Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reaching Social Entrepreneurs in India’s Hinterland

Recent years have seen the growth of many ‘ecosystem platforms’ for social entrepreneurs, which enable the entrepreneurs to access financial, technical and network support – thus accelerating the growth of entrepreneurship in the country. While these initiatives have helped mainstreaming entrepreneurship, they still reach to largely urban – or to well-established – entrepreneurial ventures. The challenge to expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem is: how does one reach countless small and fledgling entrepreneurial ventures in India’s small towns and rural hinterland?

The following are some stray thoughts on this:

·         Go Vernacular, Become “Unprofessional”: Language, and the professionally designed templates and formats (ppts, xls sheets, etc.) to access the ecosystem resources, remain one of the major entry barriers to the existing ecosystem platforms for many grassroot entrepreneurs. Large number of grassroot entrepreneurs are neither conversant with English, nor have the capabilities of showcasing their work through the templates, which are required to be used to seek entry/support into the ecosystem. Reaching them would require building-in vernacular languages, and more intuitive interfaces, into the ecosystem platforms.

·         Search, Identify and Showcase: A critical challenge in reaching the grassroot entrepreneurs is how to identify them. By their very nature and location, they remain “invisible” on the radar of existing ecosystem platforms. If the ecosystem platforms have to reach them, then it will be necessary to initiate processes (e.g., contests, citizen journalists’ forums, etc.) which help identifying them – and showcasing them on existing media channels (e.g., The Better India, Weekend Leader, Your Story, or even FB pages, etc.).

·         Connect – Create Partnerships: Grassroot entrepreneurs mostly operate in isolation, concerned mainly with the community/segment they serve. As a result, not only they lack access to sources of funding and technical advice, their own innovations are lost to the rest of entrepreneurial community. The challenge of developing a vibrant ecosystem would be to create platforms which allow entrepreneurs to connect with others, and find complementary partners.

·         Converge ‘Ecosystem Platforms’: One very positive development in the entrepreneurial space during last couple of years has been the emergence of many robust ecosystem platforms (e.g., Mahindra’s Spark the Rise, Intellecap’s Sankalp Forum, Villgro’s Unconvention, etc.). Similarly initiatives such as Be! Fund, BYST, etc., provide funding mentoring and technical support to entrepreneurs from the marginalized segments. These initiatives to build the entrepreneurial ecosystems, however, still operate as independent silos. A convergence and coordination among these can bring out the synergy and increase the reach to the grassroot entrepreneurs.
[ps: I had written this about a couple of months back for "Spark the Rise Meet-up" in Delhi (Sept 1, 2012. Since then one convergence has happened: Intellecap's Sankalp and Villgro's Unconvention have formed a strategic partnership to do on main conference in Mumbai in April, and to do many mini-meets in smaller towns.]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Funding Options for Social Entrepreneurs/ Agri-preneurs

In the recent 4th National Conference on Social Entreprenurship @ XLRI (Jan 27-29, 2012 on the theme of Rural Revival, the Inaugural Panel was on the "Opportunities & Challenges".

The three panelist/ speakers - Siddharth Tata (Agriculture Portfolio Manager, Acumen Fund - India), Paul Basil (Founder CEO, Villgro) and Pravesh Sharma (Managing Director, Small Farmers' Agribusiness Consortium) - spoke about the funding and support which is available in this space, and what their respective organisations have to offer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Incorporating Sustainability into Management Education

Some thoughts, in no specific order:

  • Make socio-environmental concerns and ethical fibre a non-negotiable part of admissions filter. If the primary reason why a student is joining an MBA course is to land up with a lucrative job, mere two years of teaching cannot change that mindset.

  • Review program syllabi and course structure to align them to sustainability goals. For instance, a large number of courses in the management school syllabi focus on enhancing and managing “financial wealth”. This focus needs to be balanced by (1) highlighting the positive or negative impact the financial wealth creation had on society and environment, and (2) with equal number of courses (if not more) which focus on enhancing “social capital” and ”environmental capital”.

  • One of the reasons, perhaps, why students fail to appreciate the socio-environmental issues as impacting businesses, is because there are very few academic social science inputs in the course-work. While “Economics” (which provides a grounding in enhancing financial wealth creation) is taught, there is no “social science” dept., which provides a grounding in subjects like Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, etc. This is particularly important in India, where increasingly most students come with a science/ engineering degrees, and increasingly solving business problems requires grounding in social science disciplines.

  • Learning happens not just in classrooms, but also through living experience in the campus. What students see around them, in terms of how the institute is managed, can be a powerful learning message. Therefore, if the institutes themselves use green technology (solar power, rainwater harvesting, etc.) and recycle paper, books, etc., that itself will be teaching sustainability by example.

  • Similarly, the institutes can themselves become example of “inclusive development” by promoting positive discrimination in their internal practices.

