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Two Indian entrepreneurs among Schwab Foundation Social Innovation awardees

Two Indians, Ajaita Shah of social commerce platform Frontier Markets and Shuchin Bajaj of hospital chain Ujala Cygnus Hospitals, figured among the recipients of the Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Awards.

Two Indian entrepreneurs among Schwab Foundation Social Innovation awardees

Friday January 19, 2024 , 4 min Read

Two Indians, Ajaita Shah of social commerce platform Frontier Markets and Shuchin Bajaj of hospital chain Ujala Cygnus Hospitals, figured among the recipients of the Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Awards.

Shah is the Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets (India), which works with and for women to offer an essential last-mile connection to rural households.

Using convenient smartphone technology, it helps a fast-growing community of women entrepreneurs connect to more than one million women customers in thousands of villages.

It aims to serve 100 million rural households by 2030. Shah has more than 18 years of experience working in rural India through microfinance, rural distribution, marketing and building gender-inclusive business models.

Bajaj is Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus Hospitals (India), which operates 20 hospitals in New Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana, providing super-speciality and emergency healthcare in parts of India where no such facilities exist.

It aims to expand to 25 hospitals offering 2,500 beds by the end of 2025.

In addition to being an eminent physician, Bajaj is also an investor in healthtech. He is part of the founding team of Medpho, a digital health startup providing quality healthcare to left-behind communities, which is already ensuring surgeries to hundreds of patients per month at zero out-of-pocket cost.

Announcing the awards here at its Annual Meeting 1024, the World Economic Forum said that from India to Morocco, the United States to Ecuador, the 16 organisations awarded by the Schwab Foundation today are leading the way in advancing equitable access to healthcare, education, finance and law, while empowering women and young people and countering the effects of climate change.

In a world where trust in societal institutions is in decline due to rising geopolitical tensions, economic uncertainty, violent conflicts and mounting climate fears, these organisations are part of a global community that offers proven methods for building a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society.

"The Social Innovators of the Year 2024 represent a diverse group of entrepreneurs and innovators who are driving the change we need to create a more sustainable, inclusive future," said Hilde Schwab, Co-founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

"The collective potential of this community offers a beacon of hope for acting with purpose and collaboration during uncertain times," she added.

The 16 award-winners join an existing community of organisations whose collective work has improved the lives of more than 890 million people in over 190 countries since 1998.

The 64 organisations awarded by the Schwab Foundation in the past three years alone have created over $900 million of economic value for their communities.

This year's awardees include organisations empowering Indigenous peoples' stewardship of Amazon forests; promoting youth development through sport in Morocco; instilling leadership, innovation and agency in youth to build a culture of peace in Colombia; and using technology to bring legal services to a million citizens of Uganda to access their rights.

The list of winners also includes pioneering corporate initiatives demonstrating a more impactful approach to business, and public sector leaders championing the social economy.

The 2024 awardees got the awards across four categories. Both Shah and Bajaj received the awards in the Social Entrepreneurs category.

In the Corporate Social Innovation category, the awardees included Saugata Banerjee, Global Head of Sustainable Programming (Singapore) at leading eyewear group EssilorLuxottica, and Ruchika Singhal, President of Medtronic LABS (USA), a non-profit offshoot of medical technology group Medtronic.

Based in Singapore, Banerjee has championed innovations in affordable eye care as part of the company's ambition to help eliminate uncorrected poor vision around the world within a generation.

In 2012, he pioneered the Eye Mitra programme, which trains young people to become primary vision care micro-entrepreneurs in rural India.

The scheme has since been extended to countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Kenya, and is now the world's largest rural optical network.

Singhal leads a team of more than 100 technologists, designers and field operations experts across the US, Africa and Asia, designing and implementing healthcare delivery models for under-served communities.

LABS has reached more than one million people by leveraging cutting-edge digital technologies to improve clinical outcomes through optimal utilisation of limited healthcare system resources.


Edited by Kanishk Singh