Friday, July 09, 2010

5 Social Entrepreneurs @ XLRI - what did we learn?

A follow-up on the previous post

So here we had two interactions - "On Becoming a Social Entrepreneur" & "Issues in Social Engagement" - with 5 people with a "track-record" for their engagement/contribution to make a social impact on July 7th:

  • someone who started with 67 clothes in 1998, and built and organisation which now collects, sorts and reaches 50,000kg of wearable clothes to villages in more than 20 states across the country

  • someone who started with an idea and an internet "pledge-campaign" and built the largest public library in the state

  • someone who started with running a vocational training in a local college for students, and has now scaled up to run 20-odd centers which provide employability skills training in the region to the less-privileged and get them into mainstream...

  • someone who started with an intention to "give back to the society" and has helped the local community to start many initiatives

  • someone who started with a turnover of Rs.4000/- in 2001 trying to provide livelihoods to rural communities, so that he can help preserving the local tribal art, and now has an organisation with a turnover of Rs.1 crores

    So what did we learn?!!

    The best I could think was to invite the students of the ISE (Intro to Social Entrepreneurship) class (including me:) to send their short description of take-away from these interactions...

    (and ...though we had a gathering of more than the 35-odd class size in these 2-sessions - those not in the course.. some actually not even from XL:) - and they would have taken their learning with them)...and much of our life-changing learning is 'implicit" than "explicit"...) is a compilation of our take-aways - what we learned - which I could get from some of those 35+... what they (and I) remembered and learned from the interaction


  • "I never even knew how many e's are there in "entrepreneurship" when I started. I was just following an idea I was passionate about."

  • If you have to think about jumping into the social sector, then you're probably not ready for it.

  • If you start early, you have more time to make mistakes and learn from them... There is no escaping from making mistakes, if you want to become an entrepreneur.

  • Entrepreneurship is like proposing a girl. You need passion, guts and you need to be crazy enough to do it.

  • India has huge population, therefore huge number of problems., therefore solutions required for those problems will be huge, therefore social entrepreneurs required for solving the problems will be huge in number.

  • Think big but act small. Every action, big or small, shall eventually help in scaling up. Don't allow the overall vision to hamper your daily progress.

  • Teach poor children who cant pay their school's fee. Feed the hungry every year (around 500-1000 people), atleast twice during festivals. Doing these things doesn't require much time, doesn't require you to leave your job (for which we have also worked hard) and doesn't deplete you of your hard earned money much. It doesn't make you famous, but it will make a difference!!

  • Every one wants to be an Entrepreneur first and then think about social cause. 1.2 million NGO's (that's what I heard, I think) and numerous entrepreneurs and still the country's not improving. Lets be dedicated to the social cause not to our cause.

  • Stop Talking Start Doing

  • "Dont try to solve India's or world's problems. Start by solving problems which you see around you."

  • Somehow gave me a feeling that entrepreneurship lies in the "possible domain" and not the "impossible domain"...

  • Try to get rid of "Escapism": today I have to pay my education loan, tomorrow I have to pay my housing loan and so on.... this is a trap from which a person would not be able to come... act now, and if one is passionate about his idea, then in a period of year or so, he would definitely find some way to overcome his other liabilities.

  • Where there is a will there is a way

  • "Yes, you need to pay the 'education loan' when you get a job. If you jump into entrepreneurship, why start with an assumption that you won't be able to pay it after a year?"

  • Think big but there is no harm in starting small... Don't let the hurdles stop you.. they will be taken care of once you jump in! .. You learn to improvise...

  • "We are country of volumes , problems are in volume, solutions required are in volumes and people required to address these problems are in volumes"

  • I have never understood entrepreneurship - forget what is "social entrepreneurship"... In a way, we are all social entrepreneurs; I think the only entrepreneurial act is proposing to a girl - it has risks, hope... sometimes even a "business plan" :)

  • No matter what one's way of doing good is (profit or non-profit), as long as the end result remains 'good', the value of the effort always justifies the whatever form it be.

  • One major learning I had, about being a social entrepreneur is that, it’s a matter of following what you really want deep inside... if you recollect, every speaker mentioned about ‘giving back something to the society’, and getting a mental satisfaction... I think most people have that urge, but are plainly not bold enough to leave our comfort zone and to do something that challenges your foundations. And there lies the difference between being mediocre and being someone who can bring a change in the lives of at least a handful of people, at the same time making it sustainable for yourself. Only once you get out of that zone, & start doing something which gives you inner fruits ( internal satisfaction-which i think, only money can never bring in ) and initiate or be part of a change for good, you will understand that by helping the society- I’m helping myself like never before... All these leads to an understanding that, Social entrepreneurship is – ‘helping others to help yourself’

  • Most of us don't want to leave the comfort zone of security(money, family etc). Though to some extent moving into Social Sector can test you in these aspects but with a viable model one can easily overcome this. Sujit and Anshu makes one feel that if not now, then when. There are lots of opportunities to be tapped and market is huge. :-) enough for everyone to accommodate to make a mark and contribute.
    Everyone can start in their own small way.


    and of course, we also had the inauguration of "Udaan"- XLRI's Children's Public Library after the sessions :0))

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