  • Management schools can run allied community and environment-based programs, and make engagement by students a part of learning (perhaps evaluation, too) for the students.

  • Introduce compulsory internship with a social/development sector organization part of the program structure. This would expose them to other options for careers which are more inclusive in approach and focus.
  • Tuesday, November 08, 2011

    WomenChangeMaker Fellowship 2012

    WomenChangeMakers Fellowship focuses on identifying, supporting and connecting social entrepreneurs who head established, successful organizations that work for women’s empowerment, address systemic gender inequalities and positively transform society. WomenChangeMakers provides its fellows with access to professional resources and partners (E.g. consultancies and training by Booz & Co., Mercuri Urval, Ogilvy and others); with financial support (e.g. a yearly stipend over the three-year support cycle) and with connections (e.g. fellowship, mentorship, partnerships and attendance to key professional meetings), with the goal to enable social entrepreneurs to scale up and to replicate their projects and, ultimately, to increase their impact. For more information, please visit

    The first two WomenChangeMakers’ Fellows were selected in Brazil in 2011.

    We are now seeking nominations from India and would like you to recommend suitable candidates you think will meet our criteria. These are (all inclusive):

  • Women’s empowerment and progress: candidates head a innovative and confirmed project for the empowerment women, creating an enabling environment and/or lifting the barriers to women’s emancipation; they are active in one of the following areas: access to education and training; access to health care or improvement of health services for women; promotion of women’s social and political leadership; protection of women’s dignity and integrity and prevention of sexual and other forms of targeted violence; access to economic independence and empowerment.

  • Inflection point: candidates are at an inflection point, that is, their programs have been proven and tested as successful and efficient. They are at a level where they have a need to scale or replicate and grow. The selected fellows have been awarded recognition by cornerstone institutions in the field of social entrepreneurship, including Ashoka, the Schwab Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, Avina etc.

  • Systemic change: project ideas address the root causes of targeted problems, rather than its symptoms. They have a strong, systemic impact demonstrated by the number of women’s lives changed, in a durable way; as well as an impact on legislation at regional, national or international levels. At the same time, they should prove to have had an impact in the collective mind and social doings of the communities they act upon.

  • Entrepreneurship: WCM looks for individuals with a proven track record of entrepreneurship, a vision and the determination to reach it by any means.

  • Leadership: WCM identifies role models for their communities. Social entrepreneurs empower people in their networks to become changemakers.

  • Personal values are measured based on the deep and consistent commitment to equal rights and opportunities between men and women.

  • Ethical fibre and integrity are investigated through thorough due diligence and evaluation of entrepreneurs' track record.

  • Independence from government and secularity.

    Please send your nominations to the devashri.mukherjee [at] by November 30th, 2011.

    Also, do pass the nomination letter around to appropriate networks and persons. I thank you very much in advance for your support and remain at your service for further information.

    With Best Regards,


    Devashri Mukherjee
    Consultant India
    Mob. +91-9 8 1 9 7 0 7 9 6 0
    Skype: devashrimukherjee
  • Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    3rd National Conference on Social Entrepreneurship @ XLRI (Jan 28-30, 2011)

    XLRI Jamshedpur is organising the 3rd National Conference on Social Entrepreneurship during January 28-30, 2011.

    The theme of this conference - Youth, Development & Social Entrepreneurship - aims:

  • to create a platform for the youth (young professionals, students and the "novice") to explore social entrepreneurship,

  • to help them to understand the nuances, challenges and opportunities in this field, and

  • to showcase some of the young social entrepreneurial ventures.

    The conference is designed around the following broad themes/ sessions:

    The Challenge
  • Youth, Volunteerism & Social Entrepreneurship
  • Challenges of Being a Young Social Entrepreneur

  • Creating Markets for Marginal Producers
  • Promoting Livelihood & Employment
  • Leveraging Technology for Social Development
  • Sustainable Models for Underserved Markets

    Getting Started
  • Options for Funding & Investments
  • Supporting Eco-System for Social Entrepreneurs

    In addition, the design also includes ‘break-out groups’ to provide opportunity and space to facilitate focused interaction among the participants and the resource persons.

    Participation Fee::

    Download Registration Form

    Profiles of Speakers/ Resource Persons:

    Anirban Gupta
    Co-Founder & Executive Director

    Anirban Gupta is the co-founder of Dhriiti - an endeavor to promote and protect Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and to build and create a spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the next generation of Indians.

    The core idea behind Dhriiti is to address the the urgent need and potential that is present in the rural and semi urban communities in India. Dhriiti works on the premise that if this potential can be exploited properly, it can yield tremendous results in the form of thousands of highly competitive small enterprises. Correspondingly, it focuses on the youth, and helps them promote small industries by equipping them with modern tools of management and technology.

