In Social Enterprises the Challenge Lies in Indentifying Unique Opportunities

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Social enterprises implement commercial strategies in an endeavor to maximize social and economic benefits. Most of them are focused on skill development in India but the fact remains that in the startup space it becomes difficult to put profitability and social benefits in the same platter.


Tata Social Enterprise Challenge (TSEC), is a joint initiative with the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C) and Tata group to find India's most promising early-stage social enterprises. Every year, from hundreds of proposals spread across the sectors, 20 teams are elected for semi-finals, basis their business model, social impact and sustainability.

Entrepreneur spoke to Atul Agrawal, Senior Vice President - Corporate Affairs, Tata Services Ltd to understand the requisites required to build a successful social enterprise that solves real problems.

Things to keep in mind while starting up

The field of social entrepreneurship has been growing rapidly now and attracting attention from across industry sectors. The new generation social entrepreneurs have the drive to create positive and impactful changes in the society and are equipping themselves to do so constructively. Before starting their enterprise, it is imperative for aspiring social entrepreneurs to adopt a mission to create positive and sustainable social impact. It is also very important to identify new opportunities to cater to the mission, and persistently pursue those opportunities. Innovation is therefore of great importance. It is very crucial to innovate, not only with regards to the ideas of social impact, but also with regards to operations, recognizing unique opportunities, etc.

Can social enterprises run a profitable business?

By definition, social enterprises are businesses that aim to create wealth with the purpose of creating positive social impact by solving social needs. Therefore, social enterprises can certainly run profitable businesses. The challenge lies in recognizing unique opportunities and innovating around the business models. Today, there is a huge market of the socially conscious consumers who are making choices that are socially and environmentally impactful, making social enterprises more appealing in their purchase journey.

Criteria Tata Social Enterprise Challenge initiative looks for in a startup

The three core parameters for evaluation of social start-ups under the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge are Business Model, Social Impact and Sustainability. Business model and innovation could be a component in any dimension, like that of the idea to create social change, or innovation with regards to the way the venture functions. Another important consideration for selection is that the ventures should have run a pilot or have a prototype and should not just be in the idea phase.

Every year, the initiative draws from hundreds of proposals spread across the sectors, 20 teams are elected for semi-finals, basis their business model, social impact and sustainability. The venture 2016-17 batch consists of companies from domains such as agritech, edtech, organic foods and more.