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Four Critical Questions for Social Entrepreneurs

Today, as part of my “Strategic Marketing for Public and Nonprofit Organizations” class, we heard from David Dodson, founder of Project Healthy Children.  Although his talk was specifically targeted for those interested in leading nonprofit organizations, I found his comments relevant for emerging social entrepreneurs as well.

In particular, he posed four critical questions for those thinking of starting a new venture:

1) Is it (the idea or the organization) sustainable?

2) Is it cost-effective?

3) Is it scalable?

4) Is it measurable?

I thought these were particularly salient points, especially given the impulse to form organizations on the basis of what he called “emotional needs” rather than “market needs.”  He placed particular emphasis on the second question, stressing the point that “cost-effective” does not necessarily translate into “cheap,” but rather, implies that the organization is “investment” oriented, whether in the form of human capital, organizational capacity, physical infrastructure, etc.  He also emphasized the fourth point, stating that if the outcomes aren’t clearly defined, they cannot be measured, which poses the organization at the risk of “mission creep.”

The final point he made can be encapsulated in the following statement, “I say no to everything that’s not relevant.”  He emphasized the importance of not “following the money trail,” and investing time, resources, and effort only in those efforts that are relevant to the organizational mission and vision.  He cited examples of having turned down potential partnerships and funding opportunities in favour of maintaining organizational focus, and leveraging the organization’s strengths.  On this point, he asked a critical question, “Can we see a future where we can be better than anybody at this?”  Obviously, that requires that the organization remain on course, and learn how to say “no.”

Thank you to Professor Marla Felcher for challenging us to think critically about what it means to be effective leaders and marketeers!

Excerpt on Empowerment

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote for my school newspaper:

Empowerment occurs when someone is given the means, either through new responsibilities, economic independence or other ways, to take a greater ownership in the actions of their everyday lives. Empowerment of individuals who were previously marginalized is one of the fundamental tenets of the social entrepreneurship movement.

Do you all agree or disagree? Please post comments below.

Survey for NGOs

Hey all, as you may notice on the sidebar, we have a new featured survey for you all to participate in. Here is some additional information directly from the survey makers:

NGOs: Dig into your strengths and opportunities AND win great prizes!

Ethos Advisors and NGO Post have created a short survey to assess the needs to the NGO community and identify concrete solutions to improve motivated, high-impact NGOs across India. And we’ve got three great reasons to complete the survey:

1. A free assessment tool for your NGO. The survey is based on questions that leading NGO’s around the world have asked themselves and, by finding the answers, have found new ways to succeed and scale. Take a moment and complete this survey to better understand your stregnths and opportunities.

2. Tell us and tell the world: what are the new tools, websites and training that you need? This is your chance to help funders, service providers and corporate CSR departments design and customize new services for the NGO sector based on the information you share.

3. Submit to Win Excellent Prizes!!! Including:
-A new fuly-customized website for your organization based on cutting-edge technology that is simple and easy-to-use.
-Be selected as featured NGO that includes a custom Media Package that tells your organization’s story and an independently managed marketing     campaign for any purpose you choose
-Be featured in the CitiZen Section of the Deccan Chronicle

Hope you all take the survey.

American India Foundation Annual Benefit

Here is an upcoming event in NYC for AIF. Their annual benefit looks to be a good one this year. Details below. You can go here to buy tickets.

A Toast to Good Health
480 Lexington Avenue (at 46th Street), New York City
Saturday April 11, 2009
7:30 pm to midnight
Open bar from 8 to 11 pm

three-course indian-latin fusion dinner, silent and live auctions

The Apna Clinic*

Mira Kamdar
author of the critically acclaimed memoir Motiba’s Tattoos and Planet India

$125 online
At the door – $150

We encourage purchasing advanced tickets as space
is limited and we cannot guarantee availability at the door.

*Net proceeds will be donated toward the Apna Clinic.

Formal Attire – Tie Optional
About Vermillion: The melding of contemporary Indian and Latin American cuisines
and a selection of untamed regional Indian fare “heat” – tapas, signature entrees,
hedonistic desserts, boutique latin and global wines, “herb & spice” cocktails

Information about our event sponsors can be found here.
Buy Your Tickets Now!

