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India needs social entrepreneurs

A social entrepreneur is a person who pursues novel ideas into applications that have the potential to solve community-based problems. These people are willing to take on the risk and the effort to create positive changes in the society through their initiatives.

Adam Smith, the economist, explained in the Wealth of Nations (1776), “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.” He believed when individuals pursued their own best interests, they would be guided towards decisions that benefited others. The baker, for example, wants to earn a living to support his family. To accomplish this, he produces a product, i.e. bread, which feeds and nourishes hundreds of people. The farmer grows grains and vegetation, and feeds the nation, but earns a living through it.

As a growing economy, India today needs many social entrepreneurs. We need a revolution from people of different walks of life in creating and implementing effective, innovative and sustainable solutions to battle social and environmental challenges. These solutions include services and products for profit or as non-profit initiatives. India needs numerous social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to the society’s most pressing social problems in the areas of sanitation, education, water conservation, gender bias, primary health, female foeticide, carbon emissions and other environmental problems. These problems are persistent in nature and need urgent resolutions.

Usually, people leave the societal needs to the government or the business sectors. Nevertheless, social entrepreneurs tend to identify areas that are not working efficiently in the current system and try to solve the problem by changing it, spreading the awareness about the solution, and influence people to be part of the change. Let’s take the example of Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy’s Aravind Eye Hospitals. Its business model is highly social, yet sustainable. It runs on its own revenue. The founder’s mission was to eradicate blindness amongst the poor in India, especially in rural India living with a minimum daily wage and who can’t afford medical treatment. Aravind Eye Hospitals provides large-volume, high-quality and affordable care. In fact, 50% of its patients receive services either free or at steeply subsidised rates, yet the organisation remains financially self-sustainable. Much importance is given to equity—ensuring that all patients are accorded the same high-quality care and service, regardless of their economic status. The model’s core is economies of scale.

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