5 reasons why now is the best time to become a social entrepreneur
Well, you know who you are. A fence-sitter, who has spent your entirely life handcuffed to a cubicle. You have dreamed of doing something to change the world, but the security of a regular monthly paycheck and the fat bonus at the end of the year, put you off from making that decision. Maybe you are ready to quit now, and take the plunge, into the big unknown world of entrepreneurship.
Or perhaps you are still undecided, and need a little push over the edge. We give you 5 reasons why you should become a social entrepreneur and why now is the best time to do it.
1) How often do you get a chance to change the future of India?
India is sitting on a landmine of very difficult to solve development problems. Issues include a lack energy security, poor healthcare system, an agriculture sector staring at the abyss, youth lacking skills suitable for employment and a dearth of good quality schools that are affordable. The Government has put up a pathetic performance in the past few years. With the rupee in free fall, GDP growth dipping, manufacturing stagnant, inflation rising and no major structural reforms expected till after the elections in 2014, the India story is fading fast.
Being in India is both a blessing and a curse. Social entrepreneurs look at these seemingly insurmountable problems as opportunities and tackle them by deploying innovative solutions combined with time-tested business practices. Most enterprises become successful because they address real problems. Here’s your chance to turn the landmine into a goldmine. Ready?
2) $1 billion looking for you:
Currently there are more than 20 venture funds that mainly invest only in social enterprises. They include the big guns like Aavishkaar, Omidyar Network and Lok Capital that invest across multiple sectors, and others like Chilasa Venture Philanthropy, Upaya Social Ventures and Omnivore Partners that invest in specific sectors like bottom of the pyramid (BoP) and agriculture.
Omidyar Network India head Jayant Sinha has pointed out that there is more supply of capital than there are ‘investible’ enterprises. While there has been interest from young professionals and fresh graduates to start a social enterprise, there’s room for more. If you have a business idea that can create social or environmental impact, now is the time. To steal a line from the Bible, “The harvest is plenty, the laborers are few.”
3) Government and private enterprises: The two sleeping giants are waking up
Unlike other countries like Italy, South Korea and the UK, where the social enterprise agenda is designed and driven by the government and ably supported by large private enterprises India social entrepreneurship scene has largely been startup led. This is great for a start, but if this momentum has to become stronger, and it needs the support of these two constituencies.
The government is awoken from its slumber. It has announced plans for a Rs 5,000 crore fund to be invested in the social sector, and the new CSR bill is a step in the right direction too, that will unlock precious capital from large private enterprises. Besides the mandatory spending that the companies will have to do, there are plenty of corporates who are launching a mixture of for-profit and non-profit social enterprises. Sarvajal, an affordable clean drinking water provider, which is part of Piramal Foundation, is a prime example of this new type of corporate spawned social enterprise.
4) The window of opportunity won’t last long
The current opportunity to start up in the social enterprise space may not last that long. Once the government introduces new policies, laws and incentives to launch social enterprises, the concept will go mainstream and there will be a mad scramble to set up social enterprises.
Once the space gets crowded, differentiation and scaling up will be tough. Access to venture capital may also dry up and talent, more difficult to source. So, it is best to start now, to get a head start. Carpe diem folks!
5) If you fail you can start all over again
Like all entrepreneurship, most social enterprises are bound to fail. Fret not. Whether you decide to get back to the corporate sector in a different avatar (hear of the term social intrapreneur), or stay in the social entrepreneurship space. Your experience as a social entrepreneur will be invaluable.
More importantly, you would feel free, because you have gotten rid of the ‘I always wanted to do my own thing’ feeling.