Training programme on “Governance and Management of NGO’s and NPO’s

An announcement in NGOpost calls for application for a six-week full time training programme on “Governance and Management of Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs/NGOs)”, scheduled between 6th July 2009 to 14th August 2009. The training is offered by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII).

The training cost including accommodation is free for participants belonging to countries listed  in Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). But participants from countries not listed can attend the training programme for the cost of $1500. Strangely, though the training programme is offered in India in partnership with the Indian’s government, India is not enlisted in ITEC. As a consequence, the fee applies to participants from India too!

Interested people can get more information on applying and information brochure here at EDII’s website.

Please Nominate TC-I for The Indibloggies 2008

If you have enjoyed what TC-I has done since Feb ’08, please nominate us for The Indibloggies 2008 competition. Here is how:

1. Go to here.
2. Write In ThinkChange India for the Blog Title
3. Put for the URL
4. Select Best Group/Community IndiBlog

5. Repeat for IndiBlog of the Year (if you want).

Thank you for your support!

E-governance Gaining Momentum in India

A few weeks ago, Vinay wrote about the growing business opportunities in the e-governance sector. An exciting recent development in this area has been the announcement by the Government of India of knowledge kiosks being set up in Panchayats. The project is sponsored by the E-governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (e-PRIs) and is projected to be completed in three years. Such a large-scale introduction of information technology at the Panchayat level opens up the rural market for entrepreneurs. There are a number of possibilities for public-private partnerships in delivering solutions within sectors such as education, healthcare, micro-finance, etc.

The progress of e-governance models has been slower than expected in India. Some of the challenges facing this sector were discussed at the Lok Sabha panel on e-governance. At this panel, Prof. Bhatnagar of IIM-A discussed the flaws in the strategy on e-governance: Continue reading

[TC-I Call to Action] BW’s special issue on entrepreneurship

[Story source: Businessworld]

Businessworld is a well read business weekly in India. They are planning for a special issue on “India’s Hottest Young Entrepreneurs”.They are calling for entries from entrepreneurs/organizations to feature in this issue. Click here to read more about it.

I do understand that this opportunity is not specific to social entrepreneurs. However, I see it as an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to get more people to understand and know about this field; to let more people read about working examples of organizations/concepts which socially focused and sustainable at the same time – right in India. The area of business they are looking for are:

  • A brand new niche or
  • A new business model in an established business or
  • An entirely new business

And social enterprises fit in at least one of the above criteria. Best of luck!

TC-I welcomes Shivam Srivastava as Part Time Writer

The ThinkChange India team is proud to introduce Shivam as one of our new part-time bloggers. A quick introduction of Shivam:

Shivam Srivastava is currently a WiMAX systems engineer at Motorola, Inc, where he designs and deploys wireless networks for rural parts of South and Central America. Shivam hopes to combine his passions of engineering and learning to achieve his long term goal of making the quality of education available in India independent from the student’s economic background. He is the co-founder of EPR India, an organization that aims to empower and educate Indian citizens about appropriate responses to emergency situations. Shivam is also actively involved in a start-up social venture to empower Indian women with IT skills and a number of other non-profit organizations. He has received a number of distinctions including being named a StartingBloc Institute for Social Innovation Fellow and receiving the Clinton Stryker Distinguished Leadership Award. Shivam graduated in 2007 with a degree in Computer Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago where he was also an Ed Kaplan Enterpreurship Scholar, and plans to join a JD/MBA program in the near future.

Welcome to the team, Shivam!

Learning to Walk: TC-I Turns One Today!!!

Hello TC-I Community. It was exactly one year ago when the first post on ThinkChange India was published. Today, the four founding editors wanted to share with all of you what this experience has meant to us, and we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments section.

Here they are, in no particular order:


There is so much more to ThinkChange India than our posts. True, this is the bulk of what we, the editors, do, but the true spirit of what we (hope to) do resides in you, our readers. Over the course of the past year, you have inspired us to want to do more, to find avenues to catalyze community involvement and knowledge sharing, and effect meaningful change in India. You have incited provocative discussions on our comment boards, emailed us with your nascent dreams, and most importantly, given us an opportunity to serve your needs.

