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Inspirational Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurship has garnered huge interest in India in recent years. The country is witnessing an outburst of ideas from a slew of outstanding social entrepreneurs across India. These entrepreneurs are not driven by the idea of profits, but the number of lives they transform. Their success is measured in terms of their impact on society and the nation.

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Social entrepreneurship in today's world is evolving rapidly. Social entrepreneurs are capable of bringing disruptive solutions and build synergies to offer valuable solutions to many issues. They have the acumen to comprehend and identify problem or gap areas and develop innovative scalable solutions to multifaceted complexities, ranging from unemployment, micro-credit, poverty, health and family welfare, education, women empowerment, climate change etc.

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India needs platforms that incubate, nurture and develop social entrepreneurs who standup to address multitude of challenges. There is a need for platforms that recognize the latent potential of these social entrepreneurs and provide them a wider spectrum that helps them build peer network at a global scale.

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One such platform is the Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) Awards in India, an initiative by Jubilant Bhartia Foundation and Schwab foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which aims at rewarding those working in the social field. The year 2018 marks 9th year of partnership between the two organisations.

An area where social entrepreneurs have been actively working is the space of micro financing in the country. The micro finance revolution began in the country in the 1970s and has been a very important tool in bring about positive change in the eradication of poverty. Rang De from Bangalore, which is one of the finalist, has been supporting rural entrepreneurs, artisans, farmers and others from the not so privileged background.

Rang De is building bridges between India's credit-starved communities and ordinary citizens who contribute to meet the education, health and enterprise needs of resource-poor populations. Working on the premise of ‘Micro-investment for Micro-loans’ and enabled by power of crowd funding, Rang De has till date disbursed INR 70 crores, from 14000 social investors and philanthropists to benefit 60,000 families.
This year's list of three finalists include, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), a Pune based that has made it to the list of finalists for the second time and has been instrumental in revitalizing rural economies by putting women in charge. Working in areas affected by global climate change, it has unleashed women farmers, entrepreneurs and grassroots business leaders who are solving the problems of their communities through small businesses.
SSP has built vibrant eco-systems to enable 145,000 women to succeed in remote and ailing markets. The SSP model comprises four ventures: a federated network of 5000 SHGs; a resilience fund for women-led businesses; a rural school of entrepreneurship and leadership for women; and a market aggregator that provides warehousing, branding, marketing and distribution services to last-mile business women. In addition, it has catalyzed the government, investors, financial institutions and Indian and global corporations to partner directly with grassroots women business leaders.

In the present scenario, technology is at the forefront and empowers in maximizing the effort of social change makers. The new age social entrepreneurs are braving the use of innovative technology to solve complex and pressing issues that the society suffers from and create pilot business models to cater the need of rural communities, empowering them financially, mentally and socially.

Another such finalist this year at the SEOY India 2018 is Video Volunteers (VV) from Goa. Video Volunteers is building a community media model that enables marginalized citizens to become media content producers and use it to right the wrongs. VV has set up India Unheard – the country's largest grassroots news agency that brings high quality video news reports from 200 of India's poorest and ‘media-dark’ districts. 250 trained Community Correspondents (CCs) flank out into 2000 villages to conceive, produce and edit news videos on their mobile phones.

Over the years, VV has published more than 5600 news videos and registered 4 million You Tube views a month. 25% or 1 in 4 videos have created impact – i.e. resolved the issue that they raised - leading 4 lakh people to live improved lives. 300,000 rural citizens have viewed the videos through community screenings and 200,000 have engaged in action to change what they see around them.

The platform of SEOY India award has made meaningful strides in the Indian social enterprise landscape by way of providing meaningful recognition to those who work selflessly to address pressing socio-economic issues. The three shortlisted social entrepreneurs are truly nurturing a dream of articulating value for their community by identifying sustainable and innovative solutions to new age problems.

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Author: Ajay Khanna
Chief - Strategic & Public Affairs, Jubilant Bhartia Group