Villgro was founded by Paul Basil, a member of the Ashoka Fellowship who took his background in mechanical engineering and his management degree from the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, to pursue a dream of helping India’s rural poor. After working at the marketing department of Kerala Horticulture Development Programme, Paul founded Villgro in order to identify and nurture business ideas with the market potential to provide products and services that benefit the rural poor.
Villgro’s unique value lies in its core philosophy that anything is possible. Working with extremely early stage entrepreneurs, the incubator offers a variety of services aimed at bringing that innovative idea to market. Their strategy has evidently paid off. Villgro to date has identified and supported around 2000 social innovators, and impacted more than 360,000 individuals in rural communities across India.
In December, at ISB’s 4th iDiya boot camp for social ventures, we connected with Paul for a chance to learn more about the work of Villgro and his opinions on the iDiya platform.
During our conversation with Paul, he reinforced the driving idea behind Villgro, stating that their job is to believe in social innovators and to convince them that with the right care and attention, any idea is possible. However, as Paul noted, making markets for products and services that cater to the poor is an extreme challenge. Currently, social entrepreneurs are against all odds when it comes to recruiting talent, accessing capital, building processes and systems, and developing last mile distribution channels. However, as organizations like Villgro continue to provide services that help entrepreneurs overcome these initial barriers, it is only a matter of time before social innovators flourish in the marketplace.
In our recent interview, Paul comments on the trends he has noticed emerge in the social enterprise space, speaks about specific companies that have been supported by Villgro, and gives personal advice on how social entrepreneurs can develop a successful product.
Visit Villgro.org for more information.