Social Entrepreneurship in India

Social entrepreneurship as the concept was coined long ago but has been in the corporate parlance in just the recent past. Traditionally, entrepreneurship has been associated with profit making individuals who aim high and achieve a lot for themselves in the world of tough competition. And the success of enterprise was and is being judged on parameter like return on investment and net income margins. But, with the empowerment and awareness of the citizens of the developing world, a new revolution has started, particularly among the youth of the world. This revolution is the growth of Social Entrepreneurship – the form of entrepreneurship where profits are not the end result, but just the means to achieve the end result of social upliftment and further empowerment.

Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector by adopting a mission to create and sustain social value, by recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission, by engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning, by acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand and by exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created. Social entrepreneurs are reformers and revolutionaries, as described by Schumpeter, but with a social mission. Peter Drucker considered the social entrepreneur as somebody, who seeks social change, reacts and replies to it, exploits it as an opportunity, and therefore changes the performance capacity of society.

Generally, there are many different definitions of Social Entrepreneurship and this renaissance of the social entrepreneurship phenomenon has definitely not reached a mature state of development. Although Alex Nicholls defines it as representation of an exciting and emergent set of new models offering hope for systematic, positive, social and environmental change. What business entrepreneurs are to the economy, social entrepreneurs are to social change? Social entrepreneurship is neither about charities, nor about exploiting the down trodden, it is an innovative business model where business flourishes along with the society.

Social Entrepreneurship in India

Social entrepreneurship in India is very much shaped by the political context or, more specifically, by the political problems since independence. In India, many social entrepreneurs address the huge gap that exists between formal legislation (which recognizes no discrimination across social strata) and social reality (the prevalence of the caste system). The opportunity space for and activities of social entrepreneurs is also shaped significantly by the natural disasters occurring on a regular basis. Social entrepreneurs have created organizations that complement and substitute for missing action by national and international relief activities. India has many natural resources, which are untapped. Human resources, agricultural produce, forest products and rural market potential, capital formation are some of the resources, which are grossly underutilized. It is necessary to harness the vast untapped resources of our country and to channelize them towards accelerating total human development. It is a purposeful activity of an individual and group or a group of associated individuals to undertake economic activities for economic empowerment. They are regarded as an important element of development strategy. Economic development in the country can play social and political role in creating local employment, balancing regional development, generating income among poor, thus promoting a positive change among people.

In India, a social entrepreneur can be a person, who is the founder, co-founder or a chief functionary (may be president, secretary, treasurer, chief executive officer of chairman) of a social enterprise, which primarily is a NGO, which raises funds through some services (often fund raising events and community activities) and occasionally products. Rippan Kapur of Child Rights and You and Jyotindra Nath of Youth United, are such examples of social entrepreneurs, who are the founders of the respective organizations. Jay Vikas Sutaira of is a social entrepreneur who is leveraging in the power of the internet to fight hunger in India. Another excellent example of a non-profit social enterprise in India is Rang De-founded by Ramakrishna and Smita Ram in January 2008. Rang De is a peer-to-peer online platform that makes low-cost micro-credit accessible to both the rural and urban poor in India.

The popularity of Social Entrepreneurship is growing at a very high pace in India even through the current economic downturn. Earlier, organizations solving social problems were often assumed to be idealistic, philanthropic and lacking business acumen or the ability to be entrepreneurial. However, as the social sector has been coming in touch with the private sector, both have begun to realize that just one approach either pure philanthropic or pure capitalist is inadequate to build sustainable institutions. Social entrepreneurship is still at a nascent stage in India and it definitely holds great opportunity for any one ready to take the plunge.

Since opening its economy in the early 1990s, India has shown incredible promise demonstrating rapid growth and entrepreneurial spirit. But festering social issues still remain for many of its citizens, including poverty and a lack of opportunities and resources. Many NGOs are devoted to improving the lives of many Indian and government has also been spent more money on social welfare and rural programs in an effort to stimulate more economic growth across this vast country. But social entrepreneurship is also catching on in India. With the belief that individual-not just the government or NGOs-can bring new ideas, resources and energy to solve social and economic challenges, many entrepreneurs are investing in such programs.

Many ‘needs gaps’ persist because existing businesses or public organizations fail to address them or address them inadequately. Filling one such gap is social entrepreneur David Green who, working the Aravind Eye Hospitals in India, has been able to produce intraocular lenses at a fraction of the traditional cost while still making a profit. Companies often shy away from addressing basic needs as they do not see the business case-the potential to make profits. Governments often shy away from experimenting and engaging in new ways of addressing social problems, simply because their rules of the game are determined by a five year run to re-election.

In India, entrepreneurship among women is very limited in the formal sector. Mostly women undertake self-employment activities in the informal sector as home-based work. Women entrepreneurs in India own only less than five percent of all businesses. These activities are not accounted in official statistics and remain invisible in the national economic contributions of women entrepreneurs. In India the women entrepreneurs representing a group of women who have broke away from the beatoo track and exploring new vistar of economic participation. Today women are working hard in every field of India and achieving mountains successes. The list of successful women entrepreneurs is quite long. Among some accomplished women entrepreneurs, Smt. Sumati Morarji of Shipping Corporation stands as a beacon to women entrepreneurs. Smt Yomuti Kirlosker of Mahila Udyog Ltd., Smt. Shenaz Hussain in Beauty Clinical Cosmetics, Smt. Waheeda Rehman in fast food, Smt. Rita Singh of Mescos group, Smt. Parmeshwar Godrej and many more stand out a successful women entrepreneurs. In era of Liberalization, privatization and globalization Indian women as entrepreneurs are fast entering non-traditional areas like electronic, software, consultancy, and furniture, ceramic.

