During the first decade of the 21st century social entrepreneurship had gradually started emerging as a more widespread phenomenon in India. Around this time, a rudimentary supporting ecosystem for the practice - consisting of (1) a pipeline of talent, (2) incubation support, (3) funding and investments in the social ventures, (4) conferences, awards and recognition, and (5) media coverage - had just started emerging.
(As often happens with the initial emergence of a sector, though many of these early initiatives didn’t survive after a few years, they did add momentum to the developments which were shaping the field.
The following list provides some key development in the ecosystem during this decade:
- Aavishkaar India Micro Venture Fund was launched to support early-stage ventures serving the under-served markets.
- Rural Innovation Network (now Villgro) was founded to identify and disseminate promising rural innovations by helping them to develop into social enterprises.
- Acumen Fund made an entry by making its first impact investment in Aravind Eye Hospital.
- Center for Social Initiative and Management (CSIM) was launched in Chennai and offered India’s first practice oriented course on social entrepreneurship
- Outlook, a mainstream magazine, started a regular column “Make a Difference” documenting the initiatives of ordinary individuals which made an impact on society
- For the first time, in the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2002, President A P J Abdul Kalam felicitated ten outstanding social entrepreneurs from India and Bangladesh. Their achievements were highlighted in a special plenary session, 'Recognizing Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs.'
- Lok Capital, a venture capital firm was launched to support and make long-term equity investments in “social enterprises that are commercially viable and can deliver basic services and livelihood solutions to low income households and underserved segment.”
- Dasra was launched with the aim to incubate, builds skills and capacity of social ventures, and connect them with donors and investors.
- Marico Ltd launched Marico Innovation Foundation with the aim to mentor and support “direct impact” innovations in the areas of renewable energy, waste management, employability & livelihoods and healthcare.
- IIT-Madras and Rural Innovations Network (Villgro) jointly launched the Lemelson Recognition and Mentoring Program (L-RAMP) for social entrepreneurs, supported by The Lemelson Foundation USA.
- IIM Bangalore launched the first academic course on social entrepreneurship.
- The first Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, supported by Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation, was given to Dr Devi Shetty, the founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya.
- Ashoka: Innovators for the Public went on a roadshow across college and institutes to stimulate interest in social entrepreneurship among students and faculty.
- The first International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship was organized by Tata Institute of Social and UnLtd Foundation at TISS, with support from Skoll Centre, Oxford University.
- Rural Technology Business Incubator (RTBI) was launched at IIT-Madras
- Four major institutes (Indian Institute of Forest Management-Bhopal, Institute of Rural management-Anand, Xavier Institute of Management-Bhubneshwar, and XLRI-Jamshedpur) started offering courses on social entrepreneurship as a part of their programs.
- ISB-Hyderabad became the partner in the Global Social Venture Competition, a global competition partnered by different educational institutions, and organized the first major competition for students and budding social entrepreneurs.
- Acumen Fund opened its office in India with a focus on investing in social ventures in agriculture, education, energy, health, housing and water.
- Pravah and Ashoka’s Youth Venture jointly launched the Change Looms program to recognize, encourage and supports the exceptional achievements of young people who are actively promoting social change in society
- UnLtd India was launched as an incubator for early stage social entrepreneurs to help them scale up and accelerate their impact.
- IIM-Ahmedabad launched the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) to incubate, mentor and fund innovative start-ups, which can bring about societal change in areas like energy, environment, agriculture, healthcare and affordable technology (CIIE was founded in 2002 but till now focused primarily on academic research).
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences started a 2-year full-time program on social entrepreneurship.
- IIM-Ahmedabad launched a course on social entrepreneurship as a part of the regular program.
- Deshpande Foundation was established in Hubli-Dharward to nurture social leaders and nurture and promote social enterprises based innovation relevant to local needs.
- Piramal Foundation launched Gandhi Fellowship, a 2 year program “to develop a cadre of leaders exposed to the complexities of bringing change in social and public systems”.
- Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHIRAG) launched the, Swadesh Ki Khoj Fellowship, providing youth an opportunity to work with a rural development agency in India for a year.
- The first Development Dialogue was organized by the Deshpande Foundation, which is annual event which brings together social entrepreneurs and other stakeholder who are involved in creating ecosystems to nurture social innovation and entrepreneurship.
- The first Jagriti Yatra, a 15-day long train journey across India with more than 300 youth was organised with an aim to sensitize, inspire and build entrepreneurial skills to address social problems through enterprises.
- Elevar Equity was founded to invest in ventures providing market-based solutions to deliver essential services to underserved communities.
- Ennovent Fund was launched to invest in social innovations which improve the lives of low-income people communities.
- Three online portals were launched which covered the gamut of entrepreneurship, changemakers and social enterprises: Think Change-India, an online bog-website covered the news and developments in the social enterprise space; Your Story was founded with the aim of championing the untold stories of entrepreneurship in India; Better India was founded with the aim to share the stories of unsung heroes and little-known innovations making a social impact.
- TiE Entrepreneurship Summit 2008 was organized on the theme of Inclusive Entrepreneurship with a key-note session on social entrepreneurship
- Four national level conferences on social entrepreneurship were organized (National Conference on Social Entrepreneurship by XLRI, Jamshedpur; Sankalp Forum by Intellecap; Khemka Forum for Social Entrepreneurship by Khemka Foundation, and Unconvention by Villgro) which provided a platform for social entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to connect, share and learn from each other.
- ICICI Fellowship program was launched which aimed to nurture young social leaders by 15-month long experiential learning through working on grassroots development projects, management inputs and personal mentoring.
- ISB-Hyderabad and IIT-Madras organized the first national-level social venture competitions, iDiya and Genesis. Besides the prizes, these competitions also provided mentoring and training support, and connecting the winners with funders/ investors.
- As a first collaboration between an academic institution and a social venture, Villgro and IIT-Madras co-designed and offered a course on social entrepreneurship for the engineering students
- Monitor Group, a global consultancy firm, published the first empirical report based largely on business models of the social enterprises, “Emerging Markets, Emerging Models: Market-Based Solutions to the Challenges of Global Poverty”.
- Outlook Business magazine brought out a full special issue featuring 50 social entrepreneurs.
- Beyond Profit, a magazine entirely devoted to social entrepreneurs and enterprises was launched social enterprise magazine, presents the stories, people and ideas behind these innovating social ventures
- IIT-Madras founded The Center for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CSIE) with a focus on teaching and research related to social enterprise in India.
- Piramal Foundation launched 2-year Piramal Fellowship for Sustainable Business program which aimed to develop social leaders by hands-on learning in taking up roles in social enterprises.