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About a decade ago, the terms social and entrepreneurship were seldom used together. Now it’s a profession that envisages making the world sustainable while following a profitable business model.
To be a social entrepreneur is like taking the load of two jobs at once. Where one has to focus on upliftment of society by bringing a radical change, they also have to act on an opportunity or idea and bring something new in the society. Entrepreneurs spur on by money and social entrepreneurs are driven by altruism. Choosing social entrepreneurship is taking a task at hand and a big one which the world, especially India, need at the earliest and the most it can get.
The whole concept of social entrepreneurship seems a bit vague, and generally, differs from person to person. It depends on where your focus lie – on the ‘social’ end or the ‘entrepreneurship’ end. But what we need is balance.
So, what is the perfect way to achieve this model? We asked some of experts on social entrepreneurship and investors and they have some useful tips to share.
Before providing anything else, you should give people awareness and education. – Raj Pai, MD, Global Environment Fund
India’s understanding as a country has changed and it will continue to change in the years to come. This should be the focus of social entrepreneur. One of the biggest challenges India faces is the ingrained habits people have developed over time. These include cleaning your house and throwing the waste outside, open defection, and many others. These habits have to be eliminated and this will only come through awareness.Culturally and socially India has to change its ways and for this NGOs, activists and social entrepreneurs have to play their part.
When pitching your product in the market, make sure people know what it is and how it works. If they don’t even know what it does and what the need of that product is, the company will never work, let alone getting successful.
Government is not a good first customer but a great follower. – Mudit Narain, VP, New Initiatives
In India, people can never get over blaming the government for not playing its share of role when it comes to saving the environment, infrastructure or uplifting the underprivileged. This is where the social entrepreneurs come into scene. Those gaps of development government had left must be filled by social entrepreneurs by working out issues and challenges. Government has given the baseline and entrepreneurs must take it forward.
Instead of making the government your first customer and then blaming them when the model was not followed, sell to commercial sector. When you have a stable team and market, then scale up with government.
Focus more on making a difference at a small space and then scale up – Anil K. Gupta
Apt for any business, you must make a realistic business model. It is understood that you do want to make a change, but a social entrepreneur must not get highly ambitious. Start with a showcase and by working on a small model, show what you can do; something that is manageable but makes a significant impact, if not on a large scale but even a village or a house.
Take Shanghai for example. China wanted to make Shanghai a first world city and they did. After the plan was successful the development expanded to nearby areas.
Look at alternate ways to execute your plan – Neha Vyas, Senior Environment Specialist, The World Bank
However promising your model might look, it never promises success. On the way you might find that your plan isn’t sustainable or doesn’t work in the given circumstances. In such scenario, do not hesitate to look for alternate ways. Be creative about you business and make sure alternate resources are talked about.
This doesn’t just include your business model but also when looking for investors. Don’t limit your sector to the first thing that comes to your mind. For instance, other than just looking for financial funding, look for someone who shares the same viewpoint as you.
Don’t build your product according to India, but world class – Sonali Bhagwati, President, Design Plus Architecture
Whatever you plan to do, make sure sustainability is a part of your project. Even small projects need to be sustainable which will then work out for larger models. Something that benefits over a large period of time.
This means that when planning a product or model for your business, the outlook should not be just to satisfy a country or a bunch of people. Make it in such a way that it could be used all over the world. Better quality comes when you have more resources or liberty with capital, but you will realize that once your business model is world class, capital will follow.