Twitter Based #SocEntChat Investigates Scalability Among Indian Social Enterprises


Social entrepreneurship in India is picking up and this is definitely the need of the hour. Entrepreneurs are putting up commendable efforts at the grassroot levels to make the situation better and solve a lot of persistent problems. But in a country of over 1.2 billion people - most with unmet basic human needs - solutions have to be scalable. And this is challenge that every entrepreneur faces, be it social or any other sector.

#SocEntchat, a Twitter based virtual discussion was hosted by Ashoka Changemakers and Action for India on June 6, 2012 to explore the scaling among Indian early-stage social enterprises. Many imminent personalities from the cross section of the ecosystem came together to discuss the various issues associated with scale in the Indian social enterprise sector.

The chat, which was a part of the launch of Action for India’s Growth Prize Competition on Changemakers, will award five social entrepreneurs who demonstrate progress in scaling (or preparing to scale) their ventures during a 6-month engagement period.

Growth Prizes will be awarded in five sectors

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Agriculture
  • Energy and
  • Livelihoods.

Winners will each receive INR 5L in funding, plus a bunch of IT, legal, financial and consulting services. All participants will also benefit from this opportunity to grow and promote their enterprise using the globally recognized Ashoka platform for social innovation, and will be invited to participate in the 2013 AFI National Forum.

The June 6th chat started with discussions about the capabilities young social enterprises need to have to scale.

The panellists suggested a few important components for scaling:

  • Right revenue model
  • Correct Hiring
  • Flexibility
  • Collaboration
  • Cost Effectiveness
  • Clear Understanding of the amrket
  • Technology Adoption

“Understand the ground realities and the actual need. Most social enterprises work on a lot of assumptions which make them fail”, noted Sudip Dutta, Founder of Aporv.

The chat then discussed some of the role models in India - successful social enterprises which have managed to scale their impact. Embrace, Novartis, micro-finance institutions, Vaatsalya healthcare, Dlight, Sanergy, IDE, Eram Scientific, OpAsha, mPesa, Akshaya Patra, Skymet and Milaap were some of the examples shared.

During the discussion, one very important question arose, can social enterprises use “Jugaad” to scale? Can they scale without significant resources? The participants suggested that strategies such as having a lean team, innovation, collaboration, right hiring by hitting generalists, maintaining a focus, and using customers as evangelists could lead to scale without drying up limited resources. The external support required for scaling was the next topic of discussion and some of the resources that panelists and participants suggested were public-private partnerships, proactive support from the government, incubation and access to finance.

Out of the many challenges that a social startup faces, some of the challenges that repeatedly came across were lack of support from government and funders, lack of structured measurement and monitoring tools and finding the right people to work in your organizations. The chat also discussed the role of technology in scaling social enterprises and some of the pitfalls early stage social enterprises need to avoid .

This highly engaging discussion with #SocEntChat on #ScalingInnov created 34 million impressions with over 1300 tweets.


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