Applications for the next round of UnLtd India investees are now open. Since 2007, UnLtd India has been tapping into the growing Indian social enterprise community, out of which market-based solutions to social development continue to emerge with rapid pace and exciting innovation. In order for these solutions to manifest, however, entrepreneurs with a bright idea must be able to execute on the business front. Here, UnLtd intervenes to help these aspiring social entrepreneurs scale their businesses and maximize impact.“UnLtd India was setup in 2007 and till date has supported over 100 individuals working on 70+ projects creating high social impact across a variety of sectors,” explained Tej Dhami, Director of the Incubation Support Program. “First and foremost an entrepreneur will gain a partner that is committed to them as an individual and in supporting their journey as a social entrepreneur.”
Through their intensive incubation program, UnLtd seeks to break down some of the common challenges faced by social entrepreneurs, and to ease their access to certain assets that are so difficult to come by in this competitive environment. For instance, on top of the one on one coaching they receive, investees gain access to UnLtd’s immense support networks. “Access to our network of partners and investees helps entrepreneurs build long-term relationships with a range of potential partners from funders to peers to potential customers,” explained Tej.
In order to be eligible for the support program, an organization cannot have been registered for more than four years. Nascency, however, is not an issue. No matter how young your business or idea is, it could still qualify for UnLtd support.
Yet to be truly fit for the incubation, an entrepreneur must meet certain standards held by UnLtd. “We assess each candidate on four broad parameters,” Tej explained. “Individual - we are looking for people who inspire us, have a clear connect with the social cause they are addressing and have demonstrated entrepreneurial ability. Impact – at UnLtd India social enterprise is not defined by business model but rather by the fact that the venture is impact first. Idea – we are looking for innovative models that can be scaled or replicated. Incubation – candidates need to demonstrate a strong fit with UnLtd India’s support program we will only work with candidates that will truly benefit from our non-financial support.”
For more insight on what it takes to be selected for UnLtd incubation, we connected with Krishna Ramkumar, who has been through the program and is currently a Level II UnLtd Investee. Krishna Ramkumar is the founder of Avanti Fellows, and has worked closely with UnLtd over the past couple years to watch his business grow. Avanti Fellows works with college campuses across the country, addressing the widening Indian socio-economic divide by expanding accessibility of education to low-income homes. They work with student volunteers to mentor bright individuals from less privileged areas, helping them clear their entrance exams and seeing to it that they are able to attend and, more importantly, succeed in college.
Krishna is a testament to the fact that for UnLtd, how young your idea is does not necessarily matter. “We applied to UnLtd within the first couple of months of our inception,”Krishnaexplained. “As a startup looking for access to capital, mentoring support and a wider network of peers, funders and supporters, we fit the bill for UnLtd perfectly.”With the support of UnLtd India, Avanti Fellows has grown from from a young company to, now, the largest of its kind inIndia. They work with over 150 student volunteers in 7 cities across the country to level the education playing field.
“UnLtd played a massive role in helping accelerate our growth,”Krishna told us. “At boot camp, I built deep relationships with other social entrepreneurs at various stages of maturity and learnt from their experience. I got frank feedback and advice on our theory of change from both the UnLtd team and my peers, helping me refine and better articulate our goals as an organisation. UnLtd staff also made valuable connections with legal resources and helped us establish a partnership with a leading bank for financing.”
Where UnLtd Incubation seems to thrive is in its ability to recognize impact potential above anything else, and to facilitate the realization of that potential. Speaking to this,Krishna gave some advice to entrepreneurs planning to apply: “During the selection process, focus on selling both your idea and your potential as an individual to effect social change. Be honest - nobody has all the answers when they start up. If selected, be accessible and proactive in seeking support to make the best of the UnLtd relationship.”
Tej Dhami also provided applicants with some valuable advice. “Do your research,” she urged. “Even if you are pre pilot make sure you have talked to potential beneficiaries and other players in the field. Be very clear in your mind as to what assumptions you are making about the outcomes and impact of your work. But most importantly let your passion speak for itself.”
Within the burgeoning social enterprise community inIndia, UnLtd India plays a clear and defined role, seeing to it that the creative solutions for social impact become realities. “UnLtd has been an amazing supporter,” Krishna told us, “ and I am sure they will continue to back, mentor and support us as we scale our organization.” The long lasting relationships they build with their investees encourage continued and sustainable change, the potential of which is truly unlimited.
If you think your business solution has high potential for impact, and are interested in becoming an UnLtd investee, applications are due by this Sunday, September 30.
Interested in applying for UnLtd Incubation?