Challenges of Social Entrepreneurs in India

When social entrepreneurs endeavor to bring about a social change, they are confronted with tremendous problems. To begin with, they collect vast amount of information, synthesize them, and then develop an action plan, focusing on the causes of the problem. Communication and leadership skills are essential to acquire basic entrepreneurial qualities, which are, per se, linked to character and personality. Successful entrepreneurs are opportunity-seekers, value-creators and resource-allocators. They are basically bold, patient, resourceful people. Social entrepreneurs are tied to a coal goal fostered by a personal history and feeling that improving society is part of one’s personal fulfillment and potential, but they need to equip themselves with a disciplined way of thinking and of approaching problems without forgetting that this training is not enough. The complexities of the reality demand that the social entrepreneurs deal promptly and diligently with problems. Social entrepreneurs need to know that to succeed in their social mission, lifelong learning is essential. Continuous update in their field is the most important challenge they face, to be relevant in the field.

Social entrepreneurs adopt new approaches to many social ills and new models to create wealth, promote social well-being and restore equity and justice within the society. They may encounter extraordinary political, social, cultural and economical resistance but the challenge is that they have to identify structural supports to turn to, for financing, for obtaining information and advice. They listen carefully to people from different backgrounds and gain a detailed understanding of their ideas and life histories, without announcing their presence and putting their ideas into their minds. They do not impose their plans and programmes because they believe in unraveling people’s potentials, idea, plan, knowledge and resources. They do not start with the perfect plan; they just have a complete commitment to solving a problem. They flow around obstacles of status quo, regulations, lack of funding, program design flaws and changing needs, always adjusting and maneuvering to reach their goals. No matter whatever the leanings and obstacles, they should continue their committed service, striking a balance between positions of power and authority. These profiles demonstrate that there is no stopping.

Social entrepreneurs are eager to identify more resources and channelize them systematically to the community for optimum utilization and resource conversion. Hence the society appreciates ethically motivated social entrepreneurs to break out of the negative patterns and to initiate new orders of things. It means to take concentrated, persisting effort to achieve the goal. The degree to which a social goal has been fulfilled depends on the patterns, which stem form an understanding to allocate the resources to the target population. Thus, they need to be equipped with business skills. This understanding should be confronted with the constraints and opportunities of the local reality. They prepare individual and group to attack large scale problems with very little resources. They do not believe in developing human resources, but consider people as their asset, capital and resource. They concentrate on abilities rather than pondering over the disabilities and helplessness. There are vision bound social entrepreneur who present their goals with fixed determination of an indomitable will and even quit their other jobs to concentrate on their ideas. They prefer action instead of stagnancy, good solutions instead of persisting problems, justice and opportunity instead of poverty and neglect. They dream of solving a problem or making a positive change in the environment. They are opportunity seekers so they try to win optimum excellence in all that they do and advocate. They help small producers to capture greater profits. They promote the concept of production of the mass based on labor intensive as against the “mass production” based on capital intensive.

Social workers as social entrepreneur are not happy just with an idea, but they are happy when they solve the problem in the most indigenous way. To solve a problem and cause fundamental social change trustworthiness and integrity are their most important assets. Social entrepreneurs need to be prepared for unexpected demands and challenges to build community based organizations to expedite the social change. They can empower the youth, women, children, artisans, craftsmen and farmers to develop skills and confidence to solve a major resource problem. Some social entrepreneurs focus on adding value to productive processes by linking excellence to economic development and environmental protection. They have a greater attachment to finding solutions than to being right, rich, or recognized. It is the very basic of social mission. Therefore the social entrepreneurs have the duty to impart sound values, professional ethics, value based spirituality through their commitment and service.

The new economic policy poses a threat to our country’s development and sovereignty. The policy is creating more disparity and a new poor. It is the challenge to the social entrepreneur to prepare people to face such problems with creative and collective strategy. The social entrepreneur can provide or help people to arrive at a creative solution, to look for new ways to unleash and redirect the creative energies of people within the present scenario and to reduce the burden of unemployment problem through various income generation activities and by setting up small and medium size enterprises.

Social enterprise has emerged as a major issue among entrepreneurial thinkers. Social enterprise consists of obligations a business has to society. The diversity of social enterprise opens the door to questions concerning the extent to which corporations should be involved. S.Prakesh Sethi, a researcher in social enterprise, has established a framework that classifies the social actions of corporations into three distinct categories: social obligation, social enterprise and social responsiveness. Some firms simply react to social issues through obedience to the laws (social obligation): others respond more actively, accepting responsibility for various programs (social responsibility); still others are highly proactive and are even willing to be evaluated by the public for various activities (social responsiveness).

The environment stands out as one of the major challenges of social enterprise. The reawakening of the need to preserve and protect our natural resources has motivated businesses toward a stronger environmental awareness. Our recent “throwaway” culture has endangered our natural resources, from soil to water to air. They confront enormous challenges as they attempt to build socially responsible organization for the future. They are beginning the arduous task of addressing social-environmental problems. Entrepreneurs need to take the lead in designing a new approach to business in which everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world. One theorist has developed the term ecovision to describe a possible leadership style for innovative organizations. Ecovision encourages open and flexible structures that encompass the employees, the organization and the environment, with attention to evolving social demands. It will be critical to maintain an elevated social status for social entrepreneurs. The challenge in the coming years will be to find a good balance between attributing ‘social hero’ stories to social entrepreneurs and creating a solid role associated with status in our societies the biggest task, that of sustaining the role of social entrepreneurs in economic and social life, is faced by the governments.

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