A Consultative Workshop on Social Enterprises in Tamil Nadu – Challenges, Opportunities and Interventions was held on 17th February 2017 at LIBA under the aegis of Prof. C.K. Prahalad Centre for Emerging India. The purpose of the workshop was to engage social entrepreneurs in a consultative process to understand the current eco-system in terms of challenges, opportunities and interventions required.
The program started with a brief welcome address by Prof. M. Victor Louis Anthuvan, setting the context in which the social enterprises were working in India today. Fr. P. Christie, Director LIBA, elaborated on unique emphasis the Jesuits institutions have for social entrepreneurship. Globally, Jesuits institutions have formed alliances to promote social ventures through education, training and incubation.
The Key speakers included: Mr. Kern Luke Agarwal, Naandi Foundation, Chennai and Mr. D. Suresh, Entrepreneurs, Computer Access Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, both of whom shared their work on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. While Kern established how institutions can adopt sustainable energy options and support farmers with organic manure, Mr. Suresh revealed how households, including those in urban areas, can be enterprising by generating energy from sun and food waste and use organic manure for cultivation.
Ms. Ragini Pillai shared the work of Villgro and its role as an incubator and the importance of collaboration and networking for the social entrepreneurs. Along with donors, investors, network partners, and mentors, Villgro has built a strong viable eco-system for social venturing. The focus sectors are agriculture, health care and education. Mr. Ashwanth from Desicrew Solutions shared how the work of his organisation as a rural BPO had not only generated employment but also made a social impact of empowering women in the rural areas. Desicrew has implemented complex projects for an impressive set of international clients.
Mr. Nandan, Last Forest Enterprises, showcased the work done in the remote areas of Nilgiris among tribals. The social enterprise had been able to find a niche of its own to help market and promote the local products in an international market through digital and social media. An interesting journey of discovering indigenous crafts and packaging it for discerning consumers. Mr. Mathew Jose, Paperman explained how scarcity of a trash collection service had shaped the business and created opportunity to help the ragpickers and also created a new eco-system in the ‘trash business’, with 20 new entrants into the market.
Mr. Vijaya Balan, Transun speaking on solar energy explained how change in technology could be used to transform the commercial space for a more viable product. Mr. Kalyanasundaram, Nokia shared his experiences of what could make or break the promotion of a social enterprise in the existing scenario and what needs to be done to encourage the eco-system so that more ideas could come into the market.
Later in the day, groups were formed which discussed in greater depth how an eco-system could be supported by LIBA. Opportunities were many, mainly in the areas of agriculture, renewable energies, health technologies, water management and family services which included care for the elderly. The challenges were with respect to finance – lack of access to funds, markets and difficulty in achieving commercial ROI. The other points include: a lack of flexibility in adapting to technology, social stigma, lack of networking, lack of focused discussion on various sectors and other hidden barriers.
The participants while discussing LIBA’s role clearly supported the need for LIBA to take the role of a hub for social entrepreneurship. The suggestions to sustaining and scaling up included: (i) mentoring by alumni and internships; (ii) research leading to publications and cases; (iii) have an impact investment fund; (iv) regular workshops (v) speaker series (bimonthly); (vi) have a mainstream SE course; (vi) due diligence for loans and investments; and (vii) audit for measuring impact
Participants also expected LIBA to create a market place for produce, products and services by social ventures. Creating a niche space for social entrepreneurs to display and sell the products should be considered. LIBA website can have a page that display and sell such products.
Other key recommendations include: (i) instituting awards, recognition and fellowship to celebrate and promote social ventures and social enterprising; (ii) initiating a discussion on how to align CSR to promote social ventures; (iii) sustainability and scaling up of social ventures; (iv) creating a macro-vison for social enterprising; and (iv) strengthening and augmenting forum for effective networking; (v) potential investment channels for affordable capital; and (v) addressing gaps in sectoral focus, promoting women entrepreneurs and rural / BoP ventures.
The workshop was concluded with a consensus to take action on some of the activities immediately and take up other recommendations as we proceed.
Key Participants from LIBA: Fr. P. Christie, Director; Dr. M. Victor Louis Anthuvan, Dean- Research; Dr. G. Revathi, Dean – Academic; Dr. I. Thiagarajan, Chairperson-Part time Programme, Dr. A. Indira, Research Coordinator; Dr. A. Siluvai Raja, Chairperson, Informatics Centre; Mrs. A. Irudaya Veni Mary, Research Associate; Dr. D. Madhav Priya, Research Associate; Dr. M.A. Kalam, Professor of Applied Social Sciences, C.K. Prahalad Centre; and Dr. A. Xavier Raj, Chairperson, C.K. Prahalad Centre.