A new agenda for social entrepreneurship


We have tried to build an inclusive India for many decades and the last few years have seen renewed efforts in three areas – imparting skills to a new generation of job seekers, enabling thousands of start-up entrepreneurs to stand up and succeed and last but not the least, building a truly inclusive India where every dream can be supported and converted to reality. Unfortunately, the results have still to be realised in any significant measure. We have way too many equity problems in our country, between classes, communities, castes and even gender, the entrepreneurial movement has been spluttering with just a few isolated examples like the Bansals of Flipkart feted and felicitated everywhere while lakhs of starry eyed start-up enthusiasts have seen their dreams dashed on the hard rocks of reality. Finally, while a million job seekers enter the aspiring ranks every month, the skills available with them are largely obsolete and do not enable adequate jobs to be created or filled.

Speaking at the recently held CII – SR Summit on Education, Skills and Entrepreneurship and hearing outstanding social evangelists from LabourNet, Quest Alliance, Vrutti and others talk about their experiments in all these and more critical nation building activity, a moment of epiphany dawned. When there are over three million enthusiastic non-profits in the country all struggling to scale while addressing real social issues of the day, surely, we as enlightened and well-meaning mentors and funders of scalable entrepreneurs in the country can find a lot more success and indeed returns on our time and money investment by focusing on these rather than just copycat ideas seeking to become unicorns in the over-crowded e-commerce space.

Pune City Connect – An Example of Successful Public Private Partnership

An exemplar in this area is an entity called Pune City Connect  (PCC) which has demonstrated what successful Public Private Partnerships in the social sector can accomplish. The brainchild of leading CEOs in the city, drawn from the Manufacturing, Foods, Energy and Software sectors and led by a 1995 batch IIM Ahmedabad alumnus Ruchi Mathur, Pune City Connect (PCC) has set out to make two lakh underprivileged families in the slum communities of Pune Municipal Corporate feel part of the larger city family through better quality of education in the municipal Marathi and Urdu medium schools, digital literacy for all and access to personal agency and aspiration development leading to better citizenship and jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for all who care to substantially transform their own lives as well as those of their families and communities.

Ganesh-Natarajan-Pune Connect

Dr Ganesh Natarajan

Today, PCC has the support of scores of other NGOs and skilling partners, many top city corporates and a benevolent political and bureaucracy support group who have committed to match every rupee of operating expense with all the capital expenditure needed to make fifteen skills centres, seventy plus digital literacy centres and buses and dozens of municipal skills truly top class. Access to mentors and funds has made this entity a role model for social transformation for all cities in the country. And this country has the potential to make thousands of skills, digital literacy and education entrepreneurs scale and transform the mindsets and fortunes of crores of beneficiaries in the next few years.

Social Venture Partners (SVP)

The establishment of Social Venture Partners (SVP) in Seattle twenty years ago was a global vision to do something similar to what we have experienced with PCC. The expansion from one city chapter with twenty collaborating partners to a global network of three thousand plus partners across fifty plus chapters in nine countries has propagated the mission to use venture philanthropy principles in the social sector and enable not just local non-profits to get the benefit of funds and time but also national causes to be addressed.

Social Entrepreneurship

In our country, SVP India has already set up seven chapters with over two hundred engaged partners and has been able to sift through the massive candidate group and identify forty plus NGOs and social enterprises with passionate founders that hold the potential to transform cities, states and the country at scale. Entities that have demonstrated visible local impact like Jagruti in Pune and Udayan Care in Delhi, aggregators like Youth4Jobs and PCC inspired NES and rural entrepreneurship models like Vrutti and SEWA are all seeing the benefit of engaged local partners working with them to accelerate and accentuate their impact.

New vision for India

What then can be a new vision for India? Investments in new digital skilling models that can truly enable sustainable role holders and job creator to emerge for the benefit of the truly deserving eight hundred million underserved Indians, opportunity creation in sectors ranging from agriculture to healthcare to education to more social entrepreneurship and adequate capital availability seeking millions of smiles rather than billions of dollars as the true measure of value creation. Are we as responsible Indians ready to address this opportunity? Let’s make it happen…. together!

About the author: Dr Ganesh Natarajan is Chairman of 5F World, Social Venture Partners India and Pune City Connect. He can be reached at: Ganeshn@5FWorld.com

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