But this is only the beginning. We want to hear more of your voices. We want to build a thriving community of critical thinkers and doers. We want an informed readership that isn’t afraid to engage with each other, and ask difficult questions. We want to put the power to effect social change in your hands.

The next question, then, is where we go from here. The options, as my colleagues have mentioned, are vast, but the most important question of all is this – how willing are we to engage critically with each other and with India? This is the challenge we pose to you, the readers, as well as ourselves, as we forge ahead into a new, exciting year at TC-I. We are confident that we have both the capacity and the commitment to both meet and surpass this challenge, so long as we endeavour on this journey together, and continue to believe in the limitless potential of India.

With tenacity,


What happens when you put together four very different personalities, all passionate about the idea of social entrepreneurship? Strategy, brainstorms, reading, writing, discussion, and, most of all, a lot of excitement. The past year has been exhilarating, both for social entrepreneurship and for me personally. As a team, we’ve been striving to follow the pulse of the field in India and offer updates and resources for those who want to get involved. This field is full of amazing breakthroughs: from simple, but new, business models to creative technological inventions to unlikely local entrepreneurs revolutionizing the way we approach issues.

For me, a moment of affirmation for TCI’s efforts came only a few weeks ago. We received an email from a reader who said he had been thinking about an idea for a while, randomly came across our site, and, after following the content, was now ready to move into action. He went from “thinking” to “changing.” I would love to see this multiplied across our readership: let’s share ideas, collaborate, and use each other’s knowledge, skills, and networks to leverage impact.

There is still so much more we hope to do with ThinkChange India. We have yet to build a real online community. The readers who come to this site have amazing backgrounds and are driven by fresh ideas. We aren’t the experts; YOU are. What you’ll see in the coming year is a more accessible site, new forums and discussion boards, voices from the field, and (by popular demand) a job board. Those are just a few additions we have coming – so stay tuned as we continue to think change, in more ways than one.


I can’t really believe it’s been a year. It seems like yesterday that Vinay, Shital, Prerna and I were at the basement of ThinkCoffee listening to Anand Shah speak on Social Entrepreneurship in India. I remember this slightly over-enthusiastic dude coming up to me after the event and suggesting that we should start a blog on social entrepreneurship in India. That weekend I put together a basic blog – making the header design on PowerPoint (with the colors of the Indian flag, slightly misplaced that is). My initial expectation is that we would do 3-4 posts a week, in total. Within two weeks, this over-enthusiastic guy I hardly knew had churned out 30+ posts – all of them superbly well written and insightful.

Two weeks later, all four of us were sitting on a corner table at Think Coffee. Prerna was seriously angry. Shital was a little less angry (I have a hunch that she was getting a kick out of this whole thing). Me and Vinay were accused of stealing the name [ThinkChange] India (from Prerna and Shital). Of course, we safely avoided further conflict (I was honestly a little scared of Prerna ) by inviting both of them to write for the blog. I can confidently say if it weren’t for that little misunderstanding TC-I would not be what it is today. If Vinay was the spark behind TC-I, then Prerna and Shital are the fuel that keeps us burning (I know this is very cliché, but this proves beyond doubt that I’m the worst writer in the team).

One year on, TC-I is still around (670 posts, 700+ comments 140,000+ page-views – you can call that ‘still around’ right?). Over the past year, we have inspired hundreds of people to think about social entrepreneurship and hooked many of them with meaningful jobs. We were the media-sponsor for the International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship held in Chennai in December, 2008. We were privileged to have two talented and wonderful writers – Aishwarya and Badhri join us in contributing for the blog.

I usually refer to us as the most-improbable team. To me, TC-I is the true story of people coming together and create(ing) something remarkable, driven simply by passion to create change in this world (and having a little fun in the process).


