Earlier this year, we launched our eLearning course for social enterprises in January with a second installment in May. Social enterprises from across the globe – from places we didn’t even think we could reach – applied. So we began to wonder, who are these social enterprises? What are their models? What do they need most to reach the most marginalized populations? So I sat down with Charles Njemo Batumani and Arun Kumar Das, two social entrepreneurs who finished the first installment of our eLearning course in January to see what they’ve done, where they see their enterprises going and why eLearning was a way for them to improve their social enterprise. Charles is building affordable housing for low and middle income earners in Limbe, Cameroon while Arun is developing a natural plant product to combat malnutrition in Odisha, India.
There is a perfect start, there is a less than perfect start and there is an imperfect start. As a social entrepreneur, the thing I have learned is that it pays to START- even if it’s less than perfect or imperfect.
So, there I was, I had left my job, had no savings, but kept people like Bonti in my mind. But, I had no idea how, or even where to start.
Eye Research Center (ERC) Eye Care was officially founded in the summer of 2011. With the generous help of my mother, we were just one clinic – in her kitchen – in the heart of the city. Although we had a strong mission, we quickly realized that to the outside world, there was nothing to differentiate us from other ophthalmic clinics spread across the city. But what exactly was ERC Eye Care? We had initially set it up as a sole proprietorship, as it was the cheapest and easiest registration process, but we weren’t strictly a for-profit business. Were we a NGO? Or were we something else entirely?
It started with data!
In 2007-08, an evaluation by Catalyst Management Services of a tribal livelihoods initiative for the State Planning Commission of Madhya Pradesh showed that agriculture as a livelihoods option was unproductive and for small tribal farmers; leaving them without a profitable livelihood option. But it wasn’t because of prices, or barriers to entry. Instead, it was because crucial services and government schemes were not reaching those who needed them most.
According to the data, only 10-12% of small producers were able to access vital extension schemes and a mere 7-8% of other government schemes. The evaluation found that large farms were crowding out the smaller farmers from accessing key subsidies and benefits. So the State Planning Commission posed a challenge: find a way to reach these marginalized tribal farmers in Madhya Pradesh.
Back in the 1970s, I was a medical student ready to take on the world. We had a student exchange program, where students from across the world would come to India to visit and learn. One year, there was a group of young doctors from the UK who were excited to be somewhere they could observe ‘rare diseases.’ Seeing the packed hospitals on rounds, they eagerly asked the Professor of Internal Medicine, “May we see a patient with tuberculosis?” The Professor, uncertain of their excitement, replied frankly, “Of course. We don’t just have one, we have wards and wards full!” Tuberculosis (TB) – the infectious disease that primarily targets the lungs - was, and continues to be, anything but a rare disease in India.
One year ago, Kumar began renting out 40 Selco solar-powered batteries to the people living in his slum community in the heart of Bangalore. Prior to this, 400 families were left to rely on cheap, easily breakable lights, dangerous and flammable kerosene lamps, or simple darkness. Without affordable energy, the inhabitants of Kumar’s slum lose hours of otherwise productive time that would allow them to build a pathway out of the slum, and into a secure life. Within months, demand for Selco’s rechargeable batteries sky-rocketed and Kumar increased his inventory to 86. Now, he is requesting yet another 50.
We traveled down a bumpy, dirt road in the rural areas of West Bengal towards a village called Bolpur. Three hours after leaving Kolkata, the car pulled up to an unassuming concrete building. The health care worker who accompanied us for this ride jumped out enthusiastically and immediately spoke into her megaphone. “Not feeling well?” she called out to the village, “Need a quick check up? Come and visit us for the next hour and a half.” Here, in a small village, at an unassuming building, we had found ourselves at an iKure spot camp.
iKure - a Kolkata-based social enterprise dedicated to bringing affordable health care to India’s poorest populations - has created these spot camps as an integral part of their inventive model for a network of health clinics in India’s rural areas. In addition to providing access to doctors and medicine prescriptions, they provide the necessary outreach to tell villagers about where and when the clinics are and how they can access medical consultations and medicine.
On a warm Friday afternoon in the slums of Madhukam, in the heart of Ranchi, India, a middle-aged man arrived at a public water station with two 20-liter containers to fill. The water station - directly adjacent to an open sewage drain - was really just a concerete wall with four pink spigots protruding from its barren surface. On top perched two large, seemingly empty holding tanks of water. The man placed one of his containers under the first spigot and turned the handle. A small flow of water came out. Within a minute, the flow turned into a trickle, and the trickle quickly became nothing. The man moved to the next spigot, and then the next, only to have all four repeat the same pattern. In the end, the man left carrying only six ounces of water in his two 20-liter containers.
Healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment. Although the country’s healthcare industry is projected to continue its rapid expansion, with an estimated market value of US $280 billion by 2020, increased population growth in India’s low-income communities has resulted in a lack of affordable and easily accessible quality healthcare for millions of people.
As a comparison China has 30 hospital beds every 10,000 people, whereas India has only 12. The figures are even more alarming for nurses. In the United States there are 98 nurses per 10,000 people and in India there are only 13.
Despite government efforts to improve widespread access to quality healthcare, India’s existing infrastructure continues to be insufficient resulting in limited treatment options, especially for low-income families.
Recognizing the need for innovation within healthcare, in 2012, Ennovent, a business accelerator, partnered with the University Impact Fund, one of the world’s first student driven impact-investing firms, to research the opportunities available for entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and experts to add value to the Indian healthcare industry.
THE WORLD BANK 2013 INDIA DEVELOPMENT MARKETPLACE COMPETITIVE GRANT
With a grant pledge of USD 1 million, the 2013 India Development Marketplace (India DM) seeks to build on the work it has done in supporting social enterprises in India so far. This World Bank initiative aims to surface high-impact social development solutions that have demonstrated initial outcomes and provide catalytic support in helping to scale their work further.
Applying a multi-layer approach, the DM meets this objective first by providing crucial funding to back these projects (USD 50,000 to USD 100,000 per project funded) and then by enabling necessary technical assistance (through an empaneled group of local and regional firms & experts) to help organizations effectively address challenges of scale.
Launched on January 21st of this year, the 2013 India DM focused on 3 low-income states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The call for proposal invited all social sector organizations (for-profit and non-profit entities) seeking to scale projects in these states, to apply for the grant. Over 190 project proposals have been received from across India in response to the call for proposal, within the stipulated timeline of 30 days, while the call was open.