    Anirban holds a bachelors degree from Delhi University, and is an alumnus of Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubneshwar (Rural Management Program). He joined Development Alternatives under their Leaders of Tomorrow Program from campus. He has also worked as a journalist, and with FODRA, a grassroot level NGO working in north east Delhi.

    Anshu Gupta
    Founder Director
    Ashok Fellow

    Anshu Gupta founded Goonj in 1998, an organisation which recycles anything that is discarded as an urban “waste” into a resource for others in the rural and calamity-hit areas.

    Goonj collects about 20,000kg of clothes every month across India, and turns them into something useable for the very poor - clothing, bags, sanitary napkins, etc. - and reaches them to the needy across 20 states. Goonj achieves this by running collection drives (called ‘Vastradans’) in urban India where people donate clothes which they do not use anymore, but which are in good condition and can be worn. The clothes are processed and sorted in centres run by Goonj across the country. The processed clothes are then channelized through grass root NGOs and provided either free or under the ‘clothes for work’ scheme.

    Anshu Gupta is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, and Masters in Economics. Anshu Gupta is an Ashoka Fellow and Ashoka Global Ambassador. For his work, he has been the recipient of Changemakers Innovation Award 2004 & 2006, World Bank’s Development Marketplace Award 2007, NGO of the Year Award 2007, etc.

    Ashraf Patel
    Ashoka Fellow

    Ashraf Patel is a co-founder of PRAVAH, and the current Director of PRAVAH Learning Voyages, which offers real world learning opportunities to youth facilitators and organisations.

    PRAVAH works towards promoting youth development and active citizenship. PRAVAH directly intervenes with adolescents and youth and also provides institutional and capacity-building support to youth engaging and youth-led organizations.

    Ashraf is a post graduate in Human Resource from XLRI, an Ashoka Fellow and a trustee of the National Youth Foundation. She is also a working group member appointed by the Youth Ministry to make recommendations for the XIth plan.

    Dr Ashwin Naik
    Co-Founder & CEO
    Vaatsalya Healthcare Systems Pvt Ltd

    Vaatsalya is India's first hospital network focused on Tier II and Tier III towns. Vaatsalya provides affordable healthcare services to thousands of families across Karnataka through hospitals in Hubli, Gadag, Bijapur, Mandya, Raichur, Hassan, Mysore, Gulbarga and Shimoga. Aavishkaar was the first investor to come on board at idea stage, followed by Seedfund and Oasis Fund.

    When Dr. Ashwin Naik, 36, came up with the idea for Vaatsalya Healthcare in 2004, his dream was to get young doctors to come to small-town India. It was also the key to the success of his rather unique business model: world-class healthcare for rural and semi-urban consumers at rock-bottom prices.

    Deep Joshi
    Founder, PRADAN
    Member, NAC &
    Magsaysay Awardee ‘09

    Deep Joshi is the co-founder of PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action) which is the largest and most professional NGO in the country. He served as its Executive Director till '08. PRADAN was recognised with the India NGO Award 2006.

    For his work Deep was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award 2009, and was honoured with Padma Shree in 2010. Deep is also a member of National Advisory Council, and advises GOI on poverty alleviation strategies.

    An MTech from MIT (USA) and an MBA from Sloan School (MIT), he has worked with Ford Foundation before returning to India in early 80s.

    Inir Pinheiro
    Managing Director & Co-Founder

    Inir Pinheiro is the Co-founder of Grassroutes, and has a combined interest in rural development and sustainable livelihoods.

    Grassroutes creates platforms for urban communities to experience authentic village experiences and reconnect with their roots and for the village communities to access and avail of sustainable livelihood opportunities thus conserving their way of life, cultures, biodiversities and knowledge systems. Grassroutes is working towards establishing a network of over 200 village tourism destinations across India, where tourism is owned, managed & run by the local village communities. For its work, Grassroutes was recognised with Villgro's Wantrapreneur Award - Start-Up category '1.

    Inir is a Post Graduate in Rural Management from XIM, Bhubneshwar, with over 5 years of varied work experience ranging from fund raising to rural tourism.

    Kaushalendra Kumar
    Knids Green Pvt Ltd/ Samriddhi
    Ashoka Fellow

    Kaushalendra is the Founder and Managing Director of Knids Green Pvt Ltd.,

    Knids Green Pvt. Ltd. works towards reorienting the vegetable supply chain to reduce wastage, price spread, lead time of vegetable to reach the customers and customer transaction time. It has developed the unique model whereby both marginal vegetable growers and the vendors are organized in a formal way so that operation can be scaled up to a level where they can become a dominant force. Samriddhii, a brand promoted by Knids Green Pvt Ltd & Kaushalya Foundation for professionalizing and organizing vegetable supply chain of Bihar connects around 5,000 farmers from the villages in Patna, Nalanda, Ara and Jehanabad district with more than 500 vegetables vendors from Patna.

    Kaushalendra is an MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad, and was the MTV-Youth Icon '08, and the winner of Wantrapreneur Award - Early Growth Category, '10.

