By Ratna Mehta
Twenty 20, a year that will go down in history. And whenever history gets created, it showers us with immense learnings. It has taught us, a generation used to instant gratification, to be patient. It has instilled in us gratitude for what we have and resilience to fight what comes our way.
Twenty 20 has left many scars and wounds which will take time to heal, but when the night is the darkest, we are closest to dawn. And this dawn has come with a silver lining – a more socially conscious human race, blooming social entrepreneurship and an ecosystem to support and nurture it. At the darkest hour, it was heartening to see several entrepreneurs stepping up to leverage their current businesses or create new platforms to support social causes and multiply forces to fight the odds.
The Emergence of Social Entrepreneurship
Today, social entrepreneurship is flourishing rapidly and garnering heightened attention from many. It finding its due in media, seeing socially driven entrepreneurs mushroom as well as support from investors and has become mainstream on university campuses.
It is most relevant at this juncture, where India is at the crossroads of J curve of growth to reach US$ 5 BN economy in the next few years. All this is not possible unless we have inclusive growth. And thus, social entrepreneurship is no longer good to have; it’s the need of the hour.
Different Strides, Once Objective
Financial inclusion is undoubtedly the biggest success story of social investing in India. According to research by Indian Impact Council, financial inclusion saw investments of $5.5 billion cumulatively since 2010. The sector impacted approximately 100 million citizens of lower-income class, through the microfinance companies providing last-mile access to small ticket lending and NBFCs providing SME finance. Fintech has witnessed the highest amount of innovation in recent years, thus extending financial inclusion to savings, insurance and payments through tech-enabled alternative credit models. Collateral free loans to small businesses have fostered the MSME revolution in the country, while banks and NBFCs focused on affordable housing are contributing to the dream of “housing for all”.
In healthcare, several groundbreaking innovations have helped to improve access of affordable healthcare to the underserved section of the population. Many impact investors are now investing in healthcare in India, focusing on Tier 2/3 cities, providing secondary or specialised care facilities in an organised way (for example, speciality services such as maternity, cardiac care or eye-care) or investing in disruptive technologies in the diagnostics market (such as cancer detection). This pandemic has also seeded the telemedicine revolution, which is a remarkable platform for reaching patients who otherwise do not have access to qualified doctors.
Agriculture and education are other sectors where we have seen impact first ventures. In agriculture, technology is being leveraged to improve yields, through improved inputs as well as increasing ability to predict weather conditions. In education, efforts have been directed to improve the education infrastructure. However, the use of online platforms have increased the ability to reach students and empower them with content as well as training that is required to make a difference.
Sustainable Ecosystem for Social Entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship is a game-changing revolution for India and the Govt as well as businesses have realised the need to build an ecosystem to drive this sustainably. There are various stakeholders in this ecosystem playing a pivotal role:
- Intermediaries and networks (consultants, bankers) extend support to social entrepreneurs by increasing awareness about their priorities and groundwork, as well as helping them meet their operational as well as funding needs.
- NGOs, impact investors, philanthropies, Development Finance Institutions, other funders adapt their investment priorities and processes to give flexible capital and operational support.
- Large companies back social entrepreneurs within their supply chains, fulfil their agreements and provide their support to create an economy that is inclusive and resilient.
- Government institutions recognize social entrepreneurs as a driving force for inclusive growth, safeguarding jobs and pioneering a greener and justifiable society. Niti Aayog and Invest India are some platforms to support them, while policy changes and government schemes are other areas of support.
Social entrepreneurship has been bubbling in the last few years, and its benefits are being recognised. However, the pandemic has brought it to the forefront. The road ahead will determine the faith of our country in creating an inclusive, high growth economy.