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October 2021

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 oct 2021

India's changing socio-economic scenario is urging corporates, entrepreneurs and individuals to focus on solving social problems and creating a positive social impact in lives of those who are at the bottom of the pyramid, a concept that was first propagated by C. K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart in their article 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid' (Strategy+Business, 2002). It proposed that companies should innovate and also focus on the needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid. By doing so they will not only expand their markets but will also serve the marginalized communites and uplift their socio-economic conditions. According to the article 'Budget 2014: Tapping the aspirational class of India' (Shuchi Bansal; Mint, 11 Jul 2014), while presenting the budget in 2014 Late Mr. Arun Jaitley, the then Finance Minister, referred to aspirational Indians and what he called the 'neo middle class'. He said, 'India unhesitatingly desires to grow...those who have got an opportunity to emerge from the difficult challenges have become aspirational. They now want to be part of the neo middle class.' In the same article, a research study by Quantum Consumer Consulting, finds that 34% of these strata are aged between 10 and 25 years and aspires for a better life. Ravi Narayan, CEO at T-Hub, explains how this aspirational class can be an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to focus on and make a real difference in the innovation ecosystem. He says, 'It is about time social changemakers start tapping into India's aspirational class, who are tomorrow's neo-middle class. Understanding this under-served stratum is key to unlocking the potential of the Indian economy.' He provides examples of organizations from India's impact ecosystem that are making a difference. According to Mr. Narayan, 'India's strong digital infrastructure has been a gamechanger for those who want to leverage the power of technology to create a social impact on a larger scale. The growing smartphone penetration and high-speed internet connectivity in rural areas have empowered social entrepreneurs and innovators to create new models for change to accelerate social impact.' EdTech, AgriTech, healthcare and microcredit finance are critical areas where social entrepreneurs and incubators are offering inclusive and sustainable solutions to ensure the upward mobility of the marginalized class. Mentioning the best practices in social innovation in India's context, Mr. Narayan says, 'Speaking from experience, I am convinced that social innovation in the Indian context is not clearly defined by an evidence-based approach. Perhaps therein lies one of its bigger challenges. Social entrepreneurs working to create an impact on the scale have to contend with operational challenges, such as a lack of market access, besides inadequate investor connect and mentoring opportunities. Also, technologically and in terms of scale, it is difficult to solve problems in this sector as the risk factor is high for social entrepreneurs. Besides, the educated class with its worldview isn't contributing enough to the growth of this sector. Such pain points highlight the need for open innovation to solve India's most complex social problems.' He also says that maximizing inclusion is key and this cannot be attained by merely leveraging technology. There has to be a larger objective of creating a holistic inclusive social impact ecosystem. A fragmented innovation ecosystem cannot thrive in the absence of a comprehensive social innovation policy. He concludes, 'I believe that social innovators - be it individuals, social incubators, governments, corporates, academia, or startups - who put people first will help create new and exciting markets and facilitate a synergistic innovation ecosystem.' Read on...

Entrepreneur: How to Address the Yawning Gap in India's Social Impact Sector
Author: Ravi Narayan



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