We are pleased to share with you the inaugural issue of “Viewpoint”, a newsletter that seeks to capture IIM Calcutta’s deepening engagement in the Social Entrepreneurship Sector.
Our active involvement with social entrepreneurship was kick-started in 2013 with the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, a joint initiative by the Tata Group and IIM Calcutta. Through this event, we seek to identify promising nascent entrepreneurs dedicated to a mission of social change, and to provide them with mentorship, incubation and access to funding. In 2014, we expanded scope of our partnership beyond the flagship event to also conducting roundtables and seminars in different cities across the country. In doing so, we have been striving to contribute towards building the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in India.
In this spirit, through this periodic newsletter, we share with you contemporary debates and conversations in the sector seen through the lens of different stakeholders, relevant recent events on the national and international stage, as well as upcoming events that invite participation. Reflecting our commitment to strengthening social entrepreneurship at IIM Calcutta, we will also carry a section on campus events and student perspectives.
We look forward to having you join us in this new journey.
By P.R. Ganapathy, COO of Villgro
Our society has many, deep-rooted problems such as lack of livelihood opportunities, inadequate sanitation facilities, lack of clean drinking water, low health outcomes because of an overburdened medical system, low productivity in agriculture, poor education outcomes, lack of access to energy, etc.
Traditional ways to address these problems – government programs and NGOs – lack efficiency and innovation. NGOs have struggled to attract talent, and to scale. On the other hand, social enterprises, using the power of the market, have shown the ability to innovate, attract funding and talent, and to scale.
The reason for this is simple – for-profit social enterprises have to live or die by the harsh rules of the market – they either add value to a customer or they suffer for it. The most successful ones treat their customers well, understanding needs and innovating to solve their specific problems. They are responsive and sensitive. They price their products in a way that makes sense to customers, and reduce barriers to adoption. While a social enterprise may not be the silver bullet that solves every problem, it can be a significant instrument in the overall scheme of poverty reduction and inclusive development.
Micro Finance Institutions like BASIX set the ball rolling in the mid 90s, showing that you could make a profit while doing good. While that industry has had its share of problems and criticism, there is no denying the significant impact it has had, and the effect it has had on breaking established myths about the role of the private sector in development. MFIs were also a great channel through which some of our best and brightest minds transitioned to working on social issues.
Outside the financial sector, there were only a few examples of social enterprise (companies like SELCO being the most prominent) till around 7 or 8 years ago. I believe that the global financial meltdown in 2008, movements like Occupy Wall Street, and fellowship programs like Teach for India had a significant effect on awakening people’s social conscience. They began looking for more meaning in their lives, and found a ready outlet through social enterprise. We’ve therefore seen a boom in the number of entrepreneurs and enterprises since then. Of course, this has also been supported by a general rise in economic well-being, which generates the confidence someone needs to throw away their corporate career and take a chance with a social startup. The ride hasn’t been all rosy. We’ve struggled with many issues, such as inexperienced entrepreneurs (most of the entrepreneurs we’ve supported have had little work experience and rarely held any position of meaningful P&L responsibility), poor quality ideas or business models (I believe this is driven by the dichotomy in our society – people with an education are far removed from the problems of the poor), lack of adequate early stage risk-seeking capital (this is especially true for game-changing product ideas), etc.
While we have seen a growth in the number of incubators, few of them have a focus on social enterprise and are therefore not able to provide adequate support. Mentors have been difficult to find, or have found it difficult to find the time required to really sink their teeth in the reality of a social start-up’s business – this is vital for a mentor to provide sensible, actionable solutions to a company’s problems. Entrepreneurs have struggled to execute because of the lack of a supporting eco-system – from core facilities like rapid prototyping or low-volume manufacturing, to support such as marketing, accounting, legal and HR.
But things are changing. Working for a start-up is becoming much more acceptable than it was ten years ago – maybe not a social start-up, but that will happen too, in due course. This has led to a better supply of talent than before. People with deep corporate experience are quitting their jobs to start social businesses – so when someone with a decade or so of experience at GE Healthcare or Philips Healthcare quits to develop a medical device, the chances of success are significantly higher. There are now a few funds that support early stage social enterprise, and angels are also interested in funding social start-ups. ‘Maker Spaces’ are springing up to offer fabrication facilities to entrepreneurs. Corporate CSR departments can fund social startups through approved Technology Business Incubators (TBIs).
I really believe that social enterprise is a way by which we can get some of our best and brightest minds engaged with our society’s more serious problems – and that’s the only way we can solve them. That’s because it gives these people an opportunity to do good, and at the same time earn and reasonable living and create wealth for themselves and their employees.
