The concept of “haves and have-nots” has always been a flickering element in the glow of “Shining India” post-independence. One class of people (haves) is over-endowed with availability of resources (especially, monetary) while the other (have-nots) has never been even close to where the haves stand. There has always been a wide gap between these two classes of people living in India. At every step in India’s journey from an abuse-stricken economy in 1947 to one of the fastest growing economies in the world, disproportionate availability of opportunities among social classes and subsequent benefits of social and economic reforms have acted as dampers.
But, there is one more class of people who have worked towards bridging the gap between haves and have-nots. This class of people is termed as “Social Entrepreneurs”. The typical areas of investments for social enterprises include affordable healthcare, affordable housing, water and sanitation, agriculture, energy, education, livelihood promotion and financial inclusion.
Key sources of capital for social enterprises are non-institutional debt, equity (mostly self-financed), institutional debt, and grant funds. The transformation of many not-for-profit models into for-profit models is a growing and this helps them secure financing to scale up over time.
There have been many notable names in the field of social entrepreneurship. Let us have a look at five social entrepreneurs who have made it big with their ideas. Their inventiveness has generated opportunities for have-nots and made India a better place. They have made significant efforts to level the dampers and worked towards ensuring that the country traverses a smooth road of holistic growth-
#1 Dr Verghese Kurien
He is fondly known as the ‘Father of White Revolution’. His foresightedness, planning and execution made The Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union (now known as Amul) a popular name in India. It was due to Kurien’s efforts that transformed India from a milk-deficit country to the largest producer of milk, surpassing United States of America In 1998. His cooperative movement has lifted millions out of poverty in India.
#2 Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda
He is better known as Sam Pitroda. Because of his unparalleled contribution in areas of Information Technology and Telecom, he is considered as the ‘Father of India’s Communication Revolution’. Currently, he is the driving force behind the National Innovation Council, the council tasked with driving innovation in the country, by adopting the principles of inclusive growth. Some of the interesting initiatives that Pitroda is driving through the council is the setting up of a Rs 5,000 crore venture fund for social ventures, the open government data drive and the Planning Commission organised hackathons.
#3 Sumita Ghose
She is the founder of Rangasutra, an organization that procures crafts and textiles from villages and sells it through a chain of retail stores called Fabindia. The traditional produce of fabulously talented rural India has always caught the fascination of the urban class, which has the purchasing power to acquire it. Socially conscious and commercially sound Sumita has acted as a bridge between these two. She has proved that the there are better keys to open the doors of welfare and opportunities which go beyond the NGO model of functioning.
#4 Dr G Venkataswamy
Apart from being one of the most precious gifts of God, a pair of eyes is also an organ that needs utmost care. But maintaining this prized possession was a costly affair for the poor before Dr G Venkataswamy founded Arvind Eye Hospital which provides affordable eye-care to many who had no access to quality healthcare. To date, his hospital has attended to 32 million patients and performed nearly 4 million eye surgeries, majority of them being low-cost or free.
As India has embarked on the path to sustainability and scale, the current scenario of Social Entrepreneurship seems highly encouraging with many budding social enterprises coming up and the government offering a favorable environment for them. Initiatives worth more than Rs 10,000 Cr have been proposed in the Union Budget 2014 to create a conducive eco-system for venture capital in the MSME sector. Rs 200 Cr have been allocated to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and agro-industry. Moreover, Rs 100 Crore has been provided as an initial sum to set up ‘Start up Village Entrepreneurship Programme’ for encouraging rural youth to take up local entrepreneurship programmes.
So how are social entrepreneurs different from regular entrepreneurs who have made it big with their unique business models? Employment generation, Profitability and Higher standard of living (against a certain price) are the most basic yields of every business model. But, social entrepreneurs offer ideas where profitability meets welfare. They provide infinite opportunities for have-nots to climb up the socio-economic ladder.