I will have to admit that I am cheating as I write this. Being the one who compiled our thoughts has given me the luxury of reading the other three before writing my own. The bad news is that all of the profound, insightful observations have already been made, but the good news, is that I get to fully appreciate the energy, raw passion and creativity that courses through all of our veins first.

When Santhosh, Prerna, Shital and I first started writing and thinking about social change in India, we had no clear idea of where we wanted to go, and admittedly now I do not believe we do still. However, that in itself has proven a wonderful experience, meandering through this forest of social entrepreneurship — free to write and express ourselves on whatever topics we each feel are relevant. Many ideas have populated our heads, and we hope that in writing for all of you the same has occurred in your own brains.

Like the others who have written above me, I want to state that this is only the beginning for us — us being all of us including the most important people, you the readers — and that we hope to have much more in store for you. We are nearing the launch of a new website soon that will only increase opportunities to build this vibrant socially minded community that is just yearning for a home online. We are constantly looking for new ways to expand what we offer the readers, whether through new writers, live blogging at events or providing other features over time.

So I encourage all of you to strap yourself in and enjoy Year 2, because I promise you that this time the ride will be even more exhilarating.

Much love,


Social Entrepreneurship workshop and competition at IIT-Madras

The India chapter of Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES-India) operating out of IIT-Madras is set to conduct workshops running up to a competition in which the best social business plan will be rewarded. Times of India reports,

Participants must submit executive summaries of their business plans by January 25 after which around 15 to 20 teams will be short-listed and mentored.

Results of the first round will be declared on February 1 and the formal mentoring including development of prototypes of short-listed projects will commence on February 15. In all five awards will be given.[Source:

The website created for the competition, named Genesis, indicates that while prizes in the competition bring for good publicity for the winning ideas, the workshops will offer valuable lessons to learn to all the participants, who may also stand to gain from their interaction with people from IIT, Rural Innovations Network, Ashoka, Indian Angel Network, TiE – the partners of ASES-India for this competition.

Information sharing improves earning capacity of farmers

About 138 farmers in Pune stand to gain in their productivity today thanks to their membership to Abhinav Farmer’s Club. According to a report in Business Standard, Dnyaneshwar Bodke, using his education in Horticulture Training Center founded the club to share his knowledge on farming exotic fruits, vegetables and flowers to his fellow farmers in 2004.  Funded by National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) and Canara Bank this club since then seems to have transformed into a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing platform in which farmers brainstorm various aspects of farming. As a result, the sophistication of their farming methods and their productivity seems to have vastly improved.

“Traditional farming compelled the farmers to wait for the required weather conditions to start farming. But, since we do our business in greenhouses and sheds, we are able to control the conditions in which the crops grow. That’s the reason why we are able to excel as we don’t have to depend on nature for the right time to begin,” adds Bodke.

How has this helped the stakeholders? Apart from earning bounties to the farmers, this has also provided employment to over 700 others in the periphery.

The numbers are there for all to see. In 2007, AFC produced 13.2 million flowers and some 250 tonnes of vegetables. Its yearly turnover is a little above Rs 10 crore. Farmers affiliated to the club use drip irrigation and operations in the farms are labour intensive. This keeps their costs under check.

The example set by Abhinav Farmer’s Club along with and the now famous e-Choupal initiative by ITC seems to support the point that access to information is probably the best way to empower the rural India – a point valued by Comat Technologies, a successful social business earlier covered by ThinkChange India.

First XLRI Conference on sustainable development

The Social Entrepreneurship Trust and Social Initiative Group for Managerial Assistance (Sigma) of XLRI, in association with Ashoka and has planned its first XLRI Social Entrepreneurship Conference. The conference is scheduled to be at XLRI Jamshedpur on January 31st and February 1st 2009.

The theme of the conference would be “providing access for sustainable development” while its purpose is to showcase innovative social entrepreneurship ventures by individual entrepreneurs, NGOs, corporate executives and government agencies.[source The Telegraph]

Coming to India!

I am about to embark on a 3 week journey through the South of India. I am flying out of the US tonight and will be in India until 1/12/09. I am super excited about traveling in areas of the country in which I have never been, and I look forward to sharing my experiences here both during and after my trip.