As an aside, one thing that India and social entrepreneurship have in common is that they can both be hard to define. India, owing to its sheer vastness and diversity, social entrepreneurship, due to the perennial grey area that lies between motivation and impact.
But that superfluous aside, there is one other strong potential link between India and social entrepreneurship. If things pan out well, India can be to social entrepreneurship what the United States has been to neo-capitalistic entrepreneurship. India, truly, can be a real tour de force and the Avant-garde of social entrepreneurship.
The reason I say this is simple.
India has more than eight hundred million people living on less than half a dollar a day. Two million slum children under the age of 5 die every year due to poor healthcare.
Only one in three girls attend secondary school in atleast ten Indian states. Be it in education, health, microfinance, civic infrastructure or alternative energy, India is a booming lab for all kinds of social experiments. The sheer vastness of all these target markets brings the economics of scale into play and reduces the impact undercutting of cut throat competition.
I am inclined to believe that the term indigenous’ has an etymology pointing to India.
The almost innate ability to make something out of seemingly nothing is almost Indi(an) genius, so to speak. Of course, the more colloquial term for this type of innovative thinking is jugaad, easy to encounter in any highway auto repair shop. This typical Indian attitude toward problems is a real asset to the entrepreneurial. Not sufficient for a successful social enterprise, but absolutely necessary.
I would like to believe that the ongoing Anna Hazare movement represents the crescendo (as yet, atleast) of Indian civil society’s expression of angst with the system and not the beginning. For some years now (maybe even decades), we have been hearing about an increasing number of NGOs doing good socially transformational work.
Social activism itself cannot really be an alien concept to a country where many grandparents were cogs in the wheel of the independence struggle, but a more perceptible and well entrenched wave of social consciousness seems to be cutting through the country today. And that kind of a climate is only more conducive to social enterprises.
For a long time in India, it had almost become a cliché to say that the mainstream media focuses too much on negative news and tends to ignore the many positive happenings in the country.
The critique was probably justified, but I suspect we are seeing a change these days. More and more news channels today are willing to allow lay citizens to speak out on a platform, good stories of nobility and sacrifice are being told and the news isn’t all about blood and bloody scams any longer.
Additionally, we now have a booming and buzzing social media which already connects a big chunk of the urban and semi-urban populace. In such an environment, communication of every kind receives a huge leg up.
These and many other intrinsic factors, I believe, make India a great potential ground for path breaking social entrepreneurship. The west has recognized that, as is evident by the number of programs and associations that reputed global players in this field (like Acumen and Ashoka) have established in India.
Let’s hope we follow the west in following us! Your comments welcome..