Who is a Social Entrepreneur?

Ashoka India, one of the largest international networks of Social Entrepreneurs defines a Social Entrepreneur as:

“Social Entrepreneurs find out what is not working correctly in the society and fix the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leap rather than leaving societal needs to Government or Business Sectors.”

Major Sectors of investment of Social Ventures are Affordable Housing, Affordable Health Care, Water and Sanitation, Energy, Agriculture, Livelihood Promotion, Education, Financial Inclusion (Microfinance Institutions) etc.

How does a Social Entrepreneur raise funds?

Key Sources of funding to Social Ventures include:

  1. Grants– Various Foundations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ashoka Foundation, National Association for Social Enterprises (NASE), Sankalp Forum provide grants to Social Entrepreneurs.
  2. Venture Capital (VC)- Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN), SRISTI, Acumen Fund, Ventureast, Aavishkar India Microventure Capital, Accion, LokCapital, Bellwether etc.
  3. Incubators- Villgro, CIIE (IIM- Ahmedabad), Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI), UnLtd India, Gray Matters Capital are some of the examples.
  4. Angel Investors- Mumbai Angels, NRI Startup India etc.
  5. Government Initiatives-
  • The World Bank’s Development Marketplace (DM) is an exclusive grant program that funds SEs with projects that aim to fund a variety of projects for the economically low-income groups.
  • India Inclusive Innovation Fund (IIIF)- The National Innovation Council, in association with the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has launched IIIF, a maximum limit of Rs. 5,000 Crores to be invested with modest financial returns. Promoted by NASSCOM and IKP Knowledge Park.
  • Startup India Initiative –The government will develop a fund with an initial corpus of Rs 2,500 crore and a total corpus of Rs 10,000 crore over a total period of four years, to support upcoming start-up enterprises. A National Credit Guarantee Trust Company (NCGTC) is being formulated with a budget of Rs 500 crore per year for the next four years to support the flow of funds which will be managed by a committee of professionals selected from the start-up industry.


How to Register a Social Venture?

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) defines a ‘social venture’, for the purposes of its Alternate Investment Funds Regulation, as: ‘a trust, society or company or venture capital undertaking or limited liability partnership formed with the purpose of promoting social welfare or solving social problems or providing social benefits’

You can register a Social Venture as a:

  • Trust
  • Society (Societies Registration Act, 1860)
  • Section 8 Non-Profit Company (Formerly Section 25)
  • Private Limited Company
  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership (The Partnership Act, 1932)
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Public Limited Company
  • Producer Company


Challenges being faced by Social Entrepreneurs.

Major challenges faced by Social Entrepreneurs/Enterprises include:

  • Limited access to early stage capital due to hurdles faced by domestic and foreign investors when investing in social enterprises is probably one of the biggest hurdles. This potentially undernourishes product development, scaling up and hiring top talent.
  • Indian regulations still don’t officially recognise for-profit social enterprise as a sector thus depriving them of special benefits like tax redemptions etc. (such as India education policy deems every educational institution to operate as a not-for-profit restricting equity investment and inclusion of private players)
  • Limited supporting ground-level ecosystem comprising microfinance, feeble cost manufacturing and adequate distribution partners required for social entrepreneurs to scale.


 Solution to the hurdles of Social Entrepreneurship.

Social Entrepreneurs have come up with unique solutions to get themselves flourishing in this ever changing commercial market space. They have proved themselves as an integral part of this ecosystem. Some of them include:

  • Personal Branding: Personal Brand refers to building a unique identification in the social as well as the commercial market in order to gain recognition for the organisation on various terms which includes building business contacts, expanding circles and providing credibility for work. A Good Social Brand is heavily influenced by aSocial Entrepreneur’s Personal Experience, his vision and his passion for changing the socio-economic status quo. A digitally equipped, highly accessible and an articulate social entrepreneur can attract much-needed attention to the social brand’s cause. Ways to develop social entrepreneur’s Personal Brand inculcates:
  1. Building Your Own Web Space
  2. Building Strategic Connections
  3. Engaging with the Market and People through Dialogues, Writing etc.



  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): India revised the corporate law in 2013 to make it mandatory for firms over a certain size to donate 2% of their profits to corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is an engagement of corporate firms beyond their core work in order to support social enterprises such as Finance for Community Projects.





 Some of the prominent examples of Social Ventures include: 

  • Vaatsalya Healthcare (Affordable Health Services)
  • SKS Microfinance (Financial Inclusion)
  • Khosla Ventures (Technology Upgradation)
  • ENZI (Affordable Education Support)
  • Earthen Life (Waste Management)
  • ThinkChange India (Business Strategy)
  • Aavishkar Venture Management Service (Funding Support)
  • Selco Solar ( Affordable Energy)
  • HoneyBee Network (Rural Development)


Social entrepreneurship holds the key to future development in India. In the near future, Social entrepreneurs will play a leading role in the advancement of social changes. The ultimate and luring thing for Social entrepreneurship is that success is not judged by financial gains, but by the masses these enterprises are able to connect, engage and create a positive impact.




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