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Development Marketplace in India supports the vision and ‘can-do’ spirit of social entrepreneurs

Kirsten Spainhower's picture

Satyan Mishra, founder of DrishteeDrishtee is a network of over 14,000 rural enterprises that provides villages in India with access to internet connections, consumer products and critical community services.

Brainchild of Indian national Satyan Mishra, the Drishtee model is perfecting a “last mile delivery system” to reach villages that governments are unable to.

Mishra’s success was due in part to the faith that Global Development Marketplace (DM) — a Bank sponsored partnership that provides grant funding to support testing and scaling up of innovative ideas — had in his idea. In 2003 he received a $68,100 from DM allowing him to transform a budding idea into reality and scale up into three states: Assam, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.

The World Bank Institute, IFC and the India country office were inspired by Drishtee’s success and the impact a relatively small grant could have. They joined forces to use the DM in India to identify social enterprises with the potential of achieving similar levels of scale as Drishtee.

Seeking social business models for lagging states

The theme for the 2011 India Development Marketplace was Supporting Inclusive Business Models to Scale. This underscores the Bank’s strategy in India to promote inclusive growth, particularly at the bottom of the pyramid, in low income states like Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan.

From the 264 applications received, 30 finalists were selected to pitch their projects to a high-level jury. The 14 winning organizations, announced in Jaipur, will receive grants of $50,000 to test the viability of their business models to take their vision to scale.

A new approach for the DM

This year marks the beginning of a new pilot. “We see the 2011 India Development Marketplace as the beginning of a systematic and sustained effort by the World Bank Group, and other development partners, to surface and support Indian social entrepreneurs,” said Arvind Gupta, DM team leader. For this competition, WBI diverged from the old model to test a new approach.

Click here to see how DM grant funding works at all levels of the enterprise growth path.

“We’ve been doing the DM for 10 years to generate innovative solutions to development problems. But we were looking at early stage ideas, and we want to now move to later stage ideas which have more potential to scale,” said Sanjay Pradhan, vice president of WBI, at the India Development Marketplace in April.  

Sumita Ghose (seated) of Rangsutra Crafts India Ltd at the 2011 India Development MarketplacePromoting hotbeds of innovation in India

“This is the best example of what I love to call “Indo-vation,’” said Aleem Walji, manager of the Innovation Practice in WBI. “This is India as not only a hotbed of technological innovation, it’s a hotbed of social innovation, and it’s a hotbed of business model innovation. People are looking for ways to solve really difficult long-term problems by applying the right business model, the right technology, and the right ‘can do’ attitudes. They are looking at ways in which people can solve their own problems.”

One of the winning organizations, Rangsutra Crafts India Ltd., works with the marginalized, predominantly women, to make handicrafts. At Rangsutra, artisans are not just beneficiaries they are owners and investors. Rangsutra provides, “a range of services like product and design development, training, and access to working capital and markets,” says Shumita Ghose, founder and director.

By using projects like these as a testing ground, Anil Sinha, head of IFC’s New Delhi office says, “We are interested in finding out what it takes to get over the tipping point for a double bottom line enterprise to achieve profitability and social sustainability.”

This will also inform the advisory services IFC will deliver to winning organizations.

“As we look to scale up,” continues Ghose, “we would like to see how…indicators of economic empowerment translate into social development.”

The 2011 India Development Marketplace is just a beginning. New relationships with investors, donors, and other social enterprises developed at the event can also be seen as social currency that can contribute to the next phases of their projects.

And with the right vision, support, and “can-do” spirit, some of the 14 winners have a shot at reaching the scale and impact that Satayan Mishra achieved with Drishtee.