    Manisha Gupta
    Co-Founder/ Director

    Manisha Gupta is the Co-Founder and Director of launched Start Up! - a social venture which aims to demystify the business of "getting started", and partners with social entrepreneurs to incubate innovations, sculpt models, forge connections and raise resources to enable launch of new ideas and ventures.

    Manisha has over 17 years of experience in the fields of media, development and social entrepreneurship. She worked in Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global organization that launches social entrepreneurs. At Ashoka, she served as the country representative of India, and later as the International Director for a program on youth entrepreneurs. Manisha was part of the team that launched the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award in India - an initiative of the Schwab Foundation, Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation and UNDP. She has authored a book on ChildLine, India’s largest Child Rights movement. Manisha has served as strategic advisor and consultant to several social entrepreneurs and their social enterprises.

    Dr Nalini Gangadharan
    Chairperson - Trustee
    CAP Foundation

    Dr Nalini Gangadharan is the Promoter @ Chairperson of CAP Foundation, and a development professional with over 2 decades of experience in change management, scenario development, institutional building and resource mobilization for non-profits both in terms of funding, as well as technical and networking support.

    CAP Foundation imparts vocational and employability training to underprivileged and out-of-school youth. Apart from facilitating learning, these courses also enable the youth to acquire life skills needed for a positive education-work-life balance. It to provides education and life skills to a wide range of difficult-to-reach groups of disadvantaged youth through community based programmes spread across India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

    Nalini is a gold medalist from Madras University, and has earlier served as the Executive Director, Dr. Reddy's Foundation. Across her career, she has been responsible for path–breaking development initiatives, such as Clothes Bank, Livelihood Advancement Business School (LABS), Child & Police (CAP) Project, Teen Channel program for Linking Learning and Livelihood, Ek Mouka Employability Training (Workforce Development Initiative), etc.

    Neelam Chhiber
    Managing Director
    & Co-Founder
    Mother Earth

    Neelam Chhiber is co-founder Industree, a social enterprise, and of the retail brand, Mother Earth, which together work on building up the production base, enabling artisans to become owners of their enterprise.

    Neelam’s efforts have aimed to build a the strong production and marketing platform that provides high-quality artisan-made products. By connecting rural producers to urban markets, it drives producer incomes upwards, increase potential of ownership in their own enterprises, which in turn will drive efficiency. The ventures work with a group of SHG's who invest their own working capital in their enterprises and who are provided assured orders, new designs, along with access to improved infrastructure, working capital, and business development skills.

    Neelam is an Industrial Designer from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, with more than 2 decades of hands on experience providing design, technical and marketing solutions in natural fibre and hand crafts. She is also an alumnus of Social impact International, as well as Global Social Benefit Incubator , Santa Clara University, USA.

    NK Chaudhary
    Founder Chairman
    Jaipur Rugs Company

    N K Chaudhary is the Founder-Chairman & Managing Director of Jaipur Rugs Company Pvt. Ltd, which specialises in hand knotted rugs. He also serves as the Trustee of Jaipur Rugs Foundation - an initiative for planning activities and actions to develop and empower the weavers to improve their standard of living.

    Jaipur Rugs was founded in 1978 with just two looms and nine artisans, and has evolved into one of India’s largest carpet exporters to25 countries across the world. It supports 40,000 artisans across 10 states in India. By elevating their status from mere wage earners to become business owners, it provides better ways to artisans, especially women below poverty line to earn more and lead a financially empowered life.

    Among many recognitions, NKC and Jaipur Rugs have been a recipient of ‘Sankalp 2010 Award’, 'Best SME Corporate Social Responsibility' by Business Today & Yes Bank, 'Indian Achievers Award for Business Excellence' by Indian Achievers Forum, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Award’ by FICCI (2010), etc.

    Pooja Warier
    UnLtd India

    Pooja Warier is the Co-founder and Director of UnLtd India that finds, funds and supports start up social entrepreneurs in India.

    UnLtd India is a seed fund and incubator for social entrepreneurs, which works with early-stage social entrepreneurs to help them to accelerate their progress, develop as leaders, and prepares their high-impact organisations for scaling and further investment. By engaging with almost all other investors and support organisations, UnLtd offers entrepreneurs a complete ecosystem of seed funding, incubation support and co-working space with which to launch their ventures.

    Pooja has a Masters in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and is also the Co-founder and Director of Journeys for Change that inspires leaders and social entrepreneurs to create more impact through learning from some of world’s most exciting change makers. Previously she worked with a range of organisations and initiatives like the World Social Forum & M.V. Foundation.

    Priya Naik
    Samhita Social Ventures

    Priya Naik heads Samhita Social Ventures, a social business that aims to provide social organizations with access to funds, people, knowledge, networks and customers. Earlier, Priya had co-founded The Spark Group, an education company that delivered affordable education to low income communities.

