Steps to a successful social entrepreneur

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There is much talk about India’s vibrant start-up economy, which is currently teeming with fintech and other business enablers. A little out of the limelight, but still in lockstep, is India’s social entrepreneurship sector, which is steadily growing. Whether it’s solar powered water vending machines or wearable maternal health tracking devices or clean energy initiatives, social entrepreneurs across India are providing innovative and scalable solutions across multiple sectors. In fact, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), there are up to 400 social impact startups operating in India and the number is growing at a rate of around 20 percent.

As these social sector companies continue to grow and become part of the trend of positive change in the Indian ecosystem, it is important to understand what makes a successful social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurship is not the most commonly taught subject in schools and colleges, and most social entrepreneurs use their education from various technical and other backgrounds to succeed in this field. However, there are a number of comparable and beneficial traits that are evident in some of the most prominent entrepreneurs in the social sector.

Doing good is also good for business. E.g. Tesla has done it

Technology has compressed the learning curve & rollout time.

Turn problems into opportunities

Our world today is shaped by a complex set of issues such as climate change, income inequality, gender discrimination and more. Each of these problems requires unconventional thinking that can challenge the status quo and offer bold solutions. The greatest need for social entrepreneurship in a country like India, with its vast population and diversity, is the need to scale and adapt. We need social entrepreneurs who develop scalable solutions while ensuring that they cater to the individuality of different socio-cultural and economic groups that need to be reached. Therefore, to bring about such change, the sector needs motivated and multi-talented individuals who are undeterred by the size of a problem and instead look for opportunities to drive real change.

Take calculated risks

Risk-taking is a standard feature of entrepreneurship, and most successful business leaders cannot stress enough the importance of risk-taking in a competitive start-up economy. In the field of social entrepreneurship, however, risk-taking carries an added layer of complexity, as failure could spell reversal for the real common good. Real people whose lives need improvement are the ones who can be adversely affected when a social entrepreneurship fails. Therefore, taking risks is a higher risk for a social entrepreneur, but it must be done as real progress always involves risk and innovation.

Build a team culture

While this might sound like a page out of a business handbook, building a team culture is also extremely important in the field of social entrepreneurship. The team culture in a social enterprise serves as a glue that binds employees together and helps them understand the larger purpose they are working toward. And while this is important in all organizational structures, it is especially important in the social sphere given the magnitude and breadth of the challenges that need to be solved. Building a healthy team culture means giving a team accountability and then giving them the freedom to take ownership of projects. It is important to note that responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. Also, in order to build a successful team in the social sector, it is important to try to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in each employee so that they can eventually mentor themselves and contribute to the larger goals of an organisation.

endurance

Social entrepreneurship is an arduous and long journey, and the only way to succeed is to persevere. The ability to stay motivated and keep others optimistic, even in the face of difficulties and setbacks, takes real skill and mental toughness. While some interpret failure as a temporary setback, others are deeply troubled by it and find it difficult to move on. For social entrepreneurs, cautious optimism is the best approach, as it can help them reflect, reassess their goals, and eventually pick up again and start over.

building a network

As a social entrepreneur, building networks of peers and potential investors is crucial to solidifying an organization’s presence. Making the right connections can help secure a company’s future by attracting the right kind of investors, employees, and other business alliances. Networking with other fellow entrepreneurs can also help overcome the sense of isolation that is all too characteristic of every entrepreneur’s life. Making connections is therefore essential for personal and organizational growth in the field of social entrepreneurship.

In his book “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas”, David Bornstein famously said: “What business entrepreneurs are for the economy, social entrepreneurs are for social change.” In a country like India, more Paradoxes, in which extreme poverty and extreme wealth coexist in a very small space, this statement could not be more accurate. If we are to make inclusive development a reality for the millions of Indians in need, social entrepreneurs, agents of real social change, must become a ubiquitous feature of our society.



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Disclaimer

The views expressed above are the author’s own.



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