Support and funding is available; we just need more people to heed the call, and take the plunge. We need more people to stop whining about what’s wrong with our society and to stand up and do something.
By Prashant Singh, Jimit Patel, Codanda Appachu Appanna , and Gurpreet Singh Seehra, Second Year PGP, IIM Calcutta
On the evening of 5th July, we were honored to have a team from NGO Prayasam join us for a screening of the film “Revolutionary optimists”. Filmed over the course of several years, the Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan Ganguly and three of the children he works with on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they fight for the better future he encourages them to imagine is deservedly theirs. The Film has been directed by renowned film-makers Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen and has been screened at various cities across the world.
A dancer, choreographer, and costume designer, Amlan Ganguly brings creative expression to subjects that can otherwise be difficult for film audiences to approach. Revolutionary Optimists leverages this artistry, to reveal to the audience both the desperate, flawed world he is trying to change, and the vibrant, colorful world that his optimism generates.
Kajal, working at a brick field with help of Amlan wants to balance her desire to learn and make change with her need to work in order to survive. Priyanka, 16 year-old lead dancer of the troupe founded by Amlan, and a dance teacher to children in her neighborhood is faced with three options: marry a man her family wants, marry her boyfriend and lose her position in the dance group, her employment and her chance to an education, or keep fighting as Amlan suggests. Salim is an eleven-year-old boy living in one of Kolkata’s slums, who is empowered by Prayasam to fight to make change in his community, address its problem and include his friends in the process.
The Revolutionary Optimists leverages Ganguly’s story to draw attention to the need to solve treatable health problems, and how education and child empowerment are crucial to reaching that goal. Through the online tool, Map Your World, NGO Prayasam aspires to give these youth a powerful technological tool to advance their dreams for their neighborhoods and trigger cascading change.
The film screening on campus was followed by a discussion, made lively and enriching by the fact that children starring in the film were themselves present to answer questions, share their experience, and their hopes for the future.
By K.V. Gopakumar, Doctoral Student, IIM Bangalore
Anshu Gupta, founder of NGO Goonj in India, has been chosen for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2015. He has been recognized for “transforming the culture of giving in India”, Anshu founded Goonj in 1999 after leaving a plush corporate job. Over the years Anshu has worked strenuously to highlight the unaddressed issue of clothing in India and transformed communities by treating cloth as a sustainable development resource. Among the many triggers behind the formation of Goonj an often cited one is Anshu’s interaction with a dead body collector on Delhi streets which helped him understand that in winters more people lost their lives due to lack of clothing than due to other causes.
Goonj creatively transforms urban wastes ranging from clothes to electronic items into valuable resources for underprivileged. It also plays a significant role in relief and rehabilitation activities in times of disaster. A prominent Goonj campaign is ‘Cloth for Work’ where rural folk are encouraged to take up developmental work within their community in return for clothes. Another campaign named ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’ converts waste clothes to low-cost sanitary pads for poor women who cannot afford branded sanitary napkins. Goonj’s work has received recognition from various quarters including organizations like NASA, Ashoka, Schwab Foundation, and Forbes.
1.The fourth edition of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge kicks-off
The most awaited and one of the biggest social entrepreneurship events of India, Tata Social Enterprise Challenge (TSEC) was launched on 7th August 2015. TATA Social Enterprise Challenge is a joint initiative by the TATA group and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM Calcutta) to find India’s most promising early-stage social enterprises. The endeavor of the challenge is to create an ecosystem for social entrepreneurship and encourage sustainable, scalable and measurable social impact.
Teams who either have an early stage venture (not older than 3 years) or a promising idea with a plan, that can create sustainable social impact in India, can submit their business plans online, by logging onto www.tatasechallenge.org. Impact Proposals (detailed Business Plans) are invited in the areas of agriculture, food and dairy, healthcare, water and sanitation, technology and development, education & skills development, housing, handicrafts, energy and microfinance/financial inclusion. The ventures will be judged on three parameters – Business Model, Social Impact and Sustainability.
To register your team for TSEC, follow the below mentioned steps:
The last day to submit the Impact Proposal (business plan) online is October 7, 2015.
For any further queries write to: email@example.com
2.Thinking Social Seminar – 29 August 2015 at IIT Guwahati
IIM Calcutta Innovation Park (IIMCIP) in association with IIT Guwahati is organising a “Thinking Social”seminar on 29 August 2015 at the IIT Guwahati campus.
“Thinking Social” – one of our flagship event is conducted in partnership with the TATA group. The primary objective of this event is to build awareness on social entrepreneurship, generate interest and inspire the young generation to come up with innovative solutions to social challenges.
As part of this initiative, IIMCIP conducts several seminars, roundtables and lecture series across India which culminates into our flagship business plan contest called – The Tata Social Enterprise challenge.