    Samhita is a philanthropic initiative of the Nadathur Trust, founded by N.S. Raghvan, founder and former Joint MD of Infosys. Samhita, which means 'collective good', aims to create an enabling ecosystem for social organizations, donors, volunteers, service providers and other support organizations. Though it is meant for all stakeholders in the social sector, it primarily focuses on providing greater visibility, more resources and a support system for social organizations.

    Priya started her career in Accounting at Arthur Andersen in Mumbai, and has worked as a consultant with the International Finance Corporation in Africa. She has a Masters in Economics from Yale University, USA, a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA and a Masters in Commerce from Mumbai University.

    Rajiv Khandelwal
    Aajeevika Bureau
    Ashoka Fellow &
    Schwab Social Entrepreneur ‘10

    Rajiv Khandelwal is the Co-Founder and Director of Aajeevika Bureau, which is among the first attempts in north India to provide support services to the millions of unskilled laborers and migrants who seasonally move across the country in search of work.

    Headquarterd in Udaipur, the Aajeevika Bureau provides identity, skill training, placement, counselling and social security to rural youth at the threshold of migration and helps them become more successful and secure as they shift away for work from villages into urban markets. As a strategy the Bureau works with migrants at their rural source and also in their urban destinations. The Bureau also provides specialised micro finance service for rural migrant workers as well as has a robust vocational training and placement programme for migrant youth.

    Rajiv holds a bechelor’s degree from Delhi University, and post-graduate degree from Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). He has earlier worked Centre for Environment Education. In 1998 Rajiv had also launched, Sudrak, a field research and advisory agency, which contributed to nearly 50 projects in various technical and advisory capacities. For his work, Rajiv was felicitated by Schwab Foundation with Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award ’10.

    Ramakrishna NK
    Co-Founder & CEO

    Ramakrishna NK is the Co-Founder and CEO of, which is a peer to peer lending platform, which leverages technology to to lower the cost of microcredit and reach out to under-served communities. provides an online platform where the borrowers pay interest rates that are fair and the social investors can make a meaningful difference to other people's lives. Through a network of committed field partners and social investors, enables access to micro-credit to the underserved communities, thus creating a positive impact on business, education, health and environment of the borrowers’ communities.

    Ramkrishna is a BTech from Nagarjuna University, and started his career with Satyam Computer Services. Subsequently, he served as Principal Consultant with Vignette Europe Ltd, and with IFMR Trust as Vice President (Technology)

    Saloni Malhotra
    Founder and CEO
    DesiCrew Solutions Pvt Ltd

    Saloni Malhotra is the Founder and CEO of DesiCrew, "a non-urban, socially motivated" enterprise, which provides IT enabled service centers in rural areas, employ and train local people to meet the back office demands of clients. With a social mission driving the business, DesiCrew focuses on generating wealth in the rural economy rather than extracting wealth from the rural areas. DesiCrew services span industries, geographies and multiple Indian languages/ dialects. Our back office services cater to verticals such as Insurance, Market Research, Internet & Mobile, E-Governance, and the Social Sector. It currently employs over 130 people across 6 centers in Tamil Nadu.

    Launched in 2007, Saloni's work with DesiCrew has been featured in leading newspapers and magazines across the globe such as BusinessWeek, BusinessToday, The Economic Times, Fast Company, The Hindu, etc. She was nominated for BusinessWeek's Asia's Youngest Entrepreneurs, MTV Youth Icon 2008, E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 and was also facilitated in the presence of the President of India by the CII.

    Saloni is an engineer from the University of Pune, and started her career in an interactive media start up, Web Chutney in Delhi, before founding DesiCrew.

    Sandeep Farias
    Founder & Managing Director
    Elevar Equity

    Sandeep Farrias founded Elevar Equity “to provide equity to entrepreneurs who challenge discrimination, help them prove their business model, establish the right governance, and raise additional capital to grow.”

    Elevar Equity is a leading global growth investor focused on the underserved four billion at the base of the pyramid in developing countries. It provides equity capital to entrepreneurs providing microfinance, financial and other services to customers at the base of the economic pyramid in emerging markets. Elevar invest in ventures which focus on customer, innovation, growth, and profitability combine to create opportunity and prosperity in local communities. The Elevar philiosophy revolves around investing for social and economic returns: returns based on open access for everyone to life changing services.

    Sandeep has an integrated law & arts honors degree from the National Law School of India University in Bangalore, India, and has worked with Nishith Desai Associates, before venturing into world of microfinance and investment. Prior to co-founding Elevar, he founded Unitus’ India operations in 2004, and also served as its Chief Innovation Officer at Unitus, test piloting ideas and projects on a global basis shaping Unitus’ long term strategy. He also serves as a Director of Madura Microfinance and has served as a Director of Ujjivan and Comat Technologies. In different capacities, Sandeep has represented or advised organizations such as Google, Amazon, Ashoka, Singapore Telecom and IL&FS Trust Company.

