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11 incubators that are shaping social entrepreneurs into powerful change makers

28 July 2017
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Social entrepreneurship is heading in the right direction with incubators bringing out the potential of social entrepreneurs across the country.

In The Best Countries to be a Social Entrepreneur, a 2016 report by Thomas Reuters Foundation, India ranked 14th, ahead of China, Australia and just behind Germany. What was more promising was that India ranked fifth in terms of ease of access to investment funding and eighth for grant funding.

While this goes to show that social entrepreneurship is heading in the right direction and with good momentum, there are still many roadblocks to social innovation. Funding, as clearly seen, is not a key problem. What causes our desi entrepreneurs to bog down is lack of public awareness (India ranks 34th in public understanding of what social entrepreneurs do), difficulty in working with the government, finding right talent, and scaling sustainably.

Considering this, mentorship along with funding becomes essential. Here are 11 organisations that incubate startups in the social sector so potential entrepreneurs have a concrete chance at succeeding and making a difference.

ALC India

Incorporated in 2005 to support small and medium social enterprises, ALC India incubates and mobilises funds for rural entrepreneurs. Their clients include NGOs, micro finance institutions, funding agencies, consulting organisations, government departments, community-based organisations, Panchayat Raj institutions, and policy support agencies. ALC India has so far incubated 54 social enterprises across five states and was recently chosen as one of the six incubators to receive a funding of Rs 10 crore from Niti Aayog to support enterprises at the grassroots. They also recently started a fellowship programme for entrepreneurs and enterprises called Transforming India Initiative (TII).

Jaaga Sustain

Located in Central Bengaluru, Jaaga is a co-working space and community builder keen on solving real world problems. They are partial to startups providing solutions to urban, social and environmental problems. Their incubation programme called Jaaga Sustain looks for entrepreneurs who use technology to solve environmental challenges. Through this programme they provide access to mentors and partners that provide expertise in sustainability, technology, design, fundraising and scaling. The incubation is entirely built on their research project, Project Sphere.

Deshpande Foundation

With the intent to be a catalyst for sustainable change, Deshpande Foundation has been encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation since 1996 in USA, Canada and India. The Hubli Sandbox located in northwest Karnataka helps NGOs, academics, organisations and entrepreneurs launch scalable models (through grants and mentorship) in social sectors like livelihood development, health, education and agriculture. Deshpande Foundation along with TiE is currently supporting Elevate 2017, a first-of-its kind programme in the country calling startups for their deserved share of Rs 200 crore fund announced by the government of Karnataka.

JSiE

The Jindal Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship (JSiE) is a social impact centre located in OP Jindal Global University, Haryana, which provides entrepreneurship training. As an incubation partner for StartupWave, JSiE is one of the members of UBI Global Incubation Impact & Network. With a focus on Research for the Social Impact Ecosystem, they examine factors enabling social entrepreneurs to flourish and therefore design social innovation challenges/solutions as part of their incubation services.

Action for India

Guided by Sam Pitroda, entrepreneur and former advisor to Ragib Gabdhi’s government, Action for India came into existence in 2012. Since then, they have been launching Annual Forums in Bengaluru where social entrepreneurs working in agriculture, education, energy, healthcare, financial inclusion and livelihood sectors are offered guidance, knowledge, skills, advice, mentorship and technology to sustainably scale their enterprise.  This forum brings together 100 social innovators and an equal number of influencers. Action for India also organises an annual Silicon Valley Challenge, the winners of which spend 10 days in Silicon Valley, California, engaging with and learning from its business leaders.

CIIE

Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) resides in one of India’s leading B-schools, IIM Ahmedabad. CIIE engages with startups in social sectors like affordable technology, healthcare, environment, agriculture and clean energy. They incubate these innovators through their partnerships with investors, development agencies, mentors and corporates; and initiatives like iAccelerator, Piramal Prize, MentorEdge and Infuse Ventures. CIIE has incubated over 50 ventures so far.

Rural technology and business Incubator (RTBI)

Initiated by IIT Madras, Rural technology and business Incubator offers mentorship, infrastructure, preliminary funding and access to networks, for startups be they in early stage or towards completion. They support entrepreneurs with a rural inclusive business model and an interest in applying Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to sectors like livelihoods, education, healthcare, agriculture, connectivity and financial inclusion.

Dell Foundation India

Michael and Susan Dell Foundation began its operations in India in 2006 to improve the economic stability of the country’s poor. For this reason, it works with a wide range of stakeholders including social entrepreneurs, NGos, governments and community organisations. Aside from traditional philanthropic grants, Dell Foundation also provides mission-driven impact investments. It works in tandem with Startup India, Skill India, and Digital India to ensure sustainable scaling or enterprises that it supports.

UnLtd India

Headquartered in Mumbai, UnLtd India focuses on building entrepreneurial mindsets rather than enterprises, as they are made for life. UnLtd India offers incubation primarily to early stage social entrepreneurs in three stages; testing, building, and growth challenge for the idea/concept phase, pilot, and established a model phase respectively. Mentoring and seed funding for each stage is provided accordingly. In Maharashtra alone, UnLtd India has supported over a hundred ventures.

Villgro

In 15 years, Villgro has supported 119 innovators and trained 442 in energy, health, education and agri-business sectors. Villgro incubates and invests in social enterprises through prototyping and early growth phase. They provides a 100 day incubation plan with human resource, technical, and financial advisories and go-to-market strategies. They have so far raised over 1195 million and 139 million in seed funding for social enterprises.

Dasra

With 15 years of experience, Dasra has equipped over 800 social organisations with business management expertise to scale and mobilised $60 million into the social sectors. Their leadership development programmes are based on Harvard Business School case studies and focus on strategy building fund raising, impact assessment and talent management. As a part of building social capital, Dasra produces research reports on NGOs and enterprises in order to drive impact investment more effectively into the social sector.