What are the #3 Major Challenges that Social Entrepreneurs Face
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When NASSCOM Social Innovation Forum (NSIF), an initiative by NASSCOM Foundation, was started 10 years ago, the institution’s main concern was to promote social entrepreneurs and help them get recognition. The platform introduced them to 1,500+ top CXOs of IT and other industries.
It aims to identify early adopters of technology, which can address a particular problem and look at how technology as an enabler can provide an affordable scalable, sustainable and easily accessible solution.
It has worked with 2,000+ social innovators. More than 100 of them have been selected by NSIF for their good work.
Shrikant Sinha, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation, talked about three challenges that a social entrepreneur faces in a conversation with Entrepreneur India.
At the outset, Sinha divided innovation into two segments — disruptive and incremental innovation. “NSIF gets requests from both, but incremental innovators are more in number. In the case of the latter, existing technology is explored to find out how technology could be an enabler for large-scale social impact,” he said.
However, social entrepreneurs face maximum challenges as they essentially operate in areas like education, skilling, financial inclusions, healthcare, accessibility, and environment. But their mindset also needs to change. A solution (either technological services or a product) is applicable for a particular area, but they hardly give a thought about using it differently, Sinha added.
To be a part of a platform like NFSI, entrepreneurs need to think beyond a particular idea or speech. Their innovation should be able to solve a problem, he opined.
In India, impact investment is practically missing. Even if entrepreneurs have an innovative solution, a product or a project in hand, securing funds for it is a problem.
“We realized that there is hardly any impact investment in India and they (entrepreneurs) need catalytic grant especially in their first or second year of entrepreneurship. And once this phase is over, their model becomes scalable and other organizations start investing in them,” Sinha shared.
Social entrepreneurs are more likely to use technology in a way that they think is best, which may not be the case always, he added. So they must question themselves whether they understand the technology related to their products or services or whether they can adapt to it or modify it to serve a large group of people?
Giving us an example, Sinha said once the rural regions of Karnataka started receiving electricity and water, some of the villages reported a different set of problems related to plumbing and electricity connections.
“One of our winners, Skill Train, created a model of ‘do-it-yourself’ videos, which were flashed-based and could run on any normal feature phone. They instructed people to fix a fan or connect a regulator and check if the plumbing is right,” he added. The videos were distributed during the purchase of sim cards, which would merely cost Rs 25.