    Solomon Jaya Prakash
    LabourNet & Maya Organic
    & India Country Director
    Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

    Solomon JP has an engineering background and began his career in the electro-chemical processing industries. He later worked in Europe for an international youth exchange organization. Back in India in 1989, Solomon founded MAYA with a focus on children’s rights and the eradication of child labor. They work with the state government of Karnataka to recruit parents and communities across slums and villages to take ownership of public schools.

    In 1992, he developed a youth-at-risk training workshop for those living on the streets of Bangalore, a program adopted later by many other organizations. In 1996, Solomon created a common platform for numerous children’s rights groups to come together and campaign against child labor. MAYA also developed an education reform program, which operates in several thousands of schools in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In 2004, Solomon spun-off MAYA ORGANIC, a network of collective enterprises run by the working poor, which produce competitive, market quality products. MAYA Organic facilitates each business’ engagement with the mainstream market, enabling it to negotiate, make a profit, and thereby benefit the whole group. In 2005, Solomon founded LabourNet, meant to create and enhance job opportunities for the informal sector service workers in urban areas. LabourNet connects jobs and workers, improves work systems at job sites, encourages skill development, and provides access to social security. He was elected as an Ashoka fellow in 2006.

    In February 2010, Solomon JP joined the Ashoka team as the new Country Director in India.

    Tarun Agarwal
    FINO FinTech Foundation

    Tarun Agarwal is Director Promoter of FINO Fintech Foundation, a Section 25 company, which is a national level BC for FINO (Financial Inclusion thru Technology Oriented solutions).

    FINO is a technology start up incubated by ICICI Bank& promoted by IFC. The organisation provides a combined technology-and-distribution channel to the banks to enable a rapid reach-out to the under-banked populations of India for identifying and enrolling new customers in geography of bank’s choice, as well as supporting subsequent transactions for these customers. It promotes sustainable livelihoods for the rural poor and underserved classes by helping them become economically self-reliant, through the provision of Financial and Insurance services and technical assistance in an integrated and sustainable manner.

    Tarun Agarwal is an ICWA, and holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management from IMT Ghaziabad and an MBA degree. Prior to FINO, he has earlier served a Chief Manager (Business Development), SBI and as Chief Manager (Agriculture Technology Group), ICICI Bank.

    Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya
    EkGaon Technologies
    Ashoka Fellow

    Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya is a development professional with hands-on experience in institution development, development research, communication systems and grassroots networking. He has considerable experience in developing systems and platforms for enabling enterprise support. He co-founded Ekgaon Technologies where he serves as the Chief Executive Officer.

    Ekgaon Technologies focuses on affordable and appropriate open source software solutions, and designs and develops technologies and information systems to meet the needs of developing communities. As more and more companies compete for the “bottom of the pyramid” markets in rural India, Ekgaon’s technological solutions force private companies to compete fairly and offer better services to their rural customers. In return, Ekgaon’s platform offers these companies the aggregated consumer information they need to develop stronger and cost-effective products and services. Ekgaon Technologies’ work has won a number of recognitions and awards, which include NASSCOM Social Innovation Honours 2010and Dell Small Business Excellence Award 2009.

    Vijay is an Electrical Engineering Graduate with a Post-Graduation in Management from the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal.

    Vijay Shukla
    Partner – Investments
    Setu Ventures

    Vijay Shukla is the Co-Founder of Setu Ventures, a firm that provides professional and financial assistance to early stage companies and entrepreneurs, and has over 15 years of industry experience (with Steel Authority of India, E&Y and GlaxoSmithKline). Vijay specializes in the areas of strategy, business development, consulting and engineering, and is interested in the areas of value creation, technology, entrepreneurship and education. He is a ‘parallel entrepreneur’ and has earlier co-founded Eduvisors, India’s largest education sector focused business consulting and research services company, and ValueFirst, India’s leading enterprise mobile data services company.

    An engineering graduate from IT-BHU and MBA from XLRI, he has mastered the ‘art’ of evaluating business strategies and organizational processes through his career with working in the domains of public sector, entrepreneurship, information and mobile technology, FMCG and management consulting services.

    Vineet Rai
    Founder & CEO
    Aavishkaar India Micro Venture Capital Fund
    Ashoka Fellow

    Vineet Rai is a founder and the CEO of Aavishkaar – a micro venture fund which seeks to nurture and initiate creative thought processes at the grassroots level and convert them into thriving enterprises.

    The primary focus of Aavishkaar is to effect change by promoting growth of grassroots ideas and enterprise. Rural entrepreneurs face an uphill task of crossing the first threshold of taking an idea beyond the point of an experiment into a successful business. Even limited resources, in terms capital, business knowledge and a certain degree of hand-holding, applied at the right juncture go a long way in transforming local ideas into sustainable businesses. Aavishkaar provides such resources to transform nascent rural and semi-urban ideas into coherent business entities by funneling resources at the point and time where they can be most effective.

