar & West Bengal) by identifying and incubating those for-profit social enterprise startups, which are working with innovative business. The support includes, but not limited to provision of funding, intense mentoring, knowledge and access to capacity building programmes, support services, and relevant networks.
Under this, IIMCIP organizes various outreach programmes in different parts of West Bengal and Bihar to promote the idea of social entrepreneurship amongst the youth. In 2016-17, IIMCIP conducted outreach programmes at various educational institutes in Howrah, Kalyani and Durgapur
IIMCIP received more than 50 applications seeking incubation under INVENT out of which the following 6 start ups have been onboarded:
By Ekta Jaju, Founder - ONganic Foods
ONganic Foods is a Agri Organic Social Enterprise and has developed a Farm to Fork Eco-system for Organic Food in India.
There has been a 200x increase in the cost of cultivation since 1970 without proportionate increase in price of agricultural commodities. Farmers do not receive appropriate returns for their produce, and often face uncertainty due to changing weather patterns, fluctuating markets, etc. One alternative to this problem is to shift to organic farming, which brings the agricultural costs significantly low over a period. However, lack of sustainable organic markets and eco-system and knowledge, has forced farmers to continue with conventional farming, unable to solve the larger problem.
ONganic connect small organic farmers to markets, by supporting them to convert to organic farming and grow indigenous varieties of crops, which is processed, packaged and marketed by ONganic through – wholesale, retail and institutional channels. ONganic creates a Farm to fork organic eco-system, starting from training and capacity building to assured markets for markets and quality and reliable supply for consumers.They promote organic farming using indigenous seeds which proves to be an ideal solution, which can significantly bring down the cost of cultivation, and help revive the soil. ONganic helps issue Certification for markets to give farmers access to premium markets.
ONganic has built a reliable farm to form supply chain for organic produce grown by small farmers in West Bengal through both wholesale and retail channels. ONganic takes back market information to farmers on what produce to grow, and provides an assured buy back at premium prices at the same time creating access to organic food in urban India.
ONganic has access to unique produce of West Bengal including varieties of rice, spices and oilseeds, unique to West Bengal. They look at value addition to increase nutrition and profitability through improved processing including non polished rice (brown, red, black), puffed rice and khoi, etc. They have plans to supply cold pressed oils, which have a premium market across India.
ONganic has converted 200+ small farmers to organic farming, and 105 of them are under NPOP Organic Certification. Their incomes from products like Rice have increased by 60% in the last 2 years.
Social Enterpreneurship can be very challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Finding talented people who are passionate to work in the development sector, and willing to let go of heavy pay cheques in favour of serving the nation, and finding innovative solutions to solve the challenges of agriculture sector are some of the major challenges faced by ONganic Foods.
Paving their path amidst challenges and barriers ONganic Foods has a vision to revolutionize the agriculture sector, by creating a sustainable model that impacts small farmers at a large scale.
Mrs Ekta Jaju, herself is very passionate about sustainability and equity. Previously she has co-founded Switch ON – a leading not for profit, community based organization that increases access to sustainable livelihood opportunities for underserved populations through advocacy, Capacity building, and developing innovation business models and technology. She has also co-founded ONergy Solar – A social enterprise that provides clean energy solutions to the underserved communities in East India.
While working with small farmers on sustainable agriculture, she discovered the lack of reliable, premium organic markets as one of the biggest challenges that small organic farmers faces. Seeds for ONganic Foods were sown with the idea to connect small, organic farmers with reliable markets.
The grand finale of the fifth edition of the TATA Social Enterprise Challenge, held on January 14, 2017, at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), saw Pentavalent Biosciences from Bangalore (Winner), Arogya Medtech from Kolkata (1st Runner-up), and Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) from Mumbai (2nd Runner-up), emerge as the winning ventures, receiving prize money of Rs. 2.5 lakh, Rs. 2 lakh and Rs. 1.5 lakh, respectively.
This year’s edition received 600+ registrations from across India, out of which 214 met all the eligibility criteria and moved to the next round of the competition. These impact proposals were in the area of agriculture, food and dairy; healthcare, water and sanitation; technology and development; education & skills development; housing; handicrafts; and energy and microfinance/financial inclusion. The ventures were judged on three parameters – Business Model, Social Impact and Sustainability.
The grand event gave the audience the golden opportunity to witness remarkable talk by dignitaries like Mr. Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, TATA Sons and inspiring speakers like Mrs Poonam Bir Kasturi, Founder, Daily Dump and Mr Sujay Santra, Founder & CEO, i-Kure Techsoft Pvt Ltd, share their experiences, among others.
Felicitating the winners, Mr. Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons, said, “Social entrepreneurship provides an opportunity to provide solutions for critical needs being faced by our society through innovation and enterprise. Tata Social Enterprise Challenge took shape five years ago, with the idea of fostering an ecosystem for early stage social start-ups, in line with our ethos of giving back to society and creating sustainable and meaningful social impact. The tangible results seen from the ventures identified, mentored and incubated on this platform, encourage us to strengthen our efforts along with our partner IIM-C, towards creating a meaningful social impact.”
TATA Social Enterprise Challenge 2017 gifted the audience an innovative and interactive session presented by Prof C D Mitra, Advisor –IIM Calcutta Innovation Park with some of the finalists from past edition of TATA Social Enterprise Challenge. Dr Parvez Ubed, founder- ERC Eye Care, Mr. Shashank Kumar, founder-Green Agrevolution and Mr. Abhinav Girdhar, founder-Bodhi Healthcare shared their success stories while interacting closely with the top 20 finalists of TATA Social Enterprise Challenge’2017 and the audience.
Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Ashok Banerjee, Director, IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, said, “Over the last five years, Tata Social Enterprise Challenge has encouraged many budding entrepreneurs to grow with a vision and create positive sustainable social impact. As we reach this 5-year milestone, we are encouraged with the quality of talent and the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs to make a difference from all across the country and even from overseas. We have also launched, this year, the INVENT programme in association with the Department for International Development (DFID), UK. This 3-year programme, which has a total budget of Rs. 12 crores, aims at providing seed funding support of up to Rs. 25 lakhs to for-profit social enterprise start-ups being incubated under this programme.”
31 March 2017: UNCONVENTION AHMEDABAD
Ahmedabad Management Association, ATIRA Campus, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai Marg, Ahmedabad, Gujarat – 380015. To register: https://in.explara.com/e/uncahd17
Entries open for Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY)-India Award 2017
The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organization of the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation announces opening of entries for the annual competition –Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) India Award 2017. The applications will be accepted till April 30, 2017.
Interested candidates may submit the application form available at jubilantbhartiafoundation.com or can email the filled form to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
8 April 2017: Thinking Social Seminar – Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida
Tata Group in association with IIM Calcutta Innovation Park is hosting the next thinking Social Seminar at Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida.
To register for the event write to – firstname.lastname@example.org