Social entrepreneurship is often viewed as the domain of the experienced and it is also felt that its revenue is restricted by social activities. However, IIT Kharagpur has its own innovative take on what and how social entrepreneurship can be.Aarambh is a student initiative that makes money from the IT sector, namely web designing and application development and funnels it into social causes. Students get hands-on experience on entrepreneurship and also, a closer look at social change in the deal.
YourStory learnt about the business idea behind Aarambh through Ankita Susan Tigga, a student and Aarambh member who explained how it all works.
How would you explain Aarambh’s role as a social enterprise?
Aarambh is a student body conceptualized by a group of motivated individuals from IIT Kharagpur with a strong belief in being the change we all want to see. Aarambh has evolved as a unique social enterprise, perhaps the first social campus organization in the country that covers for its operational cost through its own revenue gathering services.
It aims at bridging the gap of skill and talent in the domain of social change and hence, creates avenues for students to get technically involved and work for the social sector.
How is Aarambh different from any other web design agency or application development firm?
We do web designing and application development for our sustainability. We don’t rely on anybody’s donations. Hence, we offer web design and application development at highly subsidized rates and look it as a skill contributed to the social sector. The money received by web development, etc. is utilized in implementation of our various developmental projects.
How was the business idea for Aarambh conceptualized?
The journey of Aarambh started with the ending of Jagriti Yatra 2008 (read YourStory’s coverage of the Jagriti Yatra by clicking here). A yatri returns, having witnessing the real India. Efforts began in the form of a "Help the Needy” campaign within the campus and emerged successful due to the strong desire and motivation of fellow team members. This was the genesis of a new thought process, a thought which has a purpose, a desire, to motivate people to initiate change and the idea was to inspire others through the quality work that could be done.
Aarambh is the lead to carry that thought ahead. With a commitment towards bringing positive change, Aarambh has been formed and we aim to provide excellent professional services and execute paradigm projects to contribute our bit to the developmental sector. From an initiative in the form of "Help the Needy”, today Aarambh is working on projects in different concern areas and offers promising solution under its service portfolio to the non-profit sector.Tell us about your backgrounds.
We are students from different parts of the country studying at India’s best technological institute. Imbibing the diversity at IIT Kharagpur, our team consists of people undertaking studies in core engineering, pure science, business studies, architecture, law and economics.
Most of our teammates are from Tier 2 cities in different parts of the country and have witnessed a certain event in their regions that gives them the determination to create value for others. The team is technically blessed, analytically competent, motivated by real heroes and events, bring to the table a gamut of thought processes owing to the diverse cultural backgrounds and are driven by a sheer determination to initiate, empower and achieve and create value for themselves and the people around them.
What changes has Aarambh brought about? What kind of reception has it got?
Within just a year, Aarambh has grown from just a few students at IIT Kharagpur to a phenomenon on campus. Students outside Team Aarambh have received support from Aarambh in initiating their own ideas in the sphere of social development. TechShala and our upcoming projects with rickshaw pullers at Kharagpur bear testimony to this fact. Aarambh has associated itself with Goonj andhas and taken the onus to taking VastraSamman to each and every college in the country.
Vastrasamman 2010 was a huge success with over 50 participating colleges all over India. This year, the campaign aims bigger targets with over 125 colleges. Apart from Goonj, Aarambh has fostered working relationships with organizations like Naandi, Intellecap, Aga Khan Foundation, Dhrishtee and RangDe.
Where do you see the social enterprise sector and Aarambh five years from now?
Aarambh has achieved inspirational success within just a year. In the future, we see Aarambh as an organization involving thousands of youth in different parts of the country in initiating developmental projects near their campuses and homes.
We do not believe in opening chapters of Aarambh. Rather, we aim to create a work based collaboration where different organizations while maintaining their individuality can come forth and collaborate with us on our projects. In the future, we aim for a unique portal where all the information about campaigns happening in different parts of the country be shared so that replication of projects become easier.
Some of our projects like TechShala are already been replicated, we wish to scale up social projects by providing a medium for massive replication. Also one key area where we see ourselves succeeding is in creating a platform from where talented people could
contribute their soft skills and technical capabilities to solve the gravest problem pertaining to the social sector.
What is Aarambh's current revenue model?The group provides IT and design services to other agents of change at very low costs and reinvests the money gathered into its own developmental project, adding value to the system at each stage of their operational cycle.
As social entrepreneurs, what motivates Team Aarambh?
The taste of success is the sweetest. Team Aarambh has recently completed a few websites for leading clients in not for profit sectors in east India region. When we see smile across faces of the marginalized, that’s our moment of bliss. We do portray ourselves as a revenue generating body, but these smiles are our inspiration for which we earn the money to fuel developmental projects.
Scaling up our services by building capacities is an opportunity disguised as a challenge; we have received innumerous requests from potential clients and are in the process of identifying a filter to screen talent. Being in just in its infancy, Aarambh is evolving in its team structures and divisions to strengthen its pillars of developmental projects, IT consultancy and Design services to form a symbiotic relation and foster innovation and a not for profit intent towards profit based services.
What structure does the Aarambh team have? What is your team composition?
Although Aarambh has an official structure that resembles that of any not for profit society, our working culture is quite flexible but with well defined roles and responsibilities. For each of our projects a team has been assigned. Each of these teams comprises of advisors, heads and members.
Each team is completely aware of current happenings and updates of every other team. Working on the issue of lack of skills and talent, Aarambh helps interested students in executing their own developmental projects and provide them with necessary team skills and resources. We thus provide the youth a platform to use their talent and potential in social sector.
Apart from this, we have our own sales team to take care of the revenue stream and a services team to deliver the services.
The team size is hence very flexible, although we have about 20 people running Aarambh at its core. We believe that the youth of today is highly adaptable and specialize at what they take, all they need is motivation and guidance. At Aarambh we have build our own competencies over developmental issues and we are optimistic about its sustenance.
Are you executing projects related to expansion at the moment?
One of our projects is Vastra Samaan. it’s a nationwide campaign being organized in over 25 cities all over the country, aiming over 150 colleges. The idea is to tap the unexplored treasure of resourceful waste lying within the boundaries of the hostel rooms.
Like this, we want that the youth from all over the nation to get actively involved in social sector. We want to create a social network across the nation, a network where everyone retains their individuality and are partners in action. Our projects are innovative and have received request for replication from different parts of the country.
Our revenue services are very strong and with a full fledged sales team, we would enter five digit revenue numbers.
What future trends have you identified for Aarambh?
On the developmental front, Aarambh is innovating to create projects that could be replicated in an agile manner and create long lasting impact. With our IT services, we have seen that there is a dire need among NGOs for a web presence as a herculean number of NGOs still lack a website.
These organizations have been deterred by high costs and lack of technical capabilities. We firmly believe a subsidized product targeting these organizations could sustain any IT and design firm.
YourStory wishes the students and social entrepreneurs at Aarambh success in their future endeavors. Check them out athttp://www.aarambhiitkgp.com/. Also, do give us your feedback on this story at email@example.com.