    Prior to Aavishkaar, Vineet was a founder and the CEO of GIAN, an incubator for rural innovations and ventures based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. At GIAN, he was responsible for identifying, evaluating, nurturing and launching grassroots innovations based micro level enterprises for poverty alleviation. Vineet holds a Post-Graduate diploma in Forestry Management from Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal.

    Vishal Talreja
    Director Founder
    Dream A Dream
    Ashoka Fellow

    Vishal Talreja is the Co-founder & Director of Dream A Dream, a venture which empowers children from vulnerable backgrounds by developing life skills while at the same time sensitizing the community through active volunteering leading to a non-discriminatory society where unique differences are appreciated.

    Dream A Dream is a professionally-run Public Charitable Trust, and provides children from vulnerable backgrounds with non-traditional educational opportunities designed to allow them to explore, innovate and build important life skills. These life skills are fundamental to child/youth development and to the successful transition into adulthood and becoming fully functioning and productive members of our society. It works through partnership with 9 NGOs, 1200+ volunteers, and imparts life-skills - interpersonal skills (e.g., teamwork, communications, negotiation and coping skills), cognitive skills (e.g., decision-making, problem solving and critical thinking), creativity, confidence, self-awareness and a passion for learning – among children from marginalized communities.

    Formerly an investment banker and venture capitalist, prior to founding Dream A Dream in 1999, Vishal worked with Xerox and co-founded an investment bank, Technology Holdings. Vishal is an Ashoka Fellow and also sits on Boards of many organizations including UnLtd India, ITIHAS and Bangalore Cares.

    Details of the Conference are also available at:
  • Saturday, December 04, 2010

    ..some thoughts on Social Entrepreneurship

    About a month back, I was in Bangalore, and gate-crashed in into a friend's home to lounge around for about a week. Abhijit Bhaduri is a dear friend - a multi-faceted person who carries an author, singer, manager, actor, etc., all in one single body... and a blogger too at

    One side-benefit of staying with him was being featured on his site for this piece on Madhukar Shukla on Social Entrepreneurship

    Abhijit: In a Business School environment, the focus is on the economic motive aka the profit-motive. What prompted you to initiate a course on social entrepreneurship?

    Madhukar Shukla: Let me start with a qualifier about this term “business school”. This is a rather recent conversion of what were traditionally described as “management schools”, i.e., educational institutes which teach people how to create value by managing resources more efficiently and effectively – whether in business or in other social settings. By equating ‘management’ only with ‘business’, we tend to limit the vast array of roles which a management professional can play in the society. After all, almost 92-93% of India’s employable manpower, which accounts from almost 60% of our GDP, lies outside the for-profit organized business.

    In that sense, my starting this course and other activities related to social entrepreneurship in XLRI is not really a radical departure from the core purpose of any management school or professional – though, yes, it does seem out-of-synch with the contemporary understanding of what management is all about.

    For me personally, it was also born out of the realization that if management professionals have to ‘create value’, then in contemporary India, the critical managerial challenges lie out there in the larger society, not within the corporate boundaries. In today’s India, we need genuine management solutions to address larger societal problems.

    Let me give some examples to illustrate what I mean:

    Take GOONJ, a social enterprise organization which collects, sorts, and repairs 50-tonnes of reusable clothes from middle-class homes in Indian cities every month, and reaches them to the poor in the interior villages across 20 Indian states. Its per-unit cost of reaching a single piece of clothing to any part of India is less than a Rupee.

    Or take SELCO India, which provides solar lightning solutions to rural masses at affordable price by financing the product through microfinance options; or Vaatsalya Hospitals, which provides state-of-the-art high-quality healthcare to semi-urban towns at affordable price; or Samridhi, which provides sustainable livelihoods to vegetable growers and milk-producers by providing them with easy market-access and better returns for their produce.

    There are thousands of such examples of social enterprises which utilize managerial skills to make a real difference in the lives of people and society. Unfortunately, these stories and cases rarely become a part of the management education curriculum, and therefore, young management professionals never come to know about these options. One of the key objectives of the social entrepreneurship course was to provide exposure to such examples and options to the students.

    Abhijit: Does the social enterprise need to run differently than the conventional for-profit organizations?

    Madhukar Shukla: Oh, yes, in a number of ways! Firstly, there is the basic difference in the purpose of the organization itself. The for-profit organizations, obviously, exist to make profits – whereas the primary purpose of social enterprise is to make a social impact by solving critical societal problems. Since the purpose itself is different, the organizational processes and systems to achieve the purpose need to be different. One critical difference emanates from the question: who are the key stake-holders in the enterprise? Whose interests does the enterprise primarily serve? As compared to the for-profits, who primarily serve interest of the promoters or shareholders, for the social enterprises, the responsibility is to the community they serve.

