I have been struggling with this question for quite some time now. A few years down the line, I think I want to set up my own incubation fund. When I talk about it, people ask me – what kind of fund would this be – social or business? Given where I work, it seems to be a valid question initially. But I am not sure if I know the answer or whether I understand the question itself?
Let’s take a step back and ask – What is this thing called ‘social entrepreneurship’? Is it about helping the poor? But what does that mean? Is it about whether this support is free or comes with a cost? But doesn’t free support makes the beneficiary dependable? Is that a good thing? Is charity as a model sustainable?
Is social entrepreneurship about working in a non-profit? Does that mean that the people who want to earn the big bucks never stand a chance to do this? Or maybe they can earn a lot of money and fund large projects or recruit people to start several non-profits in their name and actually help millions? Doesn’t that sound better? Or maybe, it is about change – that I join a fledgling non-profit which does great work and turn things around, or I use my expertise and talent to help a non-profit deliver services efficiently and effectively.
Is social entrepreneurship about starting your own venture which focuses on the low-income segments as the primary beneficiaries? Should this ventures be a for-profit one? Or is that bad! But does that mean that Reliance and HLL are being run by social entrepreneurs? Don’t these companies have their largest customer segments in the low-income communities, both in urban and rural settings, or at least, that’s what’s gonna happen soon?
I am not sure what the answers to these questions are. But I have realized that the debate about right and wrong is by itself flawed. At the end, it’s all being impact, no matter what road one takes. Whether one sets up an Aravind Eye Care, an Akansha Foundation, or an HUL? Some people even say that Infosys is the largest social enterprise in India. They have created livelihood for millions, made India stand high in the field of IT outsourcing, and changed world’s perception of our country itself. Isn’t that large scale socio-economic impact! Probably, that’s whats required. Maybe, all entrepreneurship is social. What do you think?