Yashveer Singh, Founder, National Social Entrepreneurship Forum
“Bringing change to India”
Gandhiji said” Be the change you want to see in the world”. In India one young entrepreneur seems to exemplify the meaning of this quote. Yashveer Singh is the founder of National Social Entrepreneurship Forum which seeks to bring about changes in society in very concrete ways. He told us more about how the organization will promote social entrepreneurship among the youth of our country in a revealing conversation with Yourstory.
What is NSEF and its purpose of existence?
National Social Entrepreneurship Forum (NSEF) is a not for profit organization that promotes social entrepreneurship among the students of major universities across India by inspiring, educating and supporting the next generation of social entrepreneurs and by creating environments where they can succeed. With this objective, NSEF establishes centres in these institutions which act as a hub for conducting world class workshops, skill-building activities and conferences. Further, these centres will develop academic courses, provide innovative training and internships in development sector and most importantly provide support through mentorship and incubation facilities for budding social entrepreneurs.
NSEF’s single minded mission is to produce young and successful social entrepreneurs who are equipped to tackle today’s social problems in an innovative and sustainable manner. Though sustainability for solving social problems has already become a successful mantra in the developed world it is very uncommon for people there to encounter the multitude of problems like the ones faced in developing countries. The irony is people here are already well aware of the social problems and today India has come to an age where people can appreciate and understand social entrepreneurship. But what is lacking is the impetus to tackle these problems and take it to forward on the right track. All we need now is young educated Indians who can take that plunge and build strong vision-driven sustainable organizations to solve these problems. NSEF through its tailor made programs will firstly create awareness about social entrepreneurship then equip young people with the talent needed to innovate and build organizations and finally support these ventures to ensure that they become successful models for tomorrow.
Tell us more about your existent programs and their potential
NSEF is primarily operating in three campuses across India, which is IIM-Lucknow, BITS Pilani, BITS Pilani Goa campus. Each centre conducts various programs to motivate students about social entrepreneurship and at the same time creates an ecosystem thorough which interested students are enabled to become social entrepreneurs. With these goals in mind there are well thought strategies to achieve them through tailor made programs that we have designed. These programs will be implemented at various universities by establishing student run centres. The NSEF central team which will comprise of the founders and a network of seasoned social entrepreneurs to coordinate with these student-run centres to ensure these programs run successfully and effectively.
The various programs we have designed include:
- Workshops and Conferences: Promoting social entrepreneurship begins with awareness. NSEF organizes seminars and workshops on social entrepreneurship all around the country to motivate people and in particular the youth to take on social issues and to apply the principles of entrepreneurship to solve them. Workshops are tailor made to help students understand the various facets for becoming a social entrepreneur. It covers a wide spectrum of topics starting from introducing students to the concept of social entrepreneurship to exploring its changing conditions in the globalizing world. It also covers various other aspects like the organizational structures in this field now, the characteristics (including skill sets) of successful social entrepreneurs and more. By bringing eminent social entrepreneurs face to face to share their experiences it inspires students to tread the path of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs share the strategic challenges they face at different moments in the entrepreneurship lifecycle – how to get the idea, how to get started, how to find the right scale, issues of organizational governance and network building and partnering. The workshop also apprises students the opportunities the changing world of social entrepreneurship holds for graduate students.
- Social B-Plan Competitions: The power of social businesses to create sustainable, positive change to some of the world’s most challenging social issues is unmatchable. Social Business Plan Competition by NSEF provides a platform to creative minds around the world to experiment and encourage bolder and less conventional business solutions to global problems.
- NSEF Author: An immersion experience to help highly motivated students to get a hands-on experience in the developing sector through our summer Internships program. We believe that this is critical in bringing about the next cohort of leaders who will lead the movement in the development sector. The internship will be a highly entrepreneurial experience challenging students to come up with innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the development sector. They will also get an opportunity to network with eminent thought leaders, social entrepreneurs and development experts.
- Idea Café Sessions: These sessions are to share knowledge and mutually learn amongst each other. Chapter members select a particular theme/topic for discussion and everyone brainstorms on it which helps students to learn from each other.
NSEF has successfully conducted more than 5 workshops/conferences on social entrepreneurship, couple of national level Social B-Plan competitions at our centres. This year NSEF has partnered with 11 social enterprises all over India to provide summer internships opportunity to highly committed 26 students from IIMs, IITs, BITS, NITs, Xaviers, St. Stephens and other premier institutes across India.
What other programs do you plan to activate in the future?
NSEF plans to inaugurate more centres this year. More such centres will get added over the coming years to take our vision forward, In addition to that: we would launch:
1.) NSEF BLOGGER: It’s an online blogging competition which would be open for all the Indian students and would be conducted in the month of august this year. This would help the students with brilliant experiences/ideas to reach to wider audience and would help others to learn form them. The winners would be recognised by providing a chance to network, get mentorship and meet best of social entrepreneurs
2.) Placement Cell: In partnership with Samhita Social Ventures, NSEF will provide information related to Job opportunities to students of these social organisations. NSEF has Student Campus Ambassadors in more than 50 academic institutes across India, who will create awareness about these opportunities, motivate students to take up these opportunities and clear their doubts and queries regarding the work culture at these organisations.