    Secondly, it is easy to measure profits, and therefore the success (or failure) of the commercial ventures. However, measuring social impact is not so very easy – I mean, it is very difficult to answer the question if one has made a difference in the life of people. Moreover, often the impact of social venture becomes visible only after many years. For instance, if Pratham’s Read India Program made more than 30mn children literate during last 4-years, its actual social impact – did it make them more productive? more socially aware and responsible? – can be assessed only after many years when these children grow up.

    Abhijit: Do you notice something different among people who become social entrepreneurs? Are they motivated by different drives?

    Madhukar Shukla: At least in my experience, in terms of their capabilities and qualifications, the social entrepreneurs I have met are just like any other entrepreneur. They possess an entrepreneur’s sharp sense in identifying a gap – an underserved “market” – and then designing innovative solutions to meet its needs. For instance, it is a common knowledge that urban middle-class households often find it difficult to locate qualified workmen (e.g., plumbers, masons, maids, carpenters, etc.), for odd domestic jobs; on the other hand, workmen with these skills spend inordinate time looking for jobs. Solomon JP, an Ashoka Fellow, saw an opportunity in this gap, and founded an online exchange, LabourNet, which connects the work-men with their prospective clients.

    Similarly, like any entrepreneur (and unlike a typical manager) their ways of approaching issues is different; they seem to start by identifying what they want to achieve, and then working backward to mobilize resources to reach that goal. In doing so, they seem to have an innate ability to learn and self-correct as they move towards their goals. This makes them quite open to look for new opportunities. I still recall talking with the founder of a venture which works to rehabilitate the children of sex workers. When I asked her about her “fund-raising strategy”, she laughed and said, “oh, we decide what we want to do to make a sustainable impact in the lives of these kids – and then for funds, we pray!“ On probing further, she cryptically commented, “Well, in our case, so far the decisions have always preceded the resources!” I have found this stance across almost all social entrepreneurs I have known.

    However, what does differentiate social entrepreneurs from others (including the commercial entrepreneurs) is the depth and intensity of their active engagement with larger society. The key-word is “active engagement”. While many of us feel strongly about social issues, mostly our concern does not get translated into specific actions. For social entrepreneurs, their concern about social issues is an over-arching factor which determines their actions. This also gets translated into a strong sense of accountability to the communities they serve.

    Abhijit: How valid is the hypothesis that if the social enterprises scale up, they suffer from the same challenges/problems which the large for-profit organizations suffer from?

    Madhukar Shukla: Well, ‘yes’ and ‘no’! – depending upon how we interpret the term “scaling up”. If it refers to scaling up of the enterprise, then obviously, like any organization, it will face the growing-up pangs like any for-profit venture.

    However, in the social entrepreneurial space, scaling-up has another meaning too. Since the purpose of social venture is to make a social impact, perhaps it makes more sense to think about scaling-up of the “impact” rather than that of the “enterprise”. Social ventures actually scale-up the impact by creating a successful model which can be replicated by others. The success of Grameen Bank is not so much that Prof Md Yunus created an organization which could scale up to serve millions of poor in Bangladesh; rather its success was in developing and demonstrating a model for financial inclusion, which could be replicated by thousands of social entrepreneurs across the world.

    Abhijit: Do you see that for-profit and social models merging together in time to come?

    Madhukar Shukla: At least in India, with such a huge BoP (Bottom of Pyramid) “market”, this overlap between the for-profit and not-for-profit social ventures already exists. In the recent years, we have seen regular commercial banks foraying into rural areas to provide micro-credit, FMCG companies creating and marketing products for the rural masses, or telecom companies offering schemes which people with limited income can avail. Conversely, there are also a large number of social ventures which are for-profit – some registered as Section 25 companies, but also many as Private Limited Companies.

    However, in spite of this increasing convergence between territories of the for-profit and not-for-profit models, my own hunch is that at least in India, the for-profit model will not be able to completely replace the not-for profit social ventures – at least not for many decades to come. My reason for saying this is because the for-profit models rely on existence of a “market” – i.e., a reasonably sized segment of people who can pay for a service or a product. In contemporary India, however, 837mn or 77% of the population lives on a daily income of less than Rs 20/day – and thus, a large proportion of population still remains outside the “market”. Or it offers profit margins which would make a commercial venture non-viable. That’s why the social ventures will continue to retain their relevance and separate identity.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Grassroutes: Developing Villages through Rural Tourism

    When OutlookBusiness covered Grassroutes - a rural tourism venture founded by an XIM, Bhubneshwar graduate, Inir Pinheiro - it desicribed it as:

    "The venture, named Grassroutes, hopes to transform nondescript villages, near the metros, into viable tourist destinations; viable for him and beneficial to the villagers with increased livelihood opportunities."