We all know India is quickly becoming a hub for social entrepreneurship. However, becoming a social entrepreneur does not come without challenges, and many still shy away from it. Thus, we need to strive to create an environment and an ecosystem that enables others to take this path. On September 15th, during the final Mumbai session of the ‘Be the Spark’ Meetups , we addressed this question: ‘How do we create an environment that encourages people to become entrepreneurs, especially recent college graduates?’
The opening keynote by Shilpi Kapoor, Founder- BarrierBreak Technologies, was followed by an absorbing panel discussion, moderated by Harini Calamur, Director at Cogito Entertainment (India) Pvt. Ltd. The panelists included:
Key takeaways from the panel discussion are shared below:
- The educational system can be more experimental – Aparajita Agrawal felt that an educational system that encourages students to try different things and exposes them to the environment would be beneficial.
- Understanding your passion – It is imperative to understand where your passion lies. People often say ‘I want to do something, but I don’t know what to do’, but this is the wrong approach to take. One should first seek to understand the social space by working with a social entrepreneur. This is a great way of learning the reality and complexity of the social space. Afterwards it is easier to effectively understand what one is passionate about.
- Create awareness about existing problems – Identify gaps and problems and build awareness about them, so that people can find solutions to overcome them.
- Connect students with successful people from the same area – Babsaheb Palve emphasized the need to provide mentorship to students by showcasing successful stories to them. By interacting with mentors with whom they are familiar and whom they can easily reach out to, they will be motivated to do something beyond the regular bread and butter.
- Take risks – Risks often pay off, and they motivate and influence others to do the same. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
During the course of discussion, people also talked about the challenges faced by new entrepreneurs, and gave advice on how to overcome them:
- Be tough – The social entrepreneurship environment is not an easy one to work in; in the words of Manoj Gupta, ‘One needs to be mentally tough’. In India especially, it often seem as if everyone is against you—even your family and the government. Every step that you take might feel very heavy, but as Shilpi Kapoor put it, “Every time you fall, you have to stand up again. If you give up, you’re done for.”
- Don’t let a few mundane and boring days stop you – Boredom is not an excuse to shut down a business. Rather, as Priya Naik stated, “Learn to deny yourself certain pleasures, because what you do is more important.”
- Break down a problem into solvable units – Don’t get deterred by a problem that seems insurmountable. Have different types of people on your team. People who are able to define a problem sometimes are very different from those who can solve the problem.
- Build your network – There are various phases in an entrepreneurship venture. Networking is critical in the first phase to have a support system in place. Nonetheless, during the phase of product development, networking should take the backstage; while it is a core activity, it shouldn’t become the only focus of a start-up.
- Understand the consequences of failure – Remember that a failure affects not just you, but the community that you are trying to impact as well. The opportunities you have are very different from those of the target community. Don’t give up.
- Collaborate to find passion – Passion can be difficult to find when you are working on your own. Join with like-minded people with diverse skill sets to build a team. For example, if minute details are difficult for you to tackle, find a co-founder who likes the details, and who doesn’t find them mundane at all.
As our ‘Be the Spark’ meetups come to an end, we take away important insight on the challenges and fulfillment of being a social entrepreneur in a nascent India full of opportunities for collective transformation.
You too can take these words and be a Spark. Our website went live as on September 17th 2012, and we hope to see your very own ideas help India rise!