3.) NSEF Fellowship: This program targets those individuals who are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical implementation of their vision above all else. It facilitates setting up of innovative self-sustainable Enterprises that are capable of solving our contemporary social issues, carving their own paths to progress. Applicants would have to go through a rigorous screening process comprising of online applications and personal interviews for being awarded with fellowships. Our selection procedure will itself prove to be a great learning experience especially for those who are able to make it to final presentations and interviews as it provides you with an actual reality check. The fellowship program will also get kick started by end of this year.
We also plan to do events at a much larger scale as we progress. For instance while we have partnerships with 11 social enterprises this year, we are planning to target as many as 40 organizations next year. This way a large number of students will get an immersion experience in some of the credible social enterprises of today. Our ultimate aim is to produce the next cohort of leaders who will be ready to take on the challenges faced by our societies and apply the principles of social entrepreneurship to solve it.
What is the business model behind NSEF?
We are promoting social entrepreneurship amongst youth of India; we are doing this through a systemic and structured way by conducting various events/activities/competitions in academic institutes. So, in a nut shell we are trying to address the strategic issue of creating more and more social entrepreneurs to address myriad problems of our society. As we conduct these activities in these institutes it creates an opportunity both offline and online for corporates and other businesses to sponsor our events/competitions and increase their brand value and visibility among youth, we are also designing a model to leverage the skills of bright students to solve various problems of social organizations by involving them on ongoing projects of social organizations.
What are the changes you will make to scale up this business model?
We would scale our model by extending our reach to other academic Institutes, in this process we would partner with social organizations, corporates, social venture capitalists etc. Our strategy is to identify students and alumni who are passionate about social innovation or entrepreneurship and equip them to open a center in their institution and carry out the activities and events. We are in talks with such students and alumni from few top institutes across India.
What changes should India incorporate to make entrepreneurship more successful?
According to my experience, we have tremendous and bright young population, But, as majority of India is in middle class income group, many times young people with bright ideas can’t pursue their dreams due to family and society expectations. I feel successful and resourceful entrepreneurs should create more and more platforms which can identify, support and mentor these young people.
How did you become a social entrepreneur?
I belong to a very small and remote village of Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan, right from my childhood I have seen and experienced myriad social problems, at that point; I wanted to do something but had no clarity and way forward. The education system and exposure at BITS Pilani empowered and enabled me to learn the art of driving and leading initiatives, As President of Student’s Union; I led many student initiatives, framed various student policies, networked and worked under the guidance of alumni and professors. This opportunity provided me a platform to show my abilities and implement my ideas. It was during this period, I learnt the ropes of running an enterprise, discovered the bonhomie and the value of relationships, realized the importance of remaining focused and nonchalant even in the midst of extreme adversity and in me inculcated the habit of sharing, motivating & encouraging. The journey was phenomenally rich in terms of entrepreneurial learning’s and personal growth
After my graduation, I worked with reputed social organizations like Nirmaan and than later Janaagraha to contribute my bit to bring social change, but slowly realized that there are so many social problems and the most effective way to solve these is to motivate more and more talented young people to join this sector and use their skills to accelerate the process of social change in a sustainable manner. There were other like minded founding members of NSEF who felt the same and after lot of brainstorming sessions we came up with our working model.
How have you overcome the inherent financial challenges of a social entrepreneur?
Like every budding social enterprise lack of funds is one of the biggest challenges. But the good thing is in the process we have learnt to optimize our limited resources. Till now we have successfully raised funds from our network and friends and are looking for grants from donors/institutions which promotes social entrepreneurship or from social business ventures working at grass roots. In the long run, we are in the process of making a sustainable model by seeking corporate sponsorships, charging for some of our workshops and conferences, charging social organizations for providing high quality interns and consulting social organizations etc.
What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?
A strong urge and zeal to help all those less fortunate and underprivileged people who are struggling in their lives by minimizing the parity between rich and poor and I believe social entrepreneurship is the only answer to it.
What is your personal take on entrepreneurship for amateurs?
Entrepreneurship requires a lot of patience and perseverance but my experience till now is that if you are really passionate about your initiative, you will sail through various hurdles and you will succeed. On top of it Social entrepreneurship is even more challenging as one has to struggle between making a social impact and yet to be self sustainable. But, this sector offers an immense opportunity for you to lead change. I should say adversity is a privilege of every entrepreneur.
We hope that Yashveer’s dreams of bringing social change by promoting social entrepreneurship comes to fulfillment. We wish him success and luck in all his endeavors.