The speakers of this seminar comprise eminent academicians and social entrepreneurs, who have established their own outstanding ventures and have impacted the lives of thousands of people.
The participants will have a great opportunity to learn from these practitioners about their journey, the challenges faced and the social impact created by their venture. This will motivate and encourage the students to consider social entrepreneurship as a career option.
The participation in the seminar does not require any fee. The registration to this seminar is on a first-confirmed-first-served basis.
To register please write to:firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details please visit: https://www.tatasechallenge.org/
3.Unconventionl Delhi social enterprise event
A unique conference on September 11th, where budding social entrepreneurs have the chance to hear the inspiring stories of successful entrepreneurs, network with sector leaders, and connect to a local ecosystem of support and national network of opportunities.
For further clarifications, please e-mail: email@example.com. or visit: www.unconvention.co.in/pitch
4.Unconventionl Jaipur pitch contest
Entrepreneurs with a business that has social impact can pitch their idea at the Unconvention|L Jaipur pitch contest on October 9th. Winners get Rs 1.5 lakh cash, expert feedback, and the chance get incubation and funding up to Rs 65 lakh from Villgro.
For further clarifications, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit: www.unconvention.co.in/pitch
By Abhishek Sundar, Investment Banking Analyst, Credit Suisse, IIMC Alumnus
When the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union started disintegrating in the late 1980s, Francis Fukuyama famously declared that we were witnessing the beginning of a capitalist era. “This is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history,” he then claimed,“but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” While the sentiment was understandable at the time, the financial crisis in 2008 ended our capitalist honeymoon. An unregulated financial system is still only the tip of an iceberg buoyed by growing inequality, accelerating climate change and spiraling national debt. There is a need to rethink capitalism, and soon.
I had the privilege of having breakfast with Prof. Muhammad Yunus one fine Sunday last year. Our conversation naturally turned to Grameen Bank and the idea of using the free market to create solutions for the people who need them the most. It is possible, as Prof.Yunus himself as shown us through Grameen Bank, to create enterprises that balance profit maximization and social welfare, but there is no systemic support for such enterprises as yet. “The capitalist system misinterprets human beings,” Prof.Yunus told me,“the human being is interpreted as a money-maker who pursues his selfish interests. He is driven by self-interest and devoid of other considerations. This is one dimension to us, but it is one of many.”
By incentivising monetary success and nothing else, the capitalist framework has reduced businesses and the men who run them to a set of bridled, monomaniacal robots, which human beings are fundamentally not. We don’t choose friends solely on the basis of the money they make – however, we have somehow convinced ourselves that it is okay to judge businesses with that metric alone. Thus, in this farcical world we’ve created, Dow Chemicals, with a profit of 3.5 billion USD is 300 times a ‘better’ enterprise than GrameenBank, whose profits are around the 10 million mark. As an investment banker, I’ve been taught that businesses are valued based on cash flows and cash flows alone.Grameen has touched the lives of 10 million poor, while Dow’s human rights record can be described as questionable at best, but these factors don’t impact success (or at least our perception of it) of a business.
There is a reason capitalism triumphed over communism in the 20th century. For all their other flaws, free markets have proven to be far more efficient than command-and-control economies historically. But when our eagerness to do away with command economies turns socialism and welfare state into blasphemous terms and starts painting the poor as ‘lazy, incompetent leeches’ (Fox News’ words, not mine), it really is time to rethink the free market idol we have forged for ourselves.
The redeeming trait of the free market system is that it is a delightfully dynamic and supple system. The solution to the issues we currently face could indeed come from the free market system itself – Wikipedia and the Open Source Initiative are changing the way business is done, by turning a competitive business sphere to a collaborative one instead. India too has witnessed the rise of several social businesses that are forcing a paradigm shift from the traditional ‘profit-at-all-costs’ models of business. Only time will tell which of the models will succeed. One thing is undeniable, though – we now live in a post-capitalist society.
By Ram Kumar, Founder and CEO of Edwell Solutions Pvt Ltd
Edwell Solutions provides multimedia-based learning via low cost android-based multimedia screens, teaching/learning techniques and learning assessment assistance. Ram Kumar, Founder & CEO of Edwell Solutions, is a post-graduate in entrepreneurship management from XLRI Jamshedpur, India. Ram is passionate towards making education available to all and has worked extensively on the affordable education model in India.
Edwell targets budget private schools with a strength of 100 to 300 students and which charge monthly fees in the range of INR 250 to INR 600. These schools in rural areas of India have teachers taking classes in conventional ways that typically involve a one-sided communication with the teacher narrating definitions and formulae from books. Due to lack of funds and the limited number of students, such schools are often not in a position to install E-learning solutions or take external assistance to enhance teaching techniques. The absence of technology cum capacity-building service providers for the segment of budget private schools located in rural areas is the specific problem space that Edwell seeks to address.
Edwell Solutions deploys physical infrastructure, such as a 40-inch LED screen, an android-based mini-PC with installed lesson plans and multimedia content, in a classroom at a selected school. The teachers are trained for 5 days initially on usage of ICT in education and scientific teaching techniques to ensure the system is utilized effectively by the end-user. Every 10 days, a service executive visits the school to ensure smooth continuation of services. At the end of the month, there is an assessment by Edwell on the topics covered with the marks obtained being directly forwarded to parents via SMS. The progress made by all students is also shared with the school on a monthly basis. Such innovative measures have resulted in an increased engagement from parents towards learning outcomes.
There has been an increase in retention rate of students in school, an increase in parents’ involvement, increased community awareness on quality education, and an enhancement in the learning interest of students in subjects like Maths, Science and English. Students scoring 50% to 60% earlier are able to score in the range of 65% to 75% now. Via the assessment model, Edwell Solutions tracks the progress made by students in different quarters of an academic year.
As of July’2015 Edwell Solutions provides E-Learning facilities at 12 budget private schools in Tehri Garhwal, Uttarkashi & Dehradun district of Uttarakhand. The organization serves 1500+ students studying in pre-primary to Class 5th at these budget private schools. It envisions to empower 6000 such schools with technology-based education that could benefit 0.6 million students in learning level enhancement over the next 5 years.
Edwell has become a part of Pearson Affordable Learning Fund-Village Capital Edupreneurs Cohort-2013. The founder, Ram, is a CNBC TV 18 Young Turks featured entrepreneur and was recently recognized as a finalist of the prestigious Young Entrepreneur Awards-2015 by Business World magazine for his innovative work in technology enabled affordable education.
By Rakesh Mishra, Senior Associate, Boston Consulting Group and IIMC Alumnus
In 2012, when I first got a chance to be a part of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge (TSEC), I must confess, I knew little of what social entrepreneurship meant and lesser still of why IIM Calcutta was associated with it. Three years later, of which two years were spent working with the TSEC team on campus, I think I am still trying to figure the answer to the first question but perhaps have a clearer view on the second. In trying to delve in to my view on this, I will draw upon three words that I believe form the crucial underpins to business school education and relate them to my experiences with social entrepreneurship, through TSEC and through my experiences in IIMC.
The first word is innovation. One of the most oft—repeated words in any business school classroom , whether it be innovation in business models, innovation in financing or innovation in marketing. Innovation is the engine that drives social entrepreneurship. It has to be, given that the targets of most social enterprise are problems that are not conducive to “traditional market forces”. A great example of this is TouchHb, a low cost needle free anemia screening tool. Personally, it was gratifying to see that a technology that is employed in most college labs was actually being put to use in a device that could save lives in rural settings (especially during childbirth) where access to diagnostics is limited. In fact, the same teams (for a different product) were also amongst the early Indian adopters of crowdfunding to raise capital for expansion.
Impact is another word that is tough to escape as a student in business school. Financial metrics like RoI form the basis to most discussions in business schools, highlighting the emphasis on impact. Intuitively, most of us can see the link between social enterprise and impact but it is quite a different thing altogether to see this impact in practice in reality. As part of a class project, a classmate and I had the chance to visit Metiabruz, to understand the business model of a skill training institute there. We met women who had not completed formal education but who, through the skills training initiatives, were now engaged in data transcription and digital publishing services. In an area like Metiabruz, which just a year ago had come into national spotlight on account of a gruesome honor killing, not only was this initiative providing women with a source of livelihood but also a sense of freedom and independence, metrics that are not as patent from within the confines of a classroom.
The final word is passion, or rather the conviction that comes with it. If there is one common thread that I have observed through all my interactions at TSEC, it has been the passion and commitment that each social entrepreneur has brought to her initiative. This was particularly evident in the works of Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who “started a sanitary pad revolution” in south India and Mr. Harish Hande who brough solar energy into the homes of several families in rural India. It therefore almost seems poetic that the genesis of TSEC at IIM C was attributable, to a great extent, to the passion that a group of students in my senior batch had towards making social enterprise a crucial component of on-campus curricula and experience.
Social entrepreneurship operates in areas of the markets which are traditionally un-addressed. While this makes the problem statements particularly challenging, it also makes the solutions all the more innovative and widely impactful. In doing so, it provides insights for students of business which are particularly pertinent in today’s world as companies become more aware of their social responsibilities and footprints.