Solving India’s social problems with entrepreneurial spirit and social engagement

India is the second most populous country in the world. The country harbours huge potential – not least for entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses. The challenges are equally large, however. India has been registering solid economic growth for years and has achieved great success in areas such as science and technology. Yet the benefits have failed to improve living conditions – especially in rural India which accounts for 60 per cent of the country’s population. Here, basic services – like health care, sanitation, education, food and electricity – are still anything but a given.

India – a dynamic market for social entrepreneurship

That is why India has already spawned a large number of social enterprises seeking solutions to the ongoing problems in society. One of India’s best known social entrepreneurs is Harish Hande, founder and managing director of Selco. The company supplies sustainable energy to people in remote rural areas and was the first initiative of its kind in India. The figures speak for themselves: to date, Selco has installed more than 450,000 solar units, improving the quality of life of many families in the process. Ashoka, the world’s leading organisation promoting social entrepreneurship, also has strong links to India that go beyond just its name. Many social start-ups have been launched in India recently, especially in the education, agriculture, energy and finance sectors.

Turning new experiences into new ideas

Living far away from home and gathering experience abroad often throws our view of our own country, its merits and deficiencies, into sharp relief. In fact, many successful social entrepreneurs have spent some time living abroad. This is also true of India. Business Ideas for Development seeks to encourage social entrepreneurship in India and, in particular, promote the innovative ideas of Indians living in Germany. People who have taken the plunge and moved abroad, and widened their professional and personal horizons as a result, have the potential to identify unconventional solutions to social and environmental problems in India – solutions that benefit less privileged people, directly or indirectly, and ideally have a knock-on effect on development in other countries. This is of huge importance, especially in times when the gap between rich and poor is not shrinking but growing in many countries.

A smooth launch for social start-ups

Setting up a social enterprise in India is not easy. Things can be unpredictable in a constantly changing environment. Business Ideas for Development aims to assist entrepreneurs in realising their business ideas sustainably and profitably, and in quickly gaining a foothold back in India. Company founders also need to gain a good overview of the market situation, and the risks and complex problems they will face. Business Ideas for Development supports them in this – from coming up with ideas in Germany to implementing them in India.

Story of an entrepreneur

Niraj Marathe

Starting a business in India

Niraj Marathe studied solar technology in Germany. While there, he realised that the large amount of food that goes to waste in India’s agricultural sector could be saved if farmers had access to cold storage for their produce. His company, CoolCrop, now provides the facilities for small-scale farmers in remote villages. In Niraj Marathe’s words: ‘A country with a population as large as India’s can’t afford to waste 30 per cent of its food before it even gets to market just because cold storage facilities are lacking. When you’re too close to a problem, you sometimes overlook the most obvious solutions. Seeing my country from abroad helped me to find a simple, affordable solution for food waste in India’s agricultural sector.

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