A person who takes up a pressing social problem and meets it with an innovative or path breaking solution is a Social Entrepreneur. The objective for such entrepreneurs to start an enterprise stems from COMPASSION. Profit making becomes a secondary objective as these entrepreneurs are passionate and determined about what they need to do. They have a high level of self-motivation who are visionaries aiming to bring a substantial change.
Are all entrepreneurs compassionate? Not everyone. Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it, whereas understanding is the mental & sometimes emotional process of comprehension, assimilation of knowledge, which is subjective by its nature. Most of the entrepreneurs are understanding while almost all social entrepreneurs are compassionate.
Social entrepreneurs become passionate in solving the pressing problems through enterprises that they are compassionate about. These visionaries not only dream to achieve big in life, but they also nurture their passion to resolve the social imbalances pervading in the nation. India needs this new breed of Social entrepreneurs who are not scared to bring out unconventional business models to address issues that is close to their heart.
Bamboo House India
Prashant Lingam, along with his wife Aruna Kappagantula founded Bamboo House India in 2006 to revive the overlooked economies of North-Eastern villages. When they started out, they did not receive any warm welcome from the industry. At present, Bamboo House India has given a new life to marginalised communities by innovative use of bamboo as a building material for homes that engineers beautiful modern-day bamboo houses equipped with electricity, internet and all other amenities for a comfortable living.
The business model followed by Aruna Lingam for Bamboo House India focuses on triple bottom lines- environmental, social & financial aspects. Bamboo House India works through a hybrid model- a for profit component & a not for profit component. The enterprise aims to make bamboo as an economic driver for sustainable livelihood opportunities to rural and tribal communities at the base of the economic pyramid. It also promotes bamboo as an eco-friendly substitute to wood, steel, iron& plastic. The criteria are to provide market for artisan products and make bamboo available to the customers and solve the major problem of the bamboo industry.
The struggle- Determination & Perseverance
In the first 3 years the Lingams’ did not have a single contract but had an enormous debt of 60 lakhs. They even considered committing suicide as a way out because of their deteriorating health and after the unfortunate deaths of their closest family members. Aruna sold all her jewellery and pledged all their assets. Finally, a school principal in Hyderabad gave them a project to build a bamboo penthouse atop a building. Their exceptional workmanship in this project started to give opportunities & from there they have never looked back.
In 1987, Gramalaya was initiated by Sait Damodar that has been operating from Trichy with a vision to create a society in which people will have equal rights and access to protected water, sanitation, health, and improved income status without gender discrimination. The major activities of Gramalaya are Health and hygiene education, promotion of Self-help Groups among rural, urban, and tribal women, construction of low-cost latrines and safe water supply through micro-credit. The Government of India has approved Gramalaya as one of the National Key Resource Centres under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for providing training to Government officials in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. Currently, Gramalaya is working in five Southern States including Pondicherry.
Belief in Inclusion- The Business Model
The ultimate goal of Gramalaya is to work for the amelioration of socially downtrodden people under the integrated rural development approach. Gramalaya has tested positively with innovative models like Micro-finance for Sanitation, Child Friendly toilets, Community Managed pay and use latrines, school health program with working experience in rural, urban, tribal, and coastal regions. The school health intervention through child-to-child approach, cost effective toilet models developed at the Centre for Toilet Technology and Training established by Gramalaya, microfinance for sanitation models, IEC materials developed by Gramalaya with WaterAid, Water.org, UNICEF and Arghyam funding. Gramalaya field tested several rural and urban sanitation models for individual households and schools. So far, Gramalaya has constructed more than 1,00,000 toilets with funding support under CRSP, TSC, NBA schemes of Government and with the grant support of WaterAid, Water.org, Arghyam and UNICEF. The Gramalaya models could be replicated in rural India through other likeminded social enterprises especially with the Microfinance for Sanitation model etc.,
What are the strengths of a Social Entrepreneur?
Other than being Compassionate to the cause they fight for; Social entrepreneurs are skilled at Mobilising and Motivating Resources. They have the Perseverance to continue efforts even through their challenges & obstacles. Social Entrepreneurs are Result-oriented to produce tangible results to their cause. They are Strategic thinkers who are driven by their Vision to make a change for the passion that they initiated their social enterprise. They are Focused on their pursuit of social vision. They are motivated by social gain and not by financial gain who have higher levels of social Conscience. They are willing to take higher risk as the objective is not make a personal gain.
Few Social Enterprises that have made a difference in India
Study Hall Education Foundation (SHEF) by Urvashini Sahni offers education to the most disadvantaged girl children of India.
Selco– Harish Hande’s social enterprise offers sustainable energy source to rural India.
Childline– Jeroo Billmoria provides health care & police assistance to street children.
Goonj– Anshu Gupta’s Start Up collects & distributes used clothes from the urban population to the rural people.
Frontier Markets– Ajaita Shah’s enterprise supplies solar energy powered products to rural India.
India needs a whole lot of social entrepreneurs to initiate Start Up’s in the areas of water & waste management, education, health care, women, children, marginalised community, promoting indigenous art & craft, environment, Rural Infrastructure and development, Farmers welfare, Water body revival, Skill development, hygiene, Senior living, Tribal welfare, Disability, Handicraft, arts, sustainable & renewable energy & many more social & environmental issues.