Monday, January 11, 2010

The new face of Social Enterprise in India (I of IV)

In an earlier post (Emergence and Growth of Social Entrepreneurship in India), I highlighted the way in which the social enterprises evolved over time in India and the world. This evolution was majorly driven by the causes of social justice, poverty, female upliftment and illiteracy which were also used as measures of political success by the critics of the governments. But over time, with the empowerment and awareness among the Indian citizens, the social enterprise grew in size, scale and scope. As a part of the Tata Jagriti Yatra 2008, I got a unique opportunity to visit and witness the work done by some of the social entrepreneurs who are working on some unorthodox social issues in different parts of India.


Founded by Anshu Gupta, a student of journalism, this Delhi-based NGO has targeted a very niche area to work and impact the society – clothing. As pointed out by Anshu in his session at SMU, Singapore, clothing is one of the three basic needs of mankind and still no policymaker in the world gives any importance to it. He was moved by the story of a rickshaw puller in Delhi who used to carry stray dead-bodies to the police station only to be given 2 yards of clothes and Rs 20 in return. And this rickshaw puller told Anshu that his “business” grew so much in winters that he had to keep some dead bodies at home for the night to deliver them in the morning. Such was the impact that Anshu started to champion the issue. But he also realised that for a poor person, his dignity is everything and he decided to combine the two. So, Anshu, along with his friend started this program of “Cloth for Work” where they went to villages and urged the villagers to “earn” their clothes for building up schools, roads, wells etc for their own village. Goonj collects “waste” clothes from cities across India through various campaigns like “Joy of Giving” and then segregated into various categories according to the usage. In times of need, these clothes are sent to places like Tamil Nadu at time of Tsunami, Bihar in times of floods and Kashmir in time of earthquake. In peace times, these clothes are used for promoting the infrastructure build up among the urban poor and the downtrodden villages of UP, Orissa, Bihar and other similar parts of India. Besides clothes, it also teaches the poor women about the importance of the hygiene of sanitary pads and how to make them at home. This initiative is targeted to reduce the incidents of pregnancy problems and basic hygienic problems leading to death of women in some extreme cases. (Visit

Naandi Foundation:

With Dr K Anji Reddy of Dr Reddy’s and Anand Mahindra of Mahindra & Mahindra on its Board of Trustees, Naandi Foundation is growing fast as a social sector organization. On meeting Manoj Kumar, the CEO, in Hyderabad, we immediately realized that he did not want Naandi Foundation to be called an NGO because of the simple reason that he did not want his organization to be looked with sympathy. Founded in 1998, this organization has a three-point agenda of Child Rights, Safe Drinking Water and Sustainable Livelihoods. In the words of Manoj Kumar, “Naandi Foundation doesn’t believe in doing anything small because it’s wastage of resources.” With operations spanned over nine states (Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh), Naandi Foundation provides midday meal to lakhs of students everyday that have high nutritional value and are prepared with benchmark levels of hygiene. It is also involved in Organic Farming and Lift irrigation or coffee through which it provides livelihood for small and marginal farmers who otherwise could not sell their product in the international market. On Child Rights front, Naandi Foundation runs the programs like Early Childhood Care and Education, Schoolchild Healthcare Plan and Nanhi Kali covering thousands of schools in various states. With its clear focus on and proven success in creating a sustainable and scalable social enterprise, I believe that it can be a role model for other social entrepreneurs in coming times. (Visit:

Aravind Eye Care:

An eye surgeon, retired from his government service, had the dream of eradicating the “needless blindness” from the world and decided to give up all his resources to the cause to establish a unique eye care facility by the name of Aravind Eye Care in 1976. The surgeon, fondly known as Dr. V dreamt of create a McDonald’s of eye care where everyone involved in the process, does only the part of it, enabling the system to increase the efficiency. Dr. V had the vision of creating an organization that will treat the needy with equal expertise and precision irrespective of whether he or she can afford the surgery or not. Those who can’t afford the treatment need not pay for it and those who can, compensate more than the free component. The uniqueness about Aravind Eye Care lies in this uniqueness of its Operational and Financial models which are very unorthodox. Today, Aravind Eye Care is the largest eye care facility in the world in terms of the number of surgeries and the number of patients treated. With the principals and values enforced by Dr. V himself till date, this eye care facility has grown from an 11 bed hospital to a facility that treats 1.4 million patients in a year. It is associated with many international groups like Clinton Global Initiative, World Health Organisation and Seva Foundation. In the last financial year itself, the AEC conducted more than 3 million surgeries, half of which were free of cost. This was in addition to around 373,000 free OPD patients and 2.75 million check-ups through camps for the entire year. This makes AEC a unique epitome of sustainable and scalable social organization whose fundamentals can be emulated by other social entrepreneurs in their future endeavors. (Visit:


(Part I and Part III, written by me for Youth Ki Awaaz

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