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Why is it important to strengthen the social enterprise ecosystem?

Today, the unique combination of economic utility and social efficiency in the form of social entrepreneurship has become one of the strongest growth drivers of emerging economies. India has witnessed a considerable amount of growth in this new ecosystem which has drawn attention of individuals and institutions across various sectors. Further, through the presence and initiatives such as Digital India and Start-up India, social enterprises have become a crucial part of understanding and addressing the different socio-economic concerns.

However, social enterprises often face scaling up and sustainability issues and require an enabling environment. In this context, the role of efficiently developed incubators become increasingly important to provide support to the younger ventures in order to manage strategy, manpower, resources, products, regulations among others. Realizing the need to particularly cater to the needs of the growing enterprises,  IIT Hyderabad and Action For India are collaborating to bring together their years of experiences across different sectors, markets and areas to create a leading edge social enterprise accelerator program.

“I believe that every drop makes an ocean and this path-breaking initiative by an academic institute like IIT Hyderabad and entrepreneurship supporter platform like Action For India along with the support from eminent sector leaders will go a long way in creating the right impact for a sustainable ecosystem for scaling social enterprises.” Srini Rao, Vice President, CtrlS

How do we create an enabling environment for growing social entrepreneurs?

Innovation, Startups and Social Impacts - Strengthening the Ecosystem was a social entrepreneurship workshop by i-TIC Foundation of IIT Hyderabad and Action For India held on 2nd April at the IIT Hyderabad campus. It was an engaging dialogue among distinguished private, public, and NGO sector leaders to identify opportunities and address the challenges often faced by innovators seeking to scale up their social enterprises to support the development of the joint accelerator program.

The event witnessed participation of over 100 delegates including social enterprise ecosystem enablers and facilitators from incubators, impact investing organisations, Government, academia and businesses. Entrepreneurs both from early and late stage startups from the domain of healthcare, education and agriculture were present. Keynote speeches, panel discussions and brainstorming sessions made the dialogue a lively forum to explore the challenges and innovative technological solutions to address the prevailing and emerging challenges of India.

“There is a divide between India and Bharat. Developing solutions for India to solve the problems of Bharat will make the proposed solution unsuccessful.”- Srini Raju, Chairman of iLabs

How did we engage stakeholders to identify the potential for the upcoming accelerator?
The first half of the event witnessed some interesting observations from distinguished sector leaders and drew attention to the need to create a strategic space for the development and nurturing of startups which will create path-breaking technological innovations to address the distinctly identified challenges of growing economies. While Jayesh Ranjan, IT Secretary of the Government of Telangana shed light on the hand-holding assistance being provided to entrepreneurs through various government initiatives, Prof U.B. Desai shared the vision of IIT Hyderabad to support R&D through and beyond the upcoming accelerator program.

The second keynote panel showcased an exciting array of scaling up experiences from different social entrepreneurs who have not just faced but successfully overcome the barriers at the initial stages. One of the key highlights of this was the need for an accelerator program particularly focussed towards the needs of social enterprises considering the specific issues they face regarding funding, access to market, access for testing and validation, mentorship and production & distribution networks, among others.

What forms the building blocks of a world class accelerator program?

The second half of the event witnessed three parallel brainstorming sessions in the areas of education, agriculture and healthcare with the agenda to provide inputs to build a leading edge accelerator program. These sessions were designed keeping in mind the importance of inputs from the right set of stakeholders.

While the delegates in the education sector engaged in a discussion highlighting issues like problem assessment, product/methodology experimentation, key performance indicators and market pricing & positioning, they also brought to the forefront the need for the accelerator program to include aspects of strong mentor-matchmaking, network facilitation for product development, market support mechanism and impact, human resource management & team building and result evaluation framework.

“It was a very good session with strong outputs to design the accelerator program keeping in mind the needs of the startups and potential areas.” Ram Kaundinya, SVP Partner, Hyderabad Chapter. 

The agriculture session highlighted aspects like business model validation, funding, efficient operational management and competitive advantage. The delegates engaged in a lively discussion to address the capacity building provision of the accelerator program through capital arrangements, product design and management, regulatory guidance, domain expertise, support in idea generation & identification of large scale impact potential, partnership development mechanism among others.  

The healthcare session delegates discussed about the need to understand the challenges that are highly prevalent across the country. Following identification of these concerns, the delegates pointed out the need for deep technology, technological support, team and product development & management, regulatory framework, Indian Pharmacopoeia (IP) concerns, and space, time & resource constraint for laboratory testing and validation, among others. The suggestions for the accelerator program included well-defined training system, expert industry mentors and provision of startup support from the initial testing phase to product launch and validation.

Following the sessions, a presentation from each group helped delegates understand the particular concerns and common issues plaguing the growing social enterprise ecosystem.


What are the key lessons and way forward towards a fast growing ecosystem?

This social entrepreneurship workshop was an engaging platform to realize the requirement and potential for a social accelerator program as a single point support system for growing social enterprises. Some fascinating recommendations which emerged from the workshop are as follows:

  • The accelerator program must include a strong network of mentors, investors, social entrepreneurs, technical facility organizations, academic institutions, regulatory authorities to provide guidance and support in terms of funding, policy framework, resource development & management, talent acquisition and market & distribution access.  

  • The accelerator program should also create an engagement platform with sector specific startups to help understand the challenges and solutions.

  • The accelerator program should forge and continue strong formal linkages with Impact Funds to reduce transaction cost of access along with exploration of developing more Indian Focused Impact Funds with patient capital.

  • The accelerator program should enable strong B2G interface for better market access beyond the pilot opportunities.

  • The accelerator program should collaborate with other incubator programs to create a larger impact by providing access to a wide range of facilities.

Following this workshop, the initiative to push the envelope and create a strong social entrepreneurship ecosystem through an effective accelerator program can be summed up by:

“This was a brilliant start and there is a need to keep the momentum to further the lessons learnt to help the social enterprises grow and create an impact across the country.” Chaitanya Tumuluri, Board Members, AFI

To view more pictures of the event, please visit here
To view the event brochure, please visit here
To view videos screened at the event, please visit here
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