Failure is the best learning experience - Dr. Lakshmi, TISS Deputy Director, Hyderabad

Current AffirsWhat exactly is social entrepreneurship and how far it differs from conventional Entrepreneurship?
The focus of social entrepreneurship is in the areas of social impact like agriculture, education, healthcare, environment, sanitation and services. The principles of running any enterprise applies to a social enterprise too in terms of customers paying for a service or a product, running operations, marketing and scaling up.

However the corner stone is social impact which the enterprise has to deliver. Enterprises essentially work within the same framework of making it financially viable through frugal innovation or operational excellence.

The aspect of sustainability for communities lies strongly embedded in social entrepreneurship.

What are the most common challenges faced by new entrepreneurs and what steps they can take to overcome?
For a new entrepreneur it is the sense of balance of idealism and being profitable in running a business. It is important for a young entrepreneur to understand the various aspects of the field – business development, marketing, branding, site selection, operations and processes before narrowing down the focus to achieve his/her goal.

One could fail but the experience gained can be used to fare better in the next venture. One needs to learn how to attract funding after the project has been taken up and scale it for better operations and viability.

One can be a smart worker but to make a business sustainable requires extreme amount of commitment, passion and ability to bear tremendous pressure.

The students from highly revered institutes like IIT’s and IIM’s prefer jobs to entrepreneurship. What can be the reason for this situation?
The aspects of job security, fear of failure and inability to take risks, which are inherent in the society within which IIMs and IITs are also a part. One needs to learn and embrace insecurity and learn from failures.

As a nation, we are preoccupied with permanent jobs, monthly salaries and ‘settling down’ early in life (before the age of 30 years). This does not provide the echo system for young people to take risk, fail, learn, try again and may be succeed.

In western countries, several young people take a break from education during the course of their college education, they travel widely and learn a lot from other societies and cultures that make them grow as human beings.

Why are students less sensitive to the social problems and corresponding remedies?
Curriculum in educational institutions is not building an understanding of social and technological problems from the point of view of thinking of solutions. Students are not given the opportunity to think in terms of problem solving. They are into a rote system.

Can you brief us the efforts of TISS in promoting social entrepreneurship?
The social entrepreneurship programme at the TISS Mumbai campus, teaches one to approach the subject with understanding about business impact, sustainability, mission focus, scale, social impact areas. It primarily pushes one to see that it is not a speculation to be an entrepreneur but carefully crafted art of risk taking, intuition, financial literacy, understanding the market needs and social scale to be achieved. There is a method to it and it can be mastered if one applies theory and practice in the right judicious mix.

TISS exposes students to work done across the world through its tie up with DBS Singapore, incubation cell and provides exposure and platform to students. It is also giving seed funding for three years for the student whose project is selected.

TISS has a course on Social Entrepreneurship. What sort of skill set does the program imbibe in students?
The ability to understand the nuts and bolts of an enterprise along with the social sectors where it could be applied are the objects of learning.

Does the institute provide any scholarships or internships for students who pursue this course?
The usual scholarships as per reservation policies are provided to the students.

The World Bank report puts India at 134 out of 183 countries on the ‘Ease of doing Business’. Why is this abysmal ranking?
The complex system of licensing and processes delay the start of operations and increase costs for a business. The personal whims and fancies of local politics, red tape and corruption also makes doing business a harrowing experience.

What are the important aspects one has to remember to plan a start-up in social entrepreneurship?
Do entrepreneurship in a social impact area keeping the basic principles of any business in mind- scale, profitability, operational excellence and frugal innovation.

The major problem is funding. How can a startup locate investors?
One can present their project or proposal to the seed investers who provide capital for a business start-up, secure money from friends and family and apply for funding and grants from start up accelerators.

What advice would you like to share with young social entrepreneurs?
It would be best to persevere and keep the journey going. One can take a break, rest, rejuvenate, do something else and then again get started. Have a firm belief in what you want to achieve. I am not an entrepreneur myself, in the strict sense, but I have learnt a lot from many of our TISS graduates who are all over the country doing sterling work.
Published on 8/29/2015 11:46:00 AM
social entrepreneurship Dr. Lakshmi TISS Director conventional Entrepreneurship